Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Celtic World

A heavy tome is it, both in content and weight.  The Celtic World edited by Miranda J. Green is not something you would want to carry around with you unless you had a particular question regarding the Celtic world.  Illustrations, tables, charts, graphs,  pictures, and all kinds of stuff about the Celtics. 

Twelve "Parts" (each essentially a topic) make up this resource.  It is written by multiple authors who provide their own expertise around the subjects present in each of the 12 parts.  The titles of these parts are:

Celtic Origins
Warriors and Warfare
Society and Social Life
Settlement and Environment
The Economy
Technology and Craftsmanship
The Art of The Celts
Pagan Celtic Religion
The Celts in Europe
On The Edge of The Western World
Celtic Britain Post AD 400
The Survival of The Celts

wow...what a list of subjects just waiting to be explored.  For the genealogist who has that Celtic gene, it is a must...:-).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Epics, Sagas, and Stories

The earliest stories from Wales can be view as part of the family tree.  They are in effect, the links we share to the past that help us understand where we have been as humans that share this thing called life.  The following shows another text that has been fun to read.  It is the account of the "Princes of Dyfed".

The cover shows its age, being published in 1914 by Katherine Tingley.  In her preface she writes:

"The deepest truths of religion and philosophy had their first recording for the instruction of the peoples, not in the form of treaties, essay, or disquisition, but as epics, sagas, and stories."

A picture taken from the inside of the title page is shown:

I guess it was her view of the symbols of the stories contained within.  The dragon is central, just below the flaming sword held high.   The dragon's wing encircles a harp, the symbol of song and the bard.  Oxen are shown in the lower right which represent "The Exalted Oxen" [Nynnio and Peibio] who were tamed by Hu who led the people from the "Summer Country" into the "Island of the Mighty, ages before..."  It is of interest to me that the first act of Hu was to plow the land thus making it theirs. [A word for "plow" is first seen in the writing of the Sumerians.]  Epics, sages, and stories...the eternal dramas of the world.  These are from Wales.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Mabinogion - Tales Recorded Gladly

The literature of a people will reveal their heart and mind.  Over time, the stories written down become much of the foundation of this record.  For the Welsh, two manuscript collections have been preserved and are considered by some to be "the finest flowerings of the Celtic genius".  Charlotte Guest translated these stories and placed a title "Mabinogion".  These have been translated anew by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones in 1949.  Since then, a number of revisions and additions, along with an index of proper names have been added.  The cover of the reprinted edition of 1994 is shown.

In the introduction it reads:

"Lord" said Gwydion, "it is a custom with us that the first night after one comes to a great man, the chief bard shall have the say.  I will tell a tale gladly."

To tell a tale gladly is certainly a Celtic tradition.  For the genealogist, it is these stories that provide the family tree to many early, early, generations.  Come, take a while, read a series of tales (eleven stories) recorded gladly.

Welsh sources:

White Book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) written down ca. 1300-1325 AD.
Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) ca. 1375 - 1425 AD.

The book was first published in Everyman's Library 1949.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Gerald of Wales

Keeping a record of your travels can be fun.   This place, and that place...what I liked, and what I didn't like.  The food, the people, and the scenery are often included.  My impressions written down are a must.  A travel-diary through Wales written in 1188 AD by a priest [usually the only ones who could write at this time], is one of a kind.  Such are the accounts titled "The Journey through Wales" and "The Description of Wales".  Written by Giraldus Cambrensis [Gerald of Wales] during a preaching-tour of Archbishop Baldwin trying to gain support in Wales for the Third Crusade.  It provides a first hand account of the country called Wales during this historic period.  Lewis Thorpe translates [it was first written in Latin] and Penguin Books publishes the texts.  The front of the book is shown.

In "The Description of Wales", chapter 17 [p. 251 in the book above] is written the following impression.  As a genealogist, this has given me a deeper understanding of Welsh genealogy and my family tree.

                             Titled:  "Their respect for noble birth and ancient genealogy."

"The Welsh value distinguished birth and noble descent more than anything else in the world.  They would rather marry into a noble family than into a rich one.  Even the common people know their family-tree by heart and can readily recite from memory the list of their grandfather, great-grandfathers, great-great-grandfathers, back to the sixth or seventh generation, as I did earlier on for the Welsh princes: Rhys son of Gruffydd, Gruffydd son of Rhys, Rhys son of Tewdwr, and so on."

What a story, and what an account of Wales it is for the genealogist who needs to time travel to 1188 AD.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Law and Order

Survival often depended upon how well one got along with another.  A societies willingness to cooperate among themselves were reflected in the laws and order of the group as a whole.  From the most primitive days tribal groups had to figure these things out in order to keep their families alive and well. [At least as well as could be expected.]  The following shows a text that records the laws and order of the tribal groups in Wales before 950 AD.

Professor Dafydd Jenkins translates the Welsh texts, and provides notes and definitions which are extremely helpful in understanding the social context of this period.  For the genealogist, it provides a window into the culture and society of the time that gives a picture of my ancestors. [For those of us from Wales.]  It lays the foundation of the state (kingdoms) as Hywel Dda was trying to clarify for his own purposes, but hey, he was a father-in-law among my own family tree branches.

For the genealogist who really wants to "time travel", this book is for you.  Hywel Dda, The Law...the law and order of 950 AD Wales.

[First published in Wales at the Gomer Press, Llandysul, Dyfed, 1986 by Dafydd Jenkins.]

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Topographical Dictionary

Finding out that one of your ancestors was from a place called "Much Birch", in the hundred of Wormelow, around the year 1590, might lead you to say... "say what"?  How in the world am I going to get my family connected across that great pond to that big island called England?  Of course this assumes you are from this side [U.S.A.] trying to get back in time to the land of your ancestors. [England and Wales]

For me, one great help was the reference shown below:

    The fancy word "topographical" just means to describe a place...a place like Much Birch.  Well here it is for those of us wanting to break down some of those brick walls.

First published in London, 1831, it was intended to give a historical and statistical description of parishes, chapelries, townships, boroughs, market towns, and all kind of places across the sea on that island.  It also contained maps of the different counties and islands [Guernsey, Jersey, and Man.] and a plan of London.  Samuel Lewis was the author, and did he have his work cut out for him.  The Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. reprinted the original four volumes in two 1996, and made it available to the general public.

Oh yes, on page 169 (Vol. I) there is a description of "Birch (Much)".  It was helpful to see that it needed to be separated from "Birch"(x2), "Birch (Great)",  and "Birch (Little) x2.  Much was taken to get here, but this reference is one of a kind.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tracing Paper - A Resource

It has been recognized that folks learn best when they utilized their own particular learning skills.  Some folks learns by "seeing" (visual), some folks learn by "hearing" (auditory), and some folks learn by "feeling" (touch).  For those of us that learn best by touch (called kinesthetic learning), taking a pencil in hand is one method to aid this process.

Tracing paper gives the kinesthetic learner a way to grow their genealogy.  Making maps, charts, figures, and family trees can be quite an assistance in climbing out those genealogical branches.  The following figure shows the front of a tracing pad I am presently using.

There are all kinds available.  This particular pad is made by "Pacon Corporation" and available at Walmarts.  Using the two previous books shown on the last two post [Touring Britain, and the Guide Book to Wales],  I have been able to give my mind some understanding of the land and geography of my family tree.  Making maps can be such a help.

A "tracing pad" containing "tracing paper"...what a resource.

P.S.  You can read about how this can be done utilizing my blogs: The Brick Wall Protocol and The Jones Surname.  Also, the following figure is a tracing I made from one historic map showing the geographic location of "Both Maelors".   My JONES family was found using this term, and it was delightful to understand its location in relationship to my family's towns. [Oswestry, Whittington, Wrexham, etc.]

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Touring Britain

A tour guide is most helpful when you are visiting a new country, especially if only in your imagination.  In my JONES surname tree climbing it was necessary to make this trip on many, many, many, occasions.   "A unique combination of Atlas, illustrated Guidebook, and Gazetteer..." it states on the cover.  A guide to the familiar, the offbeat, and the not-so-well known the cover goes on to state.  My kind of book.  Over the years, it has proved to be such a guide.

Reader's Digest was a standard in my house growing up.  It was placed on bathroom floor next to that thing you sat on for a while to help get things moving.  When I saw this guide book by Reader's Digest, I already had room for it in my mind.   Beautiful pictures and excellent writing were mine as I took my turns touring throughout Britain.  Published 1992, it contained detailed maps of the big island which I have used again and again to study locations and geographic areas.  A delight to my sore eyes after a long day at the office. [Was Family Physician for some 27 years!]  A wonderful reading, reference, and resource to have on your shelf.