THE baptism of a Welsh naval officer of the Napoleonic Wars taking place in 1746 in Flintshire is one of the gems of family history contained in the Welsh Parish Registers.

Actor and writer Ruth Jones - Nessa from Gavin and Stacey - investigated her Welsh family’s history on the popular ancestry show Who Do You Think You are on BBC 1 this week.

On her mum’s side, she discovers that her great-great-great-grandfather was a mariner who rose to the rank of captain in the domestic coastal trade. His son surpassed his father by carrying Welsh coal across the world. On Ruth’s dad’s side, she looks into the career of the grandfather she never met. Henry Richard Jones was a leading light in the Medical Aid Societies of south Wales, which provided a model for the National Health Service in 1948.

For those keen to explore their own Welsh family history just like Ruth, has launched Welsh Parish Registers, 1538-1994.

What the registry has revealed:

  • Eight million historic records of Welsh baptisms, banns, marriages, and burials now available on
  • 456 years of Welsh parish history is covered, from 1530s to the 1990s, helping Welsh people discover more of their family history
  • Occupations listed in the records include mole catchers, timekeepers, tippers plus a ‘stranger’
  • 1920 was the year of love with over 25,000 marriages taking place in Wales
  • Notable Welsh residents featured in the records include social reformer Robert Owen, painter Augustus John and physicist William Robert Grove

Whilst farmers and labourers were the most popular occupations recorded across the 13 parishes, some of the more interesting occupations include mole catcher, timekeeper and ‘tipper’, a maker of arrow heads. Another notable recording also included a ‘stranger’ listed in Brecknockshire.

More 2.5 million marriages in total are also recorded in the new collection, with 1920 being the ‘year of love’ seeing 25,207 couples tie the knot.

Featured in the records are several Welsh residents from the history books including:

  • Robert Owen – The baptism and burial of philanthropist and social reformer who was one of the founders of Utopian Socialism is recorded in the collection, dated 1771 and 1858 respectively in Newton
  • Augustus John – The baptism of the Tenby-born painter dubbed a master of post-impressionism is recorded in the collection as taking place in 1886 in Pembrokeshire
  • William Robert Grove – The baptism of one of the pioneers of an electric light and early fuel cell is recorded in the collection as taking place in 1811 in Swansea
  • Thomas Totty – The baptism of a Welsh naval officer of the Napoleonic Wars is documented in the records as taking place in 1746 in the county of Flintshire

The original records, which are held at National Library of Wales, are part of a Parish digitisation project by the library and marks the first step to improve the online Welsh Parish Registers offering. Future plans include the ambition to scan more Parish Registers that were not previously included by working with 12 regional archives across Wales to add these additional parishes to the Ancestry collection over time.

The records hold detailed information about the ancestors of many Welsh families and will be searchable by parish on the Ancestry website. The collection works to help bring people’s family stories to life and encourage people across Wales to discover more about their family history.

Rhona Murray, Content Acquisition Manager at Ancestry® comments: “The release of these records marks the first time that people with Church of Wales ancestors will be able to comprehensively go back beyond 1841 on the Ancestry websites. These records are an invaluable resource for anyone looking to research their family history in Wales and our ambition is to create the most comprehensive Welsh Parish Register record collection online.”

Twelve archives have been mined to find extra parish registers never scanned before, including Flintshire, Denbighshire, Anglesey, Gwynedd, Powys and Conwy. Wrexham does not hold original parish registers and registers for the area are held in a neighbouring archive.

To learn more about your family history and discover the stories of your Welsh ancestors, visit

Ruth's story:

In her episode of Who Do You Think You Are, available now on iPlayer, actress and writer Ruth Jones delves into her Welsh family roots, revealing details of her grandfather who helped found the NHS and then onto a pub landlords story.

Ruth said: “Filming Who Do You Think You Are? was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

"I feel so privileged to have been taken on this spectacular journey into my heritage and to have discovered so much about my ancestors. I’ve probably been guilty of assuming people from bygone generations were stuffy, two-dimensional and a bit dull. But my trip on Who Do You Think You Are? has proved the opposite to be true.

"I feel like I’ve got to know the real people behind the fading sepia photographs and it’s made me want to find out more. Ancestry is where it’s at!"