My great (x4) grandfather John James 1771? - 13 July 1857 who lived at Trecwn Mill, Llanfair Nant Y Gof, Pembrokeshire, Wales was called on his gravestone (in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church, Llanfair Nant Y Gof) "Y Parch John James", that is:"The Reverend John James".

David John's Journal 1882-85 identifies him as the "Reverend John James, Fishguard" when referring to the marriage of Ann John (my great x3 grandmother) to his son John James.

The very brief notice of his death in The Bristol Mercury and Western Advertiser on August 8th 1857 names him as "John James, Baptist Minister".

There is a second Baptist minister also from Llanfair Nant Y Gof who may be related: William James 1814? - 1851 (son of another John James). He too is buried in the Parish Churchyard with a gravestone that identifies him as a "preacher with the Baptist denomination". In Y Cenhadrw Americanaidd 1851 (The American Missionary), his death is reported (in Welsh) thus: "Died Jan, 22, 1851 of tuberculosis at age 34, William James son of John and Elizabeth James, of Vrondrydd, parish Llanfair-nant-y-gof, Pembrokeshire, who was a good preacher."

Why might William James's death be of interest in America? And how can I find out more about their activities as Baptists, and in particular the chapels they preached at? (The survival of Baptist chapel records in this area of Pembrokeshire is very poor.)

2 Answers 2


Step 1: Check on the National Library of Wales website in the Welsh Biography Online database http://yba.llgc.org.uk/en/index.html which contains information on some ministers. It does not cover all but if a minister is mentioned in a newspaper the chanced of finding them listed in this source is better.

Step 2: Identify all the Baptist chapels in the area your family lived in. Consider doing a five to ten mile radius. Articles in the FamilySearch Research Wiki will lead to tables which identify nearly every chapel known to exist with information related to the denomination and records beyond birth, marriage and death. Go to https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Pembrokeshire_Nonconformist_Records for Pembrokeshire.

Step 3: Search national and local history sources. Start with bibliographical tools such as, Eglwysi'r bedyddwyr yng nghymru : llyfryddiaeth (Baptist Churches in Wales : a bibliography) 24 pages or A bibliography of the history of Wales. The book, Welsh Baptists by T. M. Bassett will provide some useful information.

Step 4: Search for chapel and denominational histories. Start with online library catalogs. The Family History Library catalog is a good place to start. Many chapel histories are included in their collection. Try a “Keywords” search for (Baptist history Wales).

Step 5: A bibliography of Welsh periodicals, 1851-1900 by Huw Walters provides a list of denominational publications. These often contain death notices and even biographies.

Some Welsh periodicals like Y Cenhadwr Americanaidd were published in America. These provide information on births, marriages and deaths of people in America and Wales. Typically there are five to ten obituaries or biographies in each issue in addition to the birth, marriage and death notices. The Welsh in America shared news with others and news about people back in Wales. Ministers were of special interest and are featured more often.

ETA: The National Library of Wales has recently started making available Welsh newspapers online.


Does your John James have a connection to Gellionen (the White Chapel?).

In the document at http://www.kimkat.org/amryw/1_testunau/sion_prys_092_orgraph_1858_120808_2339k.htm, he appears in a list of 60 mainly churchmen who (I think) offered comment on a draft of something discussed at the 1858 LLangollen Eisteddfod (?) --Google translate actually makes Welsh less easy to understand!

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    I think Gellionen will be the chapel whose history is given here: gellionnenchapel.org.uk/gellionnen/node/7, especially as this history mentions a John James friend of Iolo Morgannwg who was very likely to be involved in an Eisteddfodd.
    – user104
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 9:23

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