Historical maps of Wales reveal the use of the Welsh language in Abergavenny – home of the National Eisteddfod this year.

While some consider the Welsh language to be relatively weak in Monmouthshire, the Cynefin project has unlocked sources testifying to the historical importance of the Welsh language in the county’s history.

A discussion of the Welsh language in Monmouthshire will be held at the National Eisteddfod, in the cymdeithasau 2 tent on Thursday at 4:30pm, with Einion Gruffudd, Cynefin Project Manager, and Dr Elin Jones, President of the Eisteddfod.

As a leading historian Dr Elin Jones will be giving historical context, while Einion Gruffudd will focus on evidence from the tithe maps which Cynefin has already digitised.

Tithe maps were created in the 1840s, at the same time as when Eisteddfodau of Cymreigyddion were held regularly in Abergavenny. Nowadays, the tithe maps can be found online on the cynefin.wales website, and show the popularity of the Welsh language during that period.Llanofer Estate

Einion Gruffudd said “There is reason to believe that more than half of the area’s field names during the 1840s are in Welsh, reflecting the language of farmworkers in the area during that period.”

Llanover estate is shown on the tithe map for Llanover parish, where Lady Llanover, Augusta Hall or ‘Gwenynen Gwent’ lived, who played a key role in organising and financing Eisteddfodau’r Cymreigyddion.

Tithe maps of the area also tell the story of the Chartists. The maps were created at the same time the Chartists had marched along the South Wales valleys to protest for a fairer vote. As part of the Cynefin project, documents surrounding the court proceedings against the Chartists, following their attack on Newport in 1839, will be introduced and transcribed online. Although the court proceedings and documents were recorded in English, they include references to the Welsh language and to translation. These documents demonstrate that many of the defendants were Welsh speakers and indeed in many cases, unable to speak English.

chartist doc

Looking at these historical sources, it is clear that the language was in widespread use in Monmouthshire – this should be taken into account when studying the history of the county. This demonstrates the importance of historical documents to create a clear and complete picture of our history as a nation.

The Chartist documents are currently being transcribed on chartist.cynefin.wales and the tithe documents on cynefin.wales.

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Cynefin reveals historic agricultural data

The data which has been transcribed by volunteers as a part of the Cynefin project is now being used to study long term changes in agriculture.


In collaboration with Aberystwyth University and the Farmers Union of Wales, the detailed information about fields and land use in the 1840s is being used for statistical analysis of the changes in the nature of Welsh agriculture.

A little over half of the 30,000 pages of tithe documents have been transcribed, but it is already possible to analyse some parishes in detail. Einion Gruffudd, Cynefin’s Project Manager said that this research was a great example of the advantages which come from digitising old maps and documents.


“We are familiar with statistical analyses of recent trends, but we now have increasing opportunities to do similar work with historical data.” said Einion. He added: “I’m very proud of the work we have done with students from Aberystwyth University, and I’m grateful to FUW and to staff at the Welsh Government for enabling us to connect this with recent data.”


Einion Gruffudd , Eryn White, Bethan Jones, Rhodri Evans, Nick Fenwick (FUW)

Einion Gruffudd (Cynefin) , Eryn White, Bethan Jones and Rhodri Evans (all Aberystwyth University),  Nick Fenwick (FUW)

A display of the early findings will be shown at the Tŷ-Mawr stand at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show this week (from 18th-21st July 2016).

The transcription data is all available on the cynefin.wales website, as well as the opportunity to help transcribe the remaining 12,000 pages of tithe documents.

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Exploring Wales’ sense of place: The March of Industry

The tithe maps, which were created in the 1840s, show the fledgling railway network as it starts to snake across the landscape, but this was not the passenger network we are familiar with today. These new connections changed the fortunes of many towns. The line under construction on these maps would eventually link the docks of Cardiff to the iron and coal industry of Merthyr. This trade relationship would go on to transform Cardiff from the small town that existed in the 1800’s to the capital city of Wales.


The Cynefin project is eager to get the people of Wales involved in transcribing the tithe maps and their associated tithe apportionment documents which name the landowners, land occupiers, land use and field names . This will help create an innovative and comprehensive online research tool for people to access and search through.

Join today on cynefin.wales

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Exploring Wales’ sense of place: Changing landscapes, changing lives.

In the 1840’s a series of maps was commissioned to assist in organising the payments of tithes. These tithe maps capture virtually the whole of Wales and together create a snapshot of our nation on the cusp of transformation. The Cynefin Project is conserving, digitising and exploring these maps to make the treasure trove of information they contain available to anyone, online, for free.

The people and culture of Wales are deeply entwined with our landscape, but our relationship with the land and the way we use it have changed dramatically over the centuries. This film tells the story of our changing culture through the names we gave to places and we can travel back through time to understand the lives and concerns of people who lived centuries ago.

The Cynefin project is eager to get the people of Wales involved in transcribing the tithe maps and their associated tithe apportionment documents which name the landowners, land occupiers, land use and field names . This will help create an innovative and comprehensive online research tool for people to access and search through.

Join us today on cynefin.wales

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Over a million records transcribed by volunteers for historical mapping project

As the festivities of Volunteers’ Week take place from 1st – 12th June this year, the Cynefin project is celebrating reaching a milestone of a staggering  one million records being transcribed by their volunteer base of over 800 people.

Over the past three years, Cynefin has been digitising the tithe maps of Wales – a collection of over 1,200 historical maps from the 1840s.  The tithe maps have then been placed online on the cynefin.wales website, along with tithe records which name landowners, land occupiers, field names and land uses, also from the 1840s.

Volunteers from all over Wales, and indeed across the world, have been helping the project online by transcribing the wealth of information which is captured by these fascinating maps and documents.

Carys Evans, Cynefin’s volunteer coordinator said: “We’re so pleased to be able to celebrate the achievement of our volunteers during Volunteers Week. The milestone of over a million records being transcribed is a real testament to the dedication of our volunteers and the power of online crowdsourcing.”

Anyone with an interest in maps or the history of Wales, or anyone who’s looking for a volunteering opportunity to carry out from home, are encouraged to visit the cynefin.wales website. No prior knowledge is needed to start volunteering and there are easy to follow guidelines online.

Menna Evans, one of the project’s volunteers said: “If anyone’s thinking of volunteering, I would say do it, because you’re not only looking at your own family history, you’re contributing to the history of a nation.”

Carys added: “We’re hoping that this great achievement will inspire others to get involved. It’s a great opportunity for those who wish to volunteer but for one reason or other are unable to commit to the more traditional volunteering role. The nature of crowdsourcing means that you can contribute as and when suits your lifestyle, and it can all be done from the comfort of your own home.”

Help map the history of Wales by visiting cynefin.wales.


For further information contact cynefin@llgc.org.uk or 01970 632 416

To find out more visit the website: cynefin.wales; follow Cynefin on twitter @CynefinProject, or contact cynefin@llgc.org.uk or 01970 632 416.

The Cynefin project is run by a partnership led by Archives Wales, and also includes the National Library of Wales and People’s Collection Wales.  The project is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund; with support also from the Welsh Government through the Museums, Archives and Libraries Division; the National Library of Wales and Archives Wales.

Further information about Volunteers’ Week is available at http://volunteersweek.org/


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A unique opportunity to micro-volunteer on-line with the National Library of Wales

Would you like to volunteer and contribute to a good cause, but don’t have the time for a regular volunteering role? If so, have you considered micro-volunteering? This Friday, 15th April is Micro-volunteering day and the Cynefin project, based at the National Library of Wales is looking for people to take a couple of minutes out of their day to make a difference.

Casnewydd_transcriptionThe Cynefin project is digitising the tithe maps of Wales and is looking for volunteers to help transcribe and georeference these historic maps from the 1840s on-line. The crowdsourcing project already has over 700 volunteers based all over the world.

Cynefin’s Project Manager, Einion Gruffudd said: “The beauty of this volunteering role is that there is no commitment; you can do as much or as little as you like, as and when you can, from the comfort of your own home.”

The micro-volunteering tasks on the cynefin.wales website can be done at a time and pace which suits each individual. By giving just 10 minutes of your time you can help contribute towards Wales’ heritage and the nation’s collective memIMG_20150527_104540ory.

Following the project, the tithe maps will be freely available and accessible to all online. The work carried out by volunteers will make the 1,200 tithe maps and the 30,000 pages of associated historical documents fully searchable in innovative ways. The documents contain names of landowners, land occupiers and field names and will be a valuable resource for anyone researching their family history or local history.

So remember, if you’ve got 10 minutes to spare this Friday, your contribution can go a long way!

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Chartism: How the vote was won in the valleys of south Wales

Wales has an opportunity soon to decide its fate. Across the country on Thursday 5th May, everyone over the age of 18 will be eligible to vote in the National Assembly for Wales election. This right to vote, enjoyed by men and women across Britain for less than 100 years, is thanks in large part to the courage and conviction of the ordinary people of the south Wales Valleys.

At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign appalling living and working conditions in the iron and coal industries drove many to fight for change. This caused many Welsh people to join the Chartist movement, to fight for the right for every man to vote in a fairer political system.  Events came to a bloody head in Newport on the morning of 4th November 1839 when thousands of men from the south Wales valleys marched on the Westgate Hotel in Newport to demand the release of Chartist prisoners held locally. The authorities were ready for them and had stationed soldiers inside the hotel. At least 22 Chartists were killed with many more wounded.

One of Cynefin’s local projects, From Trails to Trials, based at Gwent Archives is bringing to life the words of the ordinary men and women caught up in these events – events which would change politics for everyone in Britain over the following decades.  Volunteers are called upon to help transcribe testimonies online as part of the project. These testimonies were gathered by the authorities in preparation for the sensational treason trial that followed the ChiefZephaniahevents of 4th November 1839. This trial condemned John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones to a traitor’s death: each was to be hanged and his body quartered. The public outcry, at what was already viewed as a barbaric practice, brought Chartism well and truly into the public domain. The men were eventually transported to Tasmania instead.

The Chartists questioned a political system that favoured the elite while millions laboured in poverty, and the people of South Wales played a pivotal role in securing the freedoms we now enjoy. Your right to vote was hard won right here in Wales.

Help us spread the message by tweeting or retweeting @Trails2Trials @Siartiaethgwent and using the hashtag #ChartistVotes

You are warmly invited to Gwent Archives, Ebbw Vale on Thursday 14th April 2016 from 2pm – 5pm where the Trails to Trials project will be formally launching its transcription website and learning resources aimed at children, young people and community groups. Original documents from the 1830s and 1840s will be on display.

The tithe maps which the Cynefin project is digitising were drawn up around the same time as the Chartist movement took place. They therefore give us an insight into what South Wales was like at the time and the lives of the people who were involved in the Chartist events.

Tithe maps of Aberdare, Merthyr, Gelligaer, Bedwellty and Aberystruth

Tithe maps of Aberdare, Merthyr, Gelligaer, Bedwellty and Aberystruth

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Locate your Welsh relatives on Cynefin’s tithe maps

The Cynefin project is digitising 19th Century Welsh Tithe maps and making them available online for all to access.  These maps, dating from the 1840s, have documents attached naming the landowners and land occupiers in Wales at that time, and show us the exact location of their farms and fields.

Many of the people found on these maps and documents later emigrated to other countries, or had relatives who had already emigrated, mostly due to the difficult living conditions in Wales at the time. One of the most popular countries that the Welsh emigrated to was the USA, and many subsequently took part in the American Civil War.

One of the Welshmen who fought in the American Civil War was John Griffith Jones who was born in 1843. He can be linked to the family farm of his grandfather, also John Jones, of Bryn y Fedwen, Llanrug. The cynefin.wales website gives us a direct link between John Jones himself, the name of the farm and land which he occupied, and the location of the farm and land on the tithe map. The tithe map can also be overlaid with other modern and historic maps for comparison.

John Jones Llanrug Brynyfedwen

John Griffith Jones’ story is told through the Welsh letters he wrote to his family during the American Civil War. His letters have been digitised and can be seen online on the National Library of Wales‘s website.

Llythyr John Griffith Jones


Many others who emigrated from Wales can also be traced on Welsh tithe maps.  The information from these tithe maps will be fully searchable online once the documents have been transcribed by volunteers.

You can help make this fascinating resource freely available online by contributing to the Cynefin crowdsourcing website.

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Progress of Cynefin Volunteering Work

Transcription is continuing at a very rapid pace on the cynefin.wales website with volunteers transcribing over 44 pages a day. 7631 pages have now been transcribed, only 19,503 pages to go!

Volunteers have told us that they need to be able to find which parishes have yet to be completed, so we have made this clearer on the website. Bar charts are now visible on all the parishes on the Tithe Maps page.  If you hover over each bar chart, an information box will appear to show how many pages are left to transcribe and how many maps are left to georeference. Completed parishes are marked with a star, and there are already 189 of those.

Has your parish been completed? Find out here.

Do you want to help with the transcription work online? Download our volunteer guidelines to get started. Don’t forget that we also hold volunteer workshops across Wales.

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Unlocking the Chartist Trials

176 years ago, in November 1839, the authorities were calling people into the Westgate Hotel to record their testimonials. Most would not admit to supporting Chartism while the ringleaders stood accused of committing high treason. These testimonials give us a real sense of events unfolding in the days and weeks leading up to the uprising.

This film was created as part of Cynefin’s Trails to Trials project. It uses local actors and community members to read some of the words given as testimony by over 250 people in the days following fatal events at the Westgate Hotel during the uprising in Newport on 4th November 1839.

The film focuses on the people who made history as part of the Chartist uprising in the Gwent valleys and Newport at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, and celebrates the voices of ordinary men and women.

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