Friday, June 17, 2011

Vaughan Family History: Hay, Trewalkin, Rhôs, Genfford, Y-Neuadd-Fach, Talgarth, and Glasbury

You have no idea how much work it took me to find some of those places. The worst of it is, we drove right by them last summer just below Castell Dinas on our way to see even more ancient Vaughan Family sites in southeast Wales. I spent a lot of time the past few days searching out on-line and on British Ordnance Survey Maps, which are quite fantastic, by the way. The beauty is that every house and farm in Britain has a name. The problem was that I linked to a 1782 will of an ancestor, and it doesn't help when the Bishop's copy misspells Welsh place names and the handwriting is almost impossible to decipher in the first place.

Now I have an eternal cyber-link to these places and maybe there are other distant cousins out there who may find this by accident or design. Send me a message and I'm more than happy to share our research.   And you can share what you have with me!

My wife in one of dozens of used book stores in Hay-on-Wye
Anyway, this is a lot of fun and absolutely obsessive when one link leads to another to work out this complex puzzle of where we came from. We've known for a long time that our surname originates with an illegitimate birth to a Hannah Vaughan in Hay, Breconshire, in 1789. What a great place! Britain's town of books! Well, it wasn't then. But, the best part is that the area is removed from the major population centers and industrial (coal-mining) blights so it remains much as it has been for hundreds of years. Now slightly gentrified as Hay-on-Wye (I suppose to distinguish it from hay-in-the-field) it is a place I can't wait to get back to.
Hay-on-Wye, Powys, Wales, from Richard Booth's Hay Castle Bookstore

Looking towards Hay-on-Wye and the Black Mountains from Clifford, Herefordshire
So, back to our story, our trip gave us a basic orientation and exhausted a few false leads as it whetted our appetite to keep on researchin'. We connected with an excellent, local historian, Jennifer Lewis, who has great insight, targeted tasks, reasonable rates, and good connections with the Powys County Archives. She found an entry in the Hay Parish Vestry records that a certain Roger Vaughan collected a payment for his illegitimate grandchild "on account of the tailor who is in gaol." We are working on those jail records, along with everything else to identify that tailor. But the mention of Roger Vaughan, linked me to info I already had about a Roger Vaughan from the next parish up-river, Glasbury, who had filed for flax bounties authorized by Parliament to encourage local production. And he had a daughter named Joanna who matched our mother of John Vaughan 1789 identified as Hannah, a version of the same name.

Roger Vaughan in Glasbury took us into both the ancient counties of Radnor and Brecon where he claimed his flax bounties. And in Breconshire, we found a 1782 will for a Roger Vaughan who appears to be his father, and a location of connected family lands listed in the title to this post. These are Vaughan lands beneath a castle and hill-fort going back to the dark ages and just over the pass from the ancient home at Cwmdu and the wonderfully restored Tretower Manor with the castle ruin guarding the cymoedd a mynyddoedd.
Tre-twr ("tower home" easily anglicized as "Tretower"). Medieval home of the Vaughans
It's still going to take a lot of work to sort out and connect all the family groups, and quite a bit more to get that direct line back to Sir Roger, but at least we're in the neighborhood. And what a joy it is to connect with these ancestors from that beautiful, green country!


  1. (Anon/M) Beautiful pictures, Grant. How can you NOT mispell names like Y-Neuadd-Fach? I find I can easily decipher ancient handwriting. It looks exactly like my grandmother's. What they taught kids in the last quarter of the 19th century was the same as in the earlier decades (and from that to the late 18th century is not much of a jump).

  2. Yeah. The funny thing is "Y-Neuadd-Fach" means "the small hall" at least according to Google-translate. It just looks so exotic in Welsh. I have a great cheat-sheet I found on the internet to interpret handwritten, alphabet letters in 17th -18th Century Britain. But it's still pretty challenging when you don't know the language.

  3. (Anon/M) I'm always amazed how few moves it takes to get to past centuries. I have ancestors from Ajaccio, Corsica, who lived in the house rented by the Bonaparte family (before they moved on to grander things)two or three decades after them. They thought it was nasty and pretty uncomfortable, actually.

  4. Greetings! I am a descendant of Sir Roger Vaughan and the previous owners of Tretower. Unfortunately, his name line dies out a few generations after him when the last born Vaughan is a girl. She marries and the inheritance passes to another name but the blood line continues eventually reconnecting to a Vaughan line in The Colonies. Your Hannah will not link back to him. Ralph

  5. Thanks for the comment, Ralph. I certainly realize that any line of inheritance or even biology is very difficult to establish over the centuries. I never expected to establish myself as part of the gentry, nor would I want to as a true American. But the name "Vaughan" in the Welsh Marches connects at least to his father, Sir Roger of Bredwardine, through many different ways. I have another line up through the Rices and Morgans of Tredegar, for instance. And I don't think any genealogical table can account for all the illegitimate children which we Americans don't seem to mind at all. I'm satisfied if only as an Alonso Quixano, but thanks!


Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!