Without a definite place in Wales I'm afraid you will get nowhere. Civil Registration began in England Wales in 1837. before that you need baptism records and for those you need to know a place. The person should show on the 1841 census but unless they had a very uncommon surname or christian name it will be very difficult to find them.
Does noone in the family have any clues as to where they came from or has anyone found them on a ship entering America?
My mother is Welsh and tracing her ancestry is a nightmare.
The patronymic naming system (where people took the forename of their father as their surname) didn't die out until the mid 1800s and as a result there are a large number of people who all have the same surnames.... in my family Edwards, Jones and Davies predominate. Trying to sort one Thomas Jones from the other 25 living in the same tiny pit village is very difficult.
You are better off paying for a subscription to one of the ancestry websites that has UK census and BMD records, but be prepared for a very difficult search. There are parts of my tree that I may never crack... partly because people did move around far more than you think in the 19th Century.
What you need may be in Cardiff, but equally it may be in one of the other county record offices. So personally, I wouldn't go there.
I agree with the previous posters, you need to research on the internet and pin down a locality before you visit. If your ancestor emigrated to Pennsylvania he could well have come from the North Wales coalfield or from West Wales. If he had an unusual surname, you could look on the free BMD website www.freebmd.org.uk which might give you a possible area. Although probably too late for him it might show other members of the family.
Unfortunately, I'd also have to agree with all of the previous responders. Having a common family name (in my wife's case - Thomas) - it is extraordinarily difficult to isolate the proper branches.
We even tried to do some research at the National Library in Aberystwyth and although this is an extremely imposing and thorough institution, it was not very practical for our search (still worth a visit though!).
As was mentioned above, using one of the commercial ancestry websites was much more productive, but still, ultimately came up short. Somewhat suprisingly, it did provide tantalizing links from the medieval period up through the 17th century and the beginnings of New World emigration (even though it was still a nightmare to isolate a particular path with such a common name as the primary clue). But, our biggest roadblock was actually in the US records as we worked backwards through the 19th century (Pennsylvania was also our focus).
A combination of census records, country historical societies, church records, and tombstones in local graveyards got us back to around 1790 - 1800, but then the trail disappeared somewhere in southern Pennsylvania or northern Maryland and we just couldn't make any "provable" connection in the 200 years between Jamestown (several Welsh family names on those ship rosters) or any other Eastern seaboard port and that time.
While frustrating, we have to admit that the search was enjoyable (and at times, even fun) - I'd encourage you to keep digging.Edited: 20 April 2013, 16:22
Nobody in family has any info, we are on Ancestry.com but the info is very poor.. we would need a World subscription, but have looked on World at library and found nothing for ancestor born 1802 named, unfortunately Williams. Never found ship info..what harbor would they have used?
Thank you for suggesting that website. It's hard in US to find anything because Ancestry.com will give you suggestions but wants more money for subscription including UK. I just hoped that Cardiff would have a big geneology center where all the info is available!
As I said earlier you would need baptism records for this time. You will not find these on Ancestry. You will find some on www.findmypast.co.uk but without a place to start your search you will get nowhere. Many Welsh counties have their own Archive centres and there are many records held at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth but again you have to have a place to start your search.
Hi, while agreeing with a lot of the comments above. I would point out that you do need to have some idea as to where your ancestor came from. If he is in Pennsylvania it is possible that he come from the Merthyr tydfil area of Southwales as there was a regular traveeling between that part of wales and back again. Where in Pennsylvania did he live in the Coal mining area or the Iron ? Steel making area
Was he a Welsh Speaker did he attend a chapel, rather than an epsicapalian.
Thank you for answering..I had no idea there were different mining operations in Penn. I thought it was all coal! So that gives me something else to look up. He was born 1802 so we don't know anything--he was 4 generations back! I still want to go to Wales, but not sure if Cardiff or Norhern Wales..what do you think? Our first time in UK and are just going to drive aimlessly after Bath and Stow on Wold.
Can you give me your ancestors name and where on the 1850census of Pennsylvania you have him. I can then look up some records. Nick