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Jurisdictions[edit | edit source]

A jurisdiction is an area governed by a system of laws. Each jurisdiction has a geographic boundary with some type of authority (i.e., manor, parish, town, county). This authority has the power to apply and enforce the laws. In Wales birth, marriage, death, census, and other genealogical records are organized and stored in different governmental levels such as parish, town, and county.

History of County Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

Wales went through three distinct boundary changes: pre-1974, 1974-1996 and post 1996. The specifics of each county and the years it existed can be viewed in the maps and table below. The Wales counties discussed the most in the FamilySearch Research Wiki are the historic pre-1974 counties. The records dated before 1974 are located within the information found in the historic counties. This practice better assists our patrons who are researching their ancestors before the modern time period.

Maps of County Boundary Changes[edit | edit source]

AngleseyFlintCaernarfonDenbighMerionethMontgomeryCardiganRadnorBreconMonmouthPembrokeCarmarthenGlamorgan400px-Wales County Structure pre 1974 copy.jpg
GwyneddClwydPowysDyfedGwentSouth GlamorganMid GlamorganWest Glamorgan400px Wales 1974-1996.jpeg
AngleseyGwyneddConwayDenbignshireFlintshireWrexhamPowysCeredigionCarmarthenshirePembrokeshireMonmothshire500px Wales after 1996.jpeg

List of County Changes[edit | edit source]

Most researchers will be researching within the context of these pre-1974 historic counties. Wales, like many other countries, has seen much reorganization over time and it may be necessary to search in several counties to locate all pertinent records. The table below lists corresponding counties throughout the three time periods. It can be read from left to right. For example, Anglesey became part of Gwynedd in 1974 and then became Anglesey again in 1996.

pre 1974 1974-1996 post 1996
Anglesey Gwynedd Anglesey
Breconshire Powys
Mid Glamorgan
Rhondda Cyon Taf
Caernarfonshire Gwynedd Gwynedd
Cardiganshire Dyfed Ceredigion
Carmarthenshire Dyfed Carmarthenshire
Denbighshire Clwyd
Flintshire Clwyd Flintshire
Glamorgan Mid Glamorgan

South Glamorgan

West Glamorgan
Merthyr Tydfil
Rhondda Cynon Taf
The Vale of Glamorgan
Neath Port Talbot
Merionethshire Gwynedd
Monmouthshire Mid Glamorgan
South Glamorgan
Blaenau Gwent
Montgomeryshire Powys Powys
Pembrokeshire Dyfed Pembrokeshire
Radnorshire Powys Powys

See the relevant county pages for further information.

Jurisdictions Pre-1974[edit | edit source]

Parishes[edit | edit source]

Ancient Parish[edit | edit source]

Parish, the smallest unit of ecclesiastical and administrative organization in England. During the 7th and 8th centuries, groups of priests organized large church areas to better serve their parishioners. Throughout the 10th and 12th centuries these large areas were divided into smaller areas by landowners who built more local churches to serve the needs of their families, tenants, and servants. These smaller area developed into the formal parish system.

Ecclesiastical Parish[edit | edit source]

Ecclesiastical parishes originated in the Medieval period when tithes were paid by the local parishioners to support the Church. These units were distinguished from the Civil Parishes after the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1866. This act also led to many subordinate areas, such as chapelries, being raised to parochial rank and the creation of many new parishes.

Chapelry[edit | edit source]

A secondary place of worship working and reporting to the main parish church. A chapelry also had a role in civil government, being a subdivision of a parish, which was used as a basis for the Poor Law until the establishment of England and Wales Poor Law Records 1834-1948.

Civil Parish[edit | edit source]

A civil parish is used in local government jurisdictions. Civil and ecclesiastical parishes were formally split into two types in the 1860s. These two types of parishes are now entirely separate. Civil parishes are governed by a parish council or parish meeting, which exercises a limited number of functions. There are currently no civil parishes in Greater London area and in a few other England locations.

County[edit | edit source]

The counties of Wales are areas used for different purposes, which include administrative, geographical, cultural, and political boundaries. In Wales, thirteen counties were established in 1536 and continued to be used as administrative subdivisions until 1974. FamilySearch uses Wales county historic boundaries pre-1974. The records dating before 1974 are located within the information found in the historic counties. This practice better assists our patrons who are researching their ancestors before the modern time period (post-1974).

Registration District[edit | edit source]

A registration district in Wales is an administrative region which exists for the purpose of civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths and civil partnerships. Legislation was passed to create a civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths. England and Wales registration began on 1 July 1837, for births, marriages, divorces, and deaths.

Diocese[edit | edit source]

A group of parishes form a diocese, which is headed by a bishop.

Rural Deanery[edit | edit source]

A subdivision of an archdeaconry and headed by a rural dean. Each deanery consists of several parishes.

Poor Law Union[edit | edit source]

The Poor Law Unions, enacted in 1834, brought neighboring parishes together for the purpose of relieving the burden of administrating relief to the poor. The Poor Law Unions and their workhouses took over this responsibility from the Church of England parishes. These unions were considered a type of government unit which were managed by a board of guardians.

Hundred[edit | edit source]

A hundred was a division of a shire (county) which was used for administrative, military, and judicial purposes. A hundred was introduced by the Saxons before the 12th century and was used until the 19th century Before the Local Government Act 1894 when the district was introduced, the hundred was the sole assessment unit (size) between parish and county.

Hamlet[edit | edit source]

A small village or collection of houses in a parish. It has no separate jurisdiction or administrative functions.

Township[edit | edit source]

An ancient jurisdiction in Wales and parishes were formed from them as the Normans, over several hundred years, conquered Wales. Townships are divisions of a parish. They were units of local administration, levied a separate poor rate, and appointed a constable.

Sub-district[edit | edit source]

A sub-district is comprised of more than one civil parish.

Archdeaconry[edit | edit source]

An archdeaconry is a subdivision of a diocese with proscribed boundaries. It is presided over by an archdeacon. An Archdeaconry is composed of parishes.

County Abbreviations[edit | edit source]

County Abbreviations and Chapman Code[edit | edit source]

The two types of county abbreviations used for Wales originated from the ISO 3166-2:GB (The ISO 3166-2:GB and establishes an international standard of short and unique alphanumeric codes to represent the subdivisions of countries worldwide) systems, which was created in 1974.
In the late 1970s, a historian, Dr. Colin R. Chapman, used the ISO 3166-2:GB and BS 6879 systems created a 3-letter code of the United Kingdom for genealogical purposes of counties existing in the 19th and 20th centuries. For more information see the following articles: