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!

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