Wales Land and Property
Land records can help you learn where and when an individual lived in a specific place. They can also help you establish patronymic family ties and provide information not found in church or chapel records. The wealthy owned the land, but they kept records about the poor who rented the land from them.
Estate records, dating from medieval times into the twentieth century, are Welsh land and property records. They are some of the best sources of information about the poorer classes. The types and survival of material in estate records vary greatly. Generally, the documents can be grouped into three main categories:
Personal records. These include letters, diaries, household accounts, and memorabilia of the owner and his family.
Business records. These include deeds, conveyances, rent rolls, receipts and disbursements, and duty books. Manor records are also included in this category.
Governmental records. Often included among private estate papers are official governmental papers. Families who owned land served as county officials. Some county records have been found among private papers. Other governmental records include land tax records, court minutes, and official correspondence.
To locate estate records you need to know the name of the estate owner. Approximately four out of five people in Wales rented the property they lived on. If you can locate your ancestor in the tithe apportionment or land tax records, you will find the name of the owner of the property. For more information, see the "Taxation" section of this outline.
Availability of Estate Records
If any estate records of a land owner survive, they may be in a record office or library, where you can search them for references to the family you seek. The National Library of Wales has many estate records in its manuscript department. Most county record offices also have collections of estate papers. For a general description of the collections containing estate records at the National Library of Wales see:
The National Library of Wales. Guide To The Department of Manuscripts and Records: The National Library of Wales. Aberystwyth, Wales: National Library of Wales, 1996. (Family History Library book 942.9 A3g.)
The staff of the National Library of Wales is preparing various indexes to these estate records. The Family History Library has filmed some of these indexes. The Topographical Index and Estate Index will help you identify estate records and which collection they are a part of. The codes given on the index cards may be interpreted by using the Key to Schedules Indexed. (Family History Library film 1597120 item 2.) For more information on how to use the indexes and schedules see:
Department of Manuscripts And Records. Indexes To Schedules: Introduction. Aberystwyth, Wales: The National Library of Wales, 1978. (Family History Library film number 1597120 item 1.)
Look for the indexes, calendars and schedules in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
WALES - LAND AND PROPERTY - INDEXES
WALES - LAWS AND LEGISLATION - INDEXES
WALES - LAND AND PROPERTY
WALES, [COUNTY] - LAND AND PROPERTY
Some record offices also have indexes to their estate records. The National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United Kingdom contains many calendars to estate records on microfiche. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline.
Many estate records are still in private hands. One way to locate these records is through the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. See the "Archives and Libraries" section of this outline.
Further information about estate records can be obtained from:
The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. "Guides to Sources for British History based on the National Register of Archives." Principal Family and Estate Collections: Family Names A–K. London, England: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. 1996. (Family History Library book 942 H25gs v.10.) This volume is currently available in the library. The volume containing surnames L–Z is not yet available.
- National Library of Wales ISYSweb Free Text Search Try a search for a parish or farm name. In some cases a brief extract from the manuscript (such as a title deed) is included which may provide names, dates, places, relationships etc.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Research Outline: Wales (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, 2000), 41-42.