Tithes in Wales

There is always something new to learn in genealogy. It is such a vast topic, with so many different records that you will never know everything.

On my recent trip to Family Tree Live in London, I booked a place on a workshop which talked about Welsh ancestors (run by Beryl Evans of the National Library of Wales). As my father’s side come from South Wales, I thought it would be a good workshop and hoped that it would give me an idea of records that I hadn’t considered for my Welsh research.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed! The National Library of Wales has a wealth of resources and some of them are now online (so you don’t have to travel to Aberystwyth for everything!). The one particular resource that I have a new obsession with is the Welsh Tithe Map collection.

A bit of background on Tithe maps. Tithes were a payment made in each parish in England and Wales to the local clergy. They were a benefit in kind payment and each farmer gave a tenth of their yearly produce (such as crops or wool) to the clergy as a tithe payment (tithe barns were where the goods were stored). In the 19th Century it was felt that this method was becoming old-fashioned and that tithes should be paid with money instead.

But how was the switch made from giving goods to paying money? An assessment of the value of each farm and the land it was comprised of was made after the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836. This meant that detailed maps showing the exact acreage and location of each farm were made and an accompanying document called an ‘apportionment’ was created to record who owned the land, who occupied the land, what kind of land it was (whether fields or houses and gardens etc.) and the value of the land. Of this value, the amount to be given to the clergy was also recorded.

My recently found Carmathenshire ancestor Thomas Thomas (yes that was his real name!) was recorded as being a farmer in various census records and they even recorded the name of the farm as ‘Noyadd.’ When I had a look at the online tithe maps, there he was straightaway, recorded as the occupier of Noyadd farm in Llanegwad, Carmarthenshire.

 What makes this discovery even more amazing and useful for my own family history, is that I now know several other pieces of information about the farm which can add to the story of Thomas Thomas.

  • The map gives all of the land belonging to the farm (plots 1576a-1586)
  • It can also overlay this onto a current map, showing the modern location of the farm
  • The landowner’s and occupier’s name is recorded (in this case Thomas Thomas was only the occupier. The landowner was an Evan Davies)
  • The apportionment doesn’t give much detail about the sort of land, but plot 1583 was a house
  • The total number of acres (divided into the imperial measurements of acres, roods and perches) for the plots was a total of 21 acres, 1 rood and 27 perches
  • From this, a total of £1, 4 shillings and sixpence was to be paid to the vicar and the same amount to a Rob Lewis, esq. who was an impropriator (a lay person in possession of church property)

Here is the link to the online tithe maps held at the National Library of Wales: https://places.library.wales

and also links to the tithe map and apportionment for Thomas Thomas can be found here (map): https://places.library.wales/viewer/4644165#?cv=0&h=1576a&c=0&m=0&s=0&xywh=7522%2C17345%2C3233%2C1493

and (apportionment): https://places.library.wales/viewer/4533109#?cv=28&h=1576a&c=0&m=0&s=0&xywh=1219%2C1251%2C3110%2C1305

If you have Welsh ancestors who were farmers from 1836 onwards, have a look at the tithe maps. They information they contain will not be found in any census and can really enrich the story of your ancestors- I know it has enriched mine!


Last weekend at Family Tree Live (in London), I finally realised an ambition that I have held for quite a long time now. I finally joined the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS). Not only does it have a brilliant acronym, but it allows me to register the research I have begun on a particular surname.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with One-Name Studies (an ONS for short), an ONS is a branch of genealogy where you research only one particular surname, instead of following all of the different surnames in your own family. Generally, someone’s interest in a particular surname comes from its occurrence in their own family, and this has been the same for my surname of choice.

I have chosen to research the surname ‘Rowsell’ and its variants ‘Rousell’ and ‘Rowswell.’ During my research I will be looking for all mentions of the surname in the records available, which will be the same sorts of records that I would use in conventional family history research. This will mean using Civil Registration Births, Marriages and Deaths indexes first, followed by Census records. Then I will move on to other records such as Parish Baptisms, Marriages and Burials and Will and Probate records. There are so many possible records though (some that might be specific to particular parishes) that it will take me some years to complete my research.

My hope for this research is to see how my family of Rowsells connect to the other families of Rowsells in the Somerset area (although my research will end up being world-wide too). There seem to be a lot in Somerset, but not so many in other parts of England. I will also be able to preserve it for people to see in years to come and perhaps find out the origins of the name and the distribution of the name too. Some people perform a socio-economic on their data too, but I have a long way to go before that step!

My study is only at the beginning right now, but it does have a page on the GOONS website: https://one-name.org

Just type ‘Rowsell’ into the search box and you can see my page. If you have the surname ‘Rowsell,’ or are related to any ‘Rowsell’ families, I would be happy to hear from you- there are contact details on my ‘Rowsell’ page.

If you are interested in undertaking an ONS yourself, then have a good look at the Guild’s website.

In the meantime, I will get on with my ‘Rowsell’ research and keep you posted!