Llanfair Nant Y Gof is a rural parish in Pembrokeshire, consisting of scattered farms and a single mill, plus a couple of "big houses". There is no village as such. The population in 1800-1820 was just over 200 according to http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk and it never got above 250 for the rest of the 19th century.

John James (1771? - 1857) was a miller and Baptist preacher who lived at Trecwn Mill, Llanfair Nant Y Gof from at least 1797 (according to Pembrokeshire Land Tax records, the Tithe apportionments for the parish in 1838, the censuses of 1841 and 1851, and the death burial and probate records for John).

In censuses from 1841 on, his wife's name was recorded as Mary and her birth year as circa 1771. She died in 1851. The censuses show the family having children between 1798 and 1815; there may be earlier children of whom I have found no trace yet. As the family were Baptists, none of the children's births were recorded in the registers of the local Parish Church. I don't know what chapel they worshipped at, but in any case the survival of Baptist chapel records in this area of Pembrokeshire is very poor. (The couple were buried in the local parish church, so there is no clue from that as to where they worshipped).

The marriage of John and Mary would have taken place in the local Parish Church, but the Parish Registers for Llanfair Nant Y Gof don't survive before 1801. There are a handful of earlier Bishops Transcripts, but none for the period when the couple would have married.

There are no property transactions for which records survive at Pembrokeshire RO or the National Library of Wales involving the mill at Trecwn which might shed light on the family.

There are no wills or other records at TNA that shed any light.

In 1809, the will of John Francis of Treberva in Llanfair Nant Y Gof was made and proven (viewable online at The National Library of Wales). In this will, he leaves money to his eldest daughter Mary the wife of John James.

It may also be relevant that John and Mary James named a daughter Frances.

Although there are other John James in Llanfair Nant Y Gof in the early 1800s, there is no other John James married to a Mary. What steps can I take to prove or disprove that Mary wife of John James of Trecwn Mill is also Mary eldest daughter of John Francis of Treberva?

Both Trecwn Mill and Treberva are shown on the 1838 tithe map of the parish and are half a mile apart.

  • I looked at the John Francis will. Am I correct in assuming that document calls out Treberva in Llanfair Nant Y Gof, Pembrokeshire. If that is the case, you might edit that location in your question to provide those additional details.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 18:57
  • @ColeValleyGirl, Which 1841 census page are they on? I can't actually find that parish because findmypast's Address-Search has been broken for a couple of weeks now.
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 19:00
  • @ACProctor, 1841 Census of England and Wales, Llanfair Nant Y Gof, Pembrokeshire, Wales, John James at Trecoon Mill; digital image FindmyPast (findmypast.co.uk) citing HO107/1444/20/9
    – user104
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 8:58
  • @ColeValleyGirl, that reference is not working for me. FmP needs an additional book reference for 1841 lookups. Using Ancestry, I keep getting piece 1444, book 20, folio 4, page 2 but that's the wrong family
    – ACProctor
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 9:44
  • @Acproctor Piece: 1444 Book: 20 Folio:8 Page Number: 9. Incidentally, the head of the household at Lllysydevaid at the top right of the adjacent page is also John James, son of John James at Trecwn Mill.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 18, 2012 at 9:54

6 Answers 6


Tithe apportionments and Land Tax Assessments are sources that provide information about the occupier/tenant and the proprietor/land owner. Knowing if John James is listed as both the occupier and proprietor is important. If another person is listed as the proprietor that information becomes useful in new searches on the National Library of Wales website and also (A2A) Access to Archives. Having the name of the land owner can help in the search for a lease. Some leases provide information about family relationships. A lease for three lives is particularly helpful.

You should search the National Library of Wales manuscripts catalogue at http://isys.llgc.org.uk/ by the name of the property where your ancestor lived and also by the name of the parish. You may need to search for variant spellings also.

  • Thank you. John James is the occupier; the proprietor in 1838 is William Barham who holds the Trecwn estate (within which almost all the properties in the parish lie -- the exception being those on glebe land). In the land tax assessments from 1786 to 1831, the proprietors are Elizabeth Vaughan (who held Trecwn before the Barhams) and then Barhams. As I said in the question, there are no relevant land transactions at National Library Wales, Pembroke Record Office or TNA. A2A doesn't bring up anything new either.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 9:01

As described, the 1809 will of John Francis of Treberva in Llanfair Nant Y Gof reports his eldest daughter, Mary, then survived and was the wife of John James. The question is whether or not, or even how to learn if, this Mary (Francis) James is otherwise Mary (1771?-1851) is the wife of your John James (1771? - 1857).

Given that every record is subject to error, there are only informational "bit" differences between what is learned from this will and what can be learned from many early marriage records. The will does not provide a marriage date, but we benefit by knowing as of 1809, that daughter is believed alive; from this record, her husband seems then alive, too.

Family Group: I research individuals using Jones' approach to Inferential Genealogy, but I do this for each member of the family group (head of household, spouse(s), children in the household). I call this researching at the "family group level." I build a body of information--clues and conflicts--about the lives of all the family members. (Which generally translates into research about at least two and one-half generations of the family.)

At the family group level, patterns and clues can be even more pronounced/apparent. These include clues about religion, naming patterns, residences, migration, etc., over the lifetime of the family members.

You write that John James was a Baptist preacher, so working to learn what you can about the area history and local baptist chapels would be a part of your work. All the better if you are able to discover some records. Is there a local library or historical society?

Hopefully those with more experience in the different record collections will comment, but what about court documents? Apparently both John James and John Francis owned land. It sounds like you have looked at the deed records; presumably noticing any witness names and surrounding landowners/properties, too. Have you tried to map those locations?

Quite separately, I have a little more information but find myself in about the same position as you with regard to my ancestor, Elizabeth (Clark) Preston, who married c1779 at Rumney, New Hampshire; she died there 1808. Elizabeth was born before Rumney was populated and her given and maiden name are common, even in a small town. We have located a court document from Connecticut that mentions a family of Clarks from there who had settled at Rumney; the family members are listed as heirs and there is mention of what seems a father's name.

In addition to citing relevant sources and clues, for now I recognize this Elizabeth Clark as "possibly, but not proven, the daughter of Joseph Clark, known to have had interests at Haddam, Connecticut." I recognize the other apparent children of Joseph Clark in the same way; including that those children are "possibly, but not proven, the brother/sister, etc. of my ancestor, Elizabeth.

P.S. Congratulations on the good work locating and documenting John Francis' 1809 will the information about his daughter's marriage and her spouse's name.

  • 1
    Thanks for the thoughtful answer. I have a copy of the tithe map for 1838 so have located all the properties. Trecwn Mill and Treberva are half a mile apart (according to Google Maps).
    – user104
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 13:34
  • @ColeValleyGirl Nice.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 13:39
  • Commenting @CodeValleyGirl to emphasize that which you may already realize. As above, there are only information "bit" differences between that which is found in the will and that which might be found in an early marriage record. Has carrying the children forward (ala, Family Group research to document the lives--through their marriages and deaths) resulted in any trace of the mother's maiden name and/or where that mother was born?
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 16:27
  • 1
    that's going to be the next step.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 16:35

It seems like the next step in utilizing the information from the will of John Francis in 1809 would be to locate the information related to this probate in the death duty registers which date from 1796 to 1903. These records should provide details about how the deceased persons effects were actually distributed and to whom.

Additional information you could share with us is the names and birth order of the children of John James and Mary ?. Welsh families often followed a naming pattern with their children that can point to the grandparents. Not all families followed the pattern but it is one of the extra indicators that can help strengthen your hypothesis with a Welsh family. The first son was often named after the paternal grandfather and the second son after the maternal grandfather. The first daughter was often named for the maternal grandmother and the second daughter after the paternal grandmother.

Probate records in the diocese of St Davids provide additional opportunities for answering your query. John Francis mentions both his son and wife as being alive when he wrote the will on 19 June 1809. It is worth checking to see if either of them left a will that provides more clarity about John and Mary James. One of them could have provided the additional details needed to clearly link these families or eliminate them from consideration.

An additional step can be taken with probate records. About ten percent of the population left a will but about forty percent are mentioned in the probate records. Printed probate abstracts for nearly all wills left by people in Wales before 1858 have been created by FamilySearch. The Welsh probate transcripts are available to browse on www.familysearch.org. An indexing project has been done but not published yet. The probate abstracts have good indexes by parish, testator and beneficiary name. I suggest that you look at all of the probate abstracts for any will of people who lived in the parish where John and Mary James lived. There are two more possible steps to milk the probate records to the fullest extent if looking at the probate abstracts for Llanfair nant y gof does not produce the needed answer.

In cases where parish records and Bishop's Transcripts do not start early enough to provide expected marriage information you should check the marriage bonds and allegations. The National Library of Wales has those indexed and FamilySearch has the images hidden in a browse record collection titled "Wales Court and Miscellaneous Records, 1544-1858". Searching marriage bonds and allegations is a higher priority when the family attended a church other than the Church of England. Nonconformists were more likely to marry by license so a Baptist minister may be much more likely to show up in those records.

  • 1
    That's really useful advice that I will follow and report back.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 18:38

The National Archives, London, England would probably be your best choice. The records may be there. I searched the Archive's on-line database, and I'll share what I found below; however, I'm not saying this is definitely your subjects record, only to show the validity of the answer.


John James, Farmer SD/1843/178 WX Will written in 1810. Diocese: St David's Parish: Llanfair Nant-y-gof Township: Frondrydd County: Pembrokeshire. [National Library of Wales, Welsh Probate Records...] Date: 1843 Source: Access to Archives (A2A): not kept at The National Archives

  • 1
    Thanks, but that's one of the other John James's in Llanfair Nant Y Gof. His family were at Vronrydd from 1801 onwards. And thanks for the useful reminder that TNA might have records. I'll edit the question to show that I've already checked TNA.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 18:38
  • I should also note that the catalog entry you quote is pointing to a record not held at TNA, but to another will at the National Library of Wales.
    – user104
    Commented Oct 19, 2012 at 16:51

Usually in Wales, Scotland and Ireland records are kept differently depending on the religion of the family if they are Catholics then the records are held by the priest/churches.


I have a death cert of my gt grandfather's brother, John Caduggan, who died at Parsonage fach/bach , llanfair nant y gof.He died on 21st June 1857, aged 25 years.. an almsman, formerly a mason... Present at the death, and informant was WILLIAM JAMES, of trecoon mill, who is most probably a relation of your John James.


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