THE BARTRUM "WELSH GENEALOGIES"
By Darrell Wolcott
Over the past 10
years, we have reviewed, collated, dissected and cross-referenced literally thousands of pedigrees related to Welsh families
prior to 1400. Our work was done without access to the eight-volume work by Peter C. Bartrum entitled "Welsh Genealogies
- AD 300 - 1400" which some claim to be the "final word".
Our approach has been
to construct a timeline into which each succeeding generation must fit and which must closely parallel that of other families
where marriage matches are claimed. And where persons can be securely identified, to chose a timeline which also accomodates
Brut entries, extant grant and charter documents and official governmental records.
Our work has disclosed
a multitude of omitted generations in extant pedigrees, more than a few men who have been confused with men of the same patrynomic
name and some who have clearly been attached to the wrong ancestors. Although the "emendments" we suggest are not always
supported by any prior authority, they are supported by logical reasoning and the resulting pedigrees are chronologically
stable. In most cases, the reasons why those errors crept into the pedigrees can be seen and understood.
Recently, our library
managed to acquire the Bartrum volumes mentioned above. After reviewing the work and comparing the pedigrees with our
own constructions, it is clear his purpose was much different than is commonly supposed. We commend the work for its
four volumes of indexes of names which reference the sources where they are cited. However, sources which did not agree
with Bartrum's timeline are marked with ( ) which he says are "incorrect". We wish he had noted exactly what those citations
said so we could decide for ourselves if they were corrupt or the alternate readings he accepted as "correct" were, in fact,
flawed. The four volumes are family charts, however, are little more than a compilation of what Bartrum thought the original
In many cases, however,
names which did not seem to fit timewise were simply omitted. In a handful of instances, Bartrum did point out chronological
problems he encountered and suggest a solution, but in most cases he was content to present the flawed data just as he found
it. Perhaps the most glaring example of his inability to collate seemingly impossible marriage matches is found in the
so-called First Powys Dynasty...the one descended from Cadell Ddyrnllwg. He simply states that all of the dozens of
pedigrees tracing families descended from Brochwel Ysgithrog "are deficient in one way or another". Rather than present
a complete chart of this family, his Welsh Genealogies gives us a single man named Brochwel ap Aeddan whom he dates to
c. 970 in order to fit as ancestor to a Meilyr Gryg of c. 1170. Another family is begun with Gwyn ap Gruffudd dated
at c. 1170 and still another with Gwenwys ap Gruffuddd whom he dates to c. 1270. Finally, the Matthew
Hen who is sometimes cited as a son of Brochwel Ysgithrog (but actually a son of Brochwel ap Aeddan) is correctly dated to
c. 1030/40 and called Bod Hen; this man begins yet another separate family. His charts do acknowledge
there were two different men called Gwyn ap Gruffudd but lists only a single Brochwel ap Aeddan. Our works posits not
two but four separate men of that name, each also being "ap Beli ap Selyf ap Brochwel ap Aeddan" and thus four different
men with the later name. We also find two men called Meilyr Gryg in the pedigree material, one born c. 1025 and the
other near 1190. Both are associated with Gregynog and we posit the latter as a direct descendant of the former.
Another unresolved attribution are
the charts which attach Cynfelyn ap Dolffyn of Maesmawr and Cadwgan of Nannau to the family of Bleddyn ap Cynfyn even
though the chronology cannot be made to fit. Our charts derive both those families from a Madog ap Cadwgan, which Cadwgan
dates from c. 1015; we lean toward identifying him as a member of the Rhos family.
It is our belief the single
most important shortcoming of the Bartrum charts was his decision not to estimate birthdates any nearer than within a 33
1/3 year window...his "generation" dating scheme. That much "wiggle room" allows the acceptance of a lady born, say
c. 1180, marrying a man born c. 1130, on the grounds they appear only a single generation apart (he falls into Bartrum's
generation 4 and she into generation 5). Perhaps he began, then abandoned, a more precise dating scheme when it disclosed
too many mismatches. We have had much success with a dating scheme in which each person is assigned a birth date within
a 5 year window, but recognize when several generations in a row pass with no cited marriages, the intermediate men may be
dated less precisely until a marriage is found to restore the near-precision of our estimates.
Like Bartrum, we
have found the more ancient pedigrees contain much less problematical material than those compiled in the 16th century
and thereafter. The works of Gruffudd Hiraethog, Gutyn Owain, Ieuan Brechfa, Robert Vaughan and others of the medieval
period have kept extant much material which would have been otherwise lost. But none of those genealogists thought it
important to adhere to a chronological timeline, resulting in endless repetition of material with patently impossible
So long as today's
researchers understand that Bartrum was NOT attempting to portray actual and feasible family charts, but limited his purpose
to summarizing the material found in other manuscripts, his work can be very helpful. It should not, however, be
cited as the principle source to "prove" any asserted facts. We have seen many cases where he linked unrelated
men to the wrong same-named father. The citations were correct, their compilation into a chart was not.
One final observation:
the charts and indexes are not a self-contained work. Lines and sources are carried back only until they connect to
one of his two earlier works: "Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts" published in book form in 1966, and "Pedigrees of the Welsh
Tribal Patriarchs" published in the National Library of Wales Journal, vol xiii, in 1963. Both those works must be at
hand to complete the pedigrees which are continued in the 1974 "Welsh Genealogies AD 300-1400".