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Home > Wales-Pennsylvania Project

The Wales-Pennsylvania Project

The Wales-Pennsylvania Project aims to build upon the successes of the Wales-Ohio Project undertaken by The National Library of Wales between 2006 and 2009 in partnership with Elizabeth and Evan Davis, Oak Hill, Ohio.

The history of the Welsh in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is pivotal to the Welsh immigration to the United States of America. From the founding of the Pennsylvania colonies in 1681 to 1700, the Welsh were the largest group immigrating to Pennsylvania, and by 1700 one-third of the population of Pennsylvania were Welsh. The Welsh Quakers came to Pennsylvania for religious freedom and were granted a 40,000 acre tract of land north of Philadelphia. The Welsh had their own land and self-government. Skilled industrial workers came to Pennsylvania from Wales; iron puddlers and rollers, coal miners, slate quarrymen and tinplaters.
The first visit of William Penn to America
Welsh immigration into Cambria County started in 1796 and Ebensburg became a center of Welsh immigration with Baptist services being conducted in Welsh. Two-thirds of the 109 miners killed in the 1869 breaker fire near Wilkes-Barre were Welsh. As the coal, iron, steel, and tinplate industries grew, Welsh communities sprang up in Western Pennsylvania cities such as Johnstown, Sharon, New Castle, and Pittsburgh. Today, Pennsylvania has some 200,000 people of Welsh ancestry, more than any other state.

Digitizing Welsh heritage

There is a tremendous amount of Welsh heritage contained in documents held by the various Welsh Societies in Pennsylvania and also in documents that were sent back to the "Old Country" and are now held in the National Library of Wales. But these documents are hidden away and are inaccessible to most of the people who have an interest in them.

The Wales-Pennsylvania Project aims to digitize and present on-line these materials relating to the Welsh settlers in Pennsylvania, in the same way that the Wales-Ohio Project did for Ohio. Following on from the success of the Wales-Ohio Project and the enthusiastic response it has received it is only natural that the Library now seeks to enhance that provision and build an even more comprehensive resource reflecting the importance of the contribution of the Welsh to the United States and to Pennsylvania in particular.

The Wales-Pennsylvania website

Emigration poster (1841)
General aim
The Wales-Pennsylvania Project aims to create a bilingual website that charts the reasons for migration, chronicles the experiences recorded during migration and documents the contribution and significance of the Welsh to the State of Pennsylvania. It is envisaged that the proposed Wales-Pennsylvania website would be similar in format and design to the existing Wales-Ohio website so that both sites would complement each other and would offer a consolidated collection of materials relating to both states.

An initial investigation of the wide range of materials within the collections housed at the NLW has already been carried out by staff who have identified some 120 items that would be digitized and presented on the site. The second phase of the Project could involve NLW staff traveling to Pennsylvania to digitize material held by the Welsh Societies, individuals, and in various libraries in Pennsylvania.

OCR, transcription and translation
The digitization process would not only involve the capturing of page images but also the conversion of the images into text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This could be done for suitable printed materials and would allow the text to be searched and re-used. The NLW aims to provide transcriptions of the manuscript materials and translations of the Welsh materials into English. This will not only ensure that all the material is accessible to the users of the website but that it is also accessible to computerized search engines, making it even more easily available.

The digital images would be accompanied by specially prepared interpretative text, an important element in that it would complement the digital images by providing context and be particularly useful to learners of all ages. Detailed interpretation of a selection of key events, Welsh communities, individuals and themes would also be included on the site.

NLW staff will also develop educational material related to the website. The 'Learning' section will include a series of digital stories recounting the history of the Welsh settlers in Pennsylvania and the links that still exist between the state and the "Old Country". The stories will be produced in both English and Welsh and will be accompanied by interactive exercises, aimed at young people between 11 and 15 years of age, based on the content of the digital stories.

Who benefits?

The project will produce a comprehensive website based upon the groundbreaking work already undertaken by staff at NLW. It will offer full access to an extensive collection of images of material related to the life of Welsh migrants to Pennsylvania with interpretive information which will strengthen links between Wales and Pennsylvania; promote educational understanding between Wales and Pennsylvania; create learning opportunities for schools, colleges and lifelong learners; and be a focal point for communities of Welsh and Welsh descent in Pennsylvania.

Fund-raising and contact information

For further information, please send an e-mail to:

The fund-raising teams may be contacted directly by telephone or in writing:

St. David's Society of Pittsburgh
Dave Williams (President)
St. David's Society of Pittsburgh
5246 Karrington Drive
Gibsonia, PA 15044-6023
Tel: 724-449-3359

The Welsh Society of Philadelphia
Charles Lentz (President)
The Welsh Society of Philadelphia
603 Orchard Way
Hatboro, PA 19040
Tel: 215-444-9169