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Home > Learning > Life in Wales: transcript of digital story (3)

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Life in Wales: Why emigrate?

Life in Wales was difficult for many of the emigrants and the promise of a better life in Ohio was very attractive to them. At the beginning of the 19th century most people in rural Wales depended on the land for their livelihood and because of the large increase in the population of the rural counties, land was scarce.

A great many of the emigrants were tenants, and the big landlords in Wales had enormous power over their lives. Landlords often owned extensive lands, tThey were responsible for administering the law and they were English speaking and Church goers. Their tenants on the other hand had neither land nor vote, spoke Welsh and were chapel-goers.

Poverty was common among the tenants. The condition of their houses was poor, their farms old-fashioned and their rents high. Since they didn't own the land, the landowner could turn them out of their homes without warning and this meant that they would have to live on the parish or from 1834 onward resort to the workhouse.

In addition, they had to pay a tax to the church - called the Tithe - and in some areas there was great dissatisfaction with the process of enclosing common land. A series of poor harvests were also seen in 1815 and 1816, and these may well have influenced the 1818 Welsh and a number of other Welsh people as they decided whether they wanted to emigrate.

It's not surprising that they chose to emigrate to Ohio where they had the opportunity to own their own land, without landlord or tithe, and one of the first things that many of them did after reaching Ohio, was to set about buying land.

Because of the kind of government there, just a few taxes have to be paid ... In every parish there's help for the poor and needy, but very seldom is there a call for this help. Chapels are being built, and ministers are maintained by free contributions from people who are members, and there's no mention of church tax or tithe. The only time that people mention the tithe is to give thanks that no such oppression exists in Ohio.


Life in Wales: Why emigrate? Digital story | Exercise 1 | Exercise 2






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