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Life in Wales: Who emigrated from Wales?

It is strange to think that at one time people have decided to leave Wales to live in America. Entire families would often pack up and go, leaving their homes, relatives and friends to begin a new life. To fully understand why so many set off on such a great adventure, we have to understand more about who emigrated from Wales.

A great many of the emigrants to the State of Ohio during the first half of the nineteenth century came from rural Wales. A high percentage of them were farmers, tenant farmers, or farm workers, a large number of whom had never previously owned land. Early emigrants were also more numerous from certain counties, especially the rural counties, and from particular districts within these counties, such as the villages of Cilcennin in Ceredigion and Llanbryn-mair in Montgomeryshire.

Although the reasons why these people emigrated differed from area to area, there were some things in common in the lives of all the people of the Welsh countryside. Also in almost every one of the areas where a large number of people were seen to leave, there were influential individuals leading them.

The first Welsh people to reach Jackson and Gallia counties in southeast Ohio were led by John Jones, Tirbach, the owner of the Ship Inn in the village of Pennant, in Ceredigion. These settlers reached America in 1818, and during the following two decades over 3,000 emigrants followed them from the rural villages of central Ceredigion.

The original group of settlers became quite well-known and they are still referred to as the 1818 Welsh. By writing home the emigrants succeeded in influencing other families from the same district to follow them:
Between the wool and the flax - a plant that produces oil - the produce of fields and gardens,making soap, sugar and candles, the industrious farmer and his family have no need to worry about sufficient food and clothing. There are also many rivers in Ohio that offer an opportunity to establish wool and cotton mills and factories.

In the years that followed, more and more Welsh people emigrated from the industrial areas to work in the developing industries in Ohio. This began in earnest from 1830 onwards and the pattern of emigration from the industrial areas shows that more Welsh people left during adverse periods in the iron and coal industry in Wales.

Life in Wales: Who emigrated from Wales? Digital story | Exercise 1 | Exercise 2