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 The work carried out by volunteers will make the 1,200 tithe maps and the 30,000 pages of associated historical documents fully searchable in innovative ways.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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Tithe map inspired gifts, just in time for Christmas!

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Looking for a unique gift?

The Cynefin project has been working in collaboration with the National Library of Wales’ shop to create new products inspired by tithe maps. They are now available to buy online, just in time for Christmas!

Hen Gymru Fynyddig Coasters    Ar lan y môr Coasters

The National Library of Wales is preparing for Christmas with the launch of its online shop which will include Cynefin’s tithe map inspired items, as well as homeware, jewellery, prints, books, cards and stationery – many of which are unique and inspired by the Library’s collections.  As well as branded National Library items, the shop also features items by well-known local artists, such as the Big Surf at Llangrannog print by Ian Phillips and a specially commissioned seasonal greetings card design by Lizzie Spikes which depicts the Library at Christmas.

To find unique gifts for your friends and family this Christmas, come along to the National Library’s Celebrate Christmas Event on Thursday 3rd December or visit the online shop.

In a hurry? Purchase the tithe map inspired coasters here:

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Community film brings Chartist voices to life

On 2nd December at Gwent Archives, the public will get an opportunity to view a new film celebrating the voices of ordinary men and women. 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.


The 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 project aims to transcribe over 3,000 pages of this testimony which is held at Newport Reference Library and Gwent Archives, and make it available online.

Project Officer Sarah Daly said: “Although Chartism was gathering strength across Britain, it was here, in south Wales that events came to a head. The people who marched on Newport wanted the right to vote. Most people, especially in industrial areas like the valleys of south Wales, had no way to make their voices heard or to fight for improvements to often appalling living and working conditions.”

Exactly 176 years ago, in November 1839, the authorities were calling people into the Westgate Hotel – the scene of the violence – to record their testimonials. Some of those interviewed either could or would only speak in Welsh, but all the testimony was recorded in English. Others were illiterate, signing their evidence with a cross. Most would not admit to supporting Chartism while the ringleaders stood accused of committing high treason. Despite this, these documents give us a real sense of events unfolding in the days and weeks leading up to the uprising.


Film maker Kevin Philips, of Green Valley Films says: “It was great to involve local people in the making of this film. We should be really proud that our communities here in Wales played such an important role in shaping democracy across Britain. 22 men died outside the Westgate Hotel so that we could have the right to vote. That’s something we should never forget.”

The 15 minute film was created by Community Enterprise Made in Tredegar and Green Valley Films, both based in Tredegar, Blaenau Gwent. It will be released on the Archives Wales You Tube channel and can be found by searching for Unlocking the Chartist Trials.

Anyone who would like to find out more about the project or register interest as a volunteer to help transcribe the testimonials can contact Sarah Daly at Gwent Archives on sarah.daly@gwentarchives.gov.uk or 01495 353363.

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Follow Early Welsh Railways

One of the best ways to study the development of railways in Wales is to look at the tithe maps which were drawn at the time the earliest railways were being built. Here you can see a picture of which railways were built when, although you also need to be aware of when the maps were drawn.

The Cardiff St Mary map shows the Taff Vale Railway which was built in the 1830s, but not the GWR which came later. Cardiff is much smaller, the central station is not there and the Taff river follows a different course
Cardiff St Mary

The railway passes through Pontypridd on the Llanwonno map, where another branch is also shown.

The Merthyr map shows the station at the top of the line, and also a new railway to Neath

Meanwhile the Sirhowy line starts in the Sirhowy Iron Works just north of Tredegar on the Bedwellty map…
…and ends up in Newport,where there is also a tramway into the town as it was at the time.
In the north the maps drawn in the late 1840s show the railway to Holyhead, for example here in Dwygyfylchi, where land allocated to the railway is shown, but however the village of Penmaenmawr does not exist yet.Dwygyfylchi
The railway is also clearly seen in Abergwyngregyn on the Aber map
Other maps may not show railways because they were drawn in the early 1840s, as opposed to the late 1840s, see for yourselves for example Bangor

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Collecting the lost field names of Capel Celyn

Tithe maps, which were created in the 1840s, show lands which are now under water reservoirs, including the area under Llyn Celyn in Meirionnydd.

The village of Capel Celyn and the Tryweryn valley near Bala were drowned in 1965 in order to supply water for the city of Liverpool. Eight hundred acres of land was drowned to create the Llyn Celyn reservoir, which included the school, the post office, the chapel and the cemetery. Twelve farms and land belonging to four other farms were drowned.

Below, you’ll see a tithe map composition of Llanycil and Llanfor parishes from the 1840s, which show the land and the fields that were drowned by Llyn Celyn reservoir.


As we remember 50 years since the drowning of Tryweryn Valley, we ask you to join us in transcribing information about the land which is now lost under Llyn Celyn. On the cynefin.wales website, you can view maps and documents from the 1840s which note the landowners and the land occupiers of the land which is now under the reservoir, as well as the field names and the land use.

capel   capel2

Contact us for further information on how to volunteer online, to help transcribe these maps and documents in order to preserve the history of Capel Celyn.


P.S. This film gives an excellent insight into the village life and scenery before the valley was drowned…


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Project gives a glimpse of life in 1840s Wales

Communities in the Hiraethog area of Denbighshire are busily researching the history of their villages as part of the Cynefin project. The pan Wales Cynefin project is digitising the tithe maps of Wales, which depict Wales as it was in the 1840s just as the railways were spreading across the country and when towns such as Penmaenmawr didn’t exist. The tithe maps which have been digitised to date can be viewed on the cynefin.wales website, where you the public can take part in transcribing the documents.

Samantha Jones, Cynefin’s Project Officer said; “The project provides an opportunity for local communities to learn more about where they live at the time the tithe maps were created by using their local archives. Archives are a wonderful resource of original material that helps us to understand more about what it was like to live in places like Llansannan in the mid-1800s.”

People from the villages of Bro Hiraethog are looking at the lives and homes of the higher classes and the common people. Through using websites such as Find my past and Ancestry which can be freely accessed at local archives and libraries, they have been able to find out who lived at certain houses throughout the decades from 1841 to 1911.

Speculum Gregis

As part of the project they have also studied original documents found in the local archives. One such document is Speculum Gregis written by R H Jackson who was once the curate of Llansannan. The book is a snap shot of the village in 1850 and contains information such as all the vicars of the parish and the numbers of people attending the church. It also has a colourful map of the village centre along with the names of the people living in the houses, their ages and occupations.



A couple of events will be takingplace in Llansannan throughout October which will give members of the public the chance to contribute.

Visit an open evening at Ysgol Bro Aled on 13th October at 7pm, where Llansannan’s original tithe map will be exhibited. It is an opportunity to share information about the buildings and place names of Llansannan, as well as memories of the village.

There will also be a leisurely walk through the village to explore the old buildings of Llansannan on Saturday 31st October at 11am starting at the square next to the car park.

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