To understand the reason for Welsh immigration it helps to have an overview of the history of the people of Wales. The Welsh people originated from the Picts and the Celtic race, strongly adhering to the Celtic culture and speaking Gaelic, one of the languages of the Celts. Other tribes and ethnic groups, notably the Anglo-Saxons from England merged with the Celts however the native Welsh people maintained their own distinct culture, language and held strong nationalist sentiment. In 784 King Offa of Mercia, a region in England, built Offa's Dyke as a boundary between England and Wales - there have been divisions between the two countries ever since.
History of Welsh Immigration to America: The Welsh and the English
Wales was first ruled by Welsh kings. The Reign of Rhodri the Great starting in 844 united all of Wales under his rule but in 890 Welsh rulers acknowledged Alfred the Great as their ruler and at this point in history Anglo Saxons joined the Celts in Wales. After this time conflicts frequently erupted between the English and the Welsh. King Edward I of England (r.1272-1307) savagely conquered the Welsh in 1284. Wales was incorporated with England in the 1586 Act of Union. Every attempt was made by British rulers to destroy the heritage, culture and language of the Welsh. They failed. The ancient Welsh language survived and is now taught in all schools in Wales.
History of Welsh Immigration to America: The Discovery of America
According to legend Welsh Immigration to America dates back to 1169. The Welsh Prince Madoc of Gwynedd, landed in Alabama in 1169 and traveled up the Missouri - over 300 years before the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Descendents of the voyagers were referred to as Welsh Indians, who were connected with the Mandan Native American Indian tribe. Thomas Jefferson, like many others, believed that the "Madoc Welsh Indians" story to be true and instructed Lewis and Clark to find the descendants of the Welsh Indians. Queen Elizabeth I even used this legend to support British claims in the New World over those of Spain. Also refer to Examples of PUSH and PULL Factors of Welsh Immigration.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1600's: Colonial America
Welsh Immigration to America dates back to Colonial times - at least one the Mayflower pilgrims claimed Welsh descent. Her name was Jane Powys, the wife of Thomas Holbrook. Welsh immigrants, particularly those of the Baptist, Methodist, or Quaker religions, undertook the 3000 mile journey in search of a better life and the freedom to worship as they chose. John Myles (c. 1621-1683) became the founder of the first Baptist church in Wales in 1649. Myles and other Baptists suffered religious persecution and he led Welsh Baptists to Massachusetts in 1662. John Myles and his congregation founded the American town of Swansea, named after a town in their Welsh homeland.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1600's: Pennsylvania
The Welsh Quakers suffered religious persecution. William Penn (1644-1718) was the founding father of the Quaker colonies in America. William Penn established Pennsylvania in 1682, he first called the area "New Wales". The Welsh Quakers were led by John Roberts, who had negotiated with William Penn to constitute a separate county whose local government and inhabitants would use the Welsh language. The Quakers founded the city of "Brotherly Love" (or Phil-Adelphia).. Philadelphia was the first planned, and surveyed city in the western hemisphere. 30,000 Welsh Quakers immigrated to "New Wales" - Pennsylvania during the 1600's. Other early Welsh settlers purchased land in the Delaware colony, which they called the Welsh Tract.
History of Welsh Immigration to America: Indentured Servants
Welsh Immigration to America increased as Welsh gained access to America as Indentured Servants. The cost of the voyage to America was prohibitive and out of the reach of most Welsh men and women. The only way to get to America was to sign a contract as an Indentured servant and signed to work between five to seven years in exchange for transportation to the New World and the prospects of employment and a new life.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1700's: Transportation
Welsh Immigration to America in the 1700's increased when the British passed the 1717 Transportation Act initiating forced immigration to America. The 1717 law established a convict bond service as a form of punishment for various offences. Penal transportation to the British colonies in North America included paupers and petty thieves who were sentenced to a seven year convict bond service in America. More serious crimes, including rebellion, were punished by a 14-year convict bond sentence. Convicted Welsh had no choice in this forced type of Welsh Immigration to America but many preferred the option to imprisonment or execution.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1700's: The American War of Independence
Welsh Immigration to America continued into the 1700's, the period in which conflict began to grow between Britain and the colonies. American migrants demanded the same rights as the British believing their rights and liberties in America were being abused. The American War of Independence (1775 - 1783) erupted and many Welsh Americans fought in the American Revolutionary War. Daniel Morgan (1736–1802) was a Brigadier General during the American Revolution. Both of his grandparents were Welsh immigrants who lived in Pennsylvania.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1700's: Signers of the Declaration of Independence
Welsh Immigration to America saw descendents who bravely fought in the American War of Independence and some also signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The signers of the Declaration of Independence of Welsh ancestry included William Floyd, Button Gwinnett, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris and Robert Morris.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1800's: Migrants from Llanbrynmair, Powys, Mid Wales
Welsh Immigration to America witnessed a wave of settlers in the 1850's from Llanbrynmair led by the Reverend Samuel Roberts (1800 - 1885 ), who acquired land for a Welsh colony in Tennessee. There were legal disputes concerning ownership of the land and many of the migrants moved on to Ohio.
History of Welsh Immigration to America in the 1800's: Welsh Miners
Welsh Immigration to America in the 1800's at first increased as thousands of Welsh coal miners emigrated to America to work in the anthracite and bituminous mines of Pennsylvania. Others found employment in the iron and steel industries. Then the wave of Welsh immigration decreased. From 1881 to 1920 a Welsh immigrants to America totaled 53,768 - a miniscule amount compared to the millions of other immigrants.
History of Welsh Immigration to America: The Welsh Legacy
Welsh Immigration to America left an important legacy to the United States. Famous U.S. Presidents claimed Welsh ancestry including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Garfield, Calvin Coolidge and Richard Nixon. In the 2008 U.S. Census community survey, an estimated 1.98 million Americans had Welsh ancestry equivalent to 0.6% of the total population of the United States.
Welsh Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Important facts about the history of Welsh Immigration to America and US laws that effected the migrants from Wales are contained in the following Facts Sheet and history timeline.
Welsh Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline
Fact 1: 784: King Offa built Offa's Dyke as a boundary between England and Wales
Fact 2: 1169: According to legend Prince Madoc of Gwynedd, landed in Alabama and traveled up the Missouri. Descendents are referred to a Welsh Indians
Fact 3: 1284: King Edward I conquered the Welsh
Fact 4: 1586: Wales was incorporated with England in the 1586 Act of Union.
Fact 5: 1620: Jane Powys is one of the Mayflower pilgrims
Fact 6: 1603: The two kingdoms of Wales and England are united when James VI becomes king
Fact 7: 1662: John Myles, the founder of the first Baptist church in Wales, established a Welsh settlement in Massachusetts
Fact 8: 1682: William Penn established Pennsylvania. Welsh Quakers led by John Roberts found Philadelphia
Fact 9: 1717: The Transportation Act resulted in Welsh criminals being transported to America
Fact 10: 1775: The American War of Independence begins
Fact 11: 1776: The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776
Fact 12: 1783: Congress officially declared the end to the American Revolutionary War on April 11, 1783
Fact 13: 1783: The United States of America was created and Welsh migrants referred to themselves as Americans.
Fact 14: 1850: Migrants from Llanbrynmair, Powys, Mid Wales, led by Reverend Samuel Roberts, establish a colony in Tennessee
Fact 15: 1850's: Coal miners work in the anthracite and bituminous mines of Pennsylvania
Welsh Immigration to America has declined from this time
Welsh Immigration to America Facts Sheet and Timeline for kids
Push and Pull Factors of Welsh Immigration to America for kids
For specific examples and a list of political, economic, environmental and social reasons and push and pull factors of Welsh Immigration to America refer to:
Push and Pull Factors of Welsh Immigration
Welsh Immigration to America for kids
This article contains a brief overview of Welsh Immigration to America from the first Immigrants through the 1800's and 1900's. Important historical events have been highlighted which had a significant impact on Welsh Immigration to America. A brief description of the effect of the first immigrants from Wales. Our article on Immigration to America details the history of Wales and immigration in the 1600's - 1800's. A helpful educational resource for kids on the subject of Immigration from Wales to America.