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The Jeremiah Family


I started pursuing the hobby of genealogy in about 1980. It is very time-consuming, so it tends to be an on-and-off activity. Small periods of intense work have alternated with long periods when nothing is done at all! However, some progress has been made and this site summarises the results.

My family tradition is that its roots are to be found in Carmarthenshire/Cardiganshire, South West Wales, before the eighteenth century. They were yeoman farmers at that time, that is to say they owned the land which they farmed. So far as I can find such a farm never exceeded about 200 acres in total. Some time at the end of the seventeenth or early eighteenth century, when the Industrial Revolution was getting into its stride in South Wales, one part of the family moved to Llangyfelach Parish, Swansea. This was both literally and figuratively a melting pot of industrialisation. About the same time another part of the Carmarthenshire family moved to Monmouthshire, which was also industrialising but initially at a somewhat slower rate. The pace warmed up subsequently, and just to make life difficult for the gealogical researcher part of the Llangyfelach family also moved to Monmouthshire. That is my branch.

So much for family tradition. It is usually a good starting point for genealogists - there may be some inaccuracies of detail, but the general thrust is usually right. I am beginning to have some doubts about this one, however. My focus of research at present is in the eighteenth century, when I would have expected this eastward migration to have been evidenced. Though there are difficulties in researching this period (especially in Wales) what I am finding is that the Jeremiahs were most numerous at that point not in Carmarthen/Cardigan as one would expect, but in Monmouthshire and Llangyfelach, Glamorgan. The very earliest individuals I have come across are in fact in Llangyfelach (1682 and 1693). I suppose it could be that almost all the family moved eastwards at some earlier date than I have reached, but somehow I doubt that. Anyway, I'm keeping an open mind at present.

Another part of the family tradition is that all the Jeremiahs in South Wales (and that means throughout the UK, since bits of the family in other parts of the country all came from South Wales originally) are part of one family. As the song says, "'taint necessarily so", though I lean towards believing that it is. In ancient times Welshmen were named using the patronymic system, the link word being ap (equivalent to Mac in Scotland and O' in Ireland). Thus my own name would have been Melvyn ap Bryn and my father's name would have been Bryn ap George (the Welsh Prince Hywel Dda ordained that everyone should be able to quote his patronymic back nine generations!! I am afraid I cannot go further than eight at the moment). At some point each Welsh family changed from the patronymic to the surname system; the change seems to have been later the lower down the social scale the family was. In practice when the change was made the current patronymic was usually adopted as the surname. Thus we have "Bowen" from "ap Owen", "Preece" from "ap Rhys" and so on. In some cases the "ap" just disappeared, so you have Welsh families now with surnames such as John, David, Abraham and ....... Jeremiah. It has been suggested to me that Jeremiah first became a family first-name because of the religious revival in Wales in the seventeenth/eighteenth centuries, but I have no proof of that. There is no other logical explanation, for it is hardly a Welsh name and there do not seem to have been any Jewish connections (Jewish friends tell me that Jeremiah is not a Jewish family name). Other Welsh surnames with such Biblical roots are Amos, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaac. All Old Testament characters, you notice! Apart from Jeremiah (yes, there have been a number of Jeremiah Jeremiahs) other common first names in the family are Benjamin, David, George, John, Thomas, William, Ann, Hannah, Helen, Jane, Margaret, Mary, Rachel. Logically, it seems unlikely that only one family amongst all those changing from the patronymic system over a period of something like a hundred years had a head-of-the-family with the given name Jeremiah. But, maybe it was so. Again, I have an open mind.

There are Jeremiah families in other parts of the world - black ones in Africa (usually without the final h) and a large one in Hawaii. So far as I can tell they are not related to my family. I have found an interesting family group in India, which seems to originate with a notary public attached to the High Court in Madras in 1780 - I am looking into them further, since they may well be related. There are a number of Jeremiahs in the United States who may be related as well. My grandfather's brother John Alfred (born 15 June 1864 in Argoed, Monmouthshire) emigrated to the United States (as a bachelor) after he got into financial difficulties at Oxford University. My grandfather George visited him in 1893, at which point he was living in the town of Chester, Pennsylvania (where he later died from appendicitis, without marrying). I have transcribed the manuscript diary of George's trip. A more distant relative on the Llangyfelach side, Thomas Henry Jeremiah, emigrated to California in the 1890s, and there are faint reflections of other Jeremiahs from Wales appearing in the USA.

I do not have contact with many living relatives. If this research turns up some more I shall be very pleased, though that is not the basic reason for the research. What is? That is a very good question. Perhaps it is to try and understand better the parts of my own personality inherited through the genes. There are certainly some characteristics which I recognise in other members of the family. One is a very well-developed sang froid: it has been described as armour-plating! We feel things passionately, but do not usually show those feelings in a demonstrative way. At the same time we are very frank and honest, sometimes to the discomfort of others. We have good insight into and empathy with other people's problems and troubles. We are sturdily independent, refusing to be dependent on anyone or anything. No-one in the family has ever been dedicated to the acquisition of wealth, though one ancestor in the Industrial Revolution made a fair amount from tinplate and brass-founding. We have tended to spend what we get, but always to have "enough". On the religious side it is not surprising that these qualities led the family to be originally "Dissenters", and later "Independents", "Congregationalists" or "Quakers". We do not like people telling us what to do or what we ought to do.

If you can contribute to my research or have any comments do send me an e-mail.

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