Each record will provide a transcript and some may give you an image of the original register. The amount of information listed in each transcript varies, but the records usually include a combination of the following information about your ancestor:
Many of the records contain images, which may include further information, such as:
Death place (e.g. hospital, asylum)
Cause of death
If burial of cremated remains
Father’s first name(s)
Mother’s first name(s)
Husband’s first name(s)
Details of location of grave/other inhabitants of grave
Note that some of the earlier registers are in Latin.
The record set comprises more than 374,000 records from Monmouthshire. These records span from more than four centuries. This collection has been created from transcribing records from the Welsh Archive Services as well as transcripts contributed by the Gwent Family History Society. You will also discover more than 600 records from the Monmouth Workhouse.
Monmouthshire is one of 13 historic Welsh counties and a former administrative county. The historic county of Monmouthshire corresponds approximately to the present principal areas of Monmouthshire, Blaenau Gwent, Newport, and Torfaen, as well as those parts of Caerphilly and Cardiff east of the Rhymney River. It borders Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Brecknockshire, and Glamorgan. The administrative county of Monmouthshire was abolished two years after the Local Government Act 1972, and most of the area became part of the new local government and ceremonial county of Gwent.
A number of the earlier records list the name of an individual, followed by the word ‘Alias’ and a different surname. Alias means ‘at another time’ or ‘otherwise’ in Latin, and there are several possible reasons for the change of surname. The most common was illegitimacy; a child was given its mother’s surname if the parents weren’t married, but if the parents later married, the child’s surname may have been changed to the father’s. Other possibilities for aliases in the records include a widow remarrying and her children taking the stepfather’s surname, changing a surname for inheritance reasons, informal adoption among family members. Until 1926, England had no formal system for recording adoption. A final possibility for an alias was retaining patronymics, with many men in the 1500s keeping their father’s or grandfather’s first name as a surname in order to retain the ancestral name.
The first recorded workhouse in Monmouth was opened in 1760 and it remained open for around 100 years. After the Poor Law Amendment Act, the control of the workhouse passed from the parish to the Poor Law Union. As a Union workhouse, it grew to accommodate around 30 parishes in the surrounding area which also covered parts of Hertfordshire and Gloucestershire in across the border into England. The old workhouse was soon overcrowded and cramped and there were frequent outbreaks of violence.
A new workhouse was opened in 1871 to house 200 people. The new regime was not without problems. Local undertakers complained that only one coffin supplier was being used – one that was using converted fruit boxes from Birmingham.
The Monmouth Poor Law Union covered 31 constituent parishes. The workhouse was over seen by a Board of Guardians, 37 in number made up of representatives of the various parishes. The Union also covered several parishes in the neighbouring English country of Gloucestershire. A full list of parishes is given below
Pontypool Poor Law Union was formed on 23 May 1836. Its operation was overseen by 26 elected Guardians representing the 22 constituent parishes for the county of Monmouth. The parishes covered were:
Trevethin with Pont-y-pool
Panteague elected two members to the Board of Guardians and Trevethin with Pont-y-pool elected four. All the other parishes had one representative board member. The Board of Guardians met on alternate Thursdays at 10 am.
The Pontypool Union workhouse was built in 1837. The Poor Law Commissioners authorised £3,000 to be spent on constructing the building, which was to accommodate 100 inmates. This was later increased to almost 200.
The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act established Poor Law Unions in a move away from the parish based system of poor relief that had been in place since the 17th century. The Unions were to administer workhouses for the local poor.
Workhouses were supposed to be a deterrent to the able-bodied pauper. Under the Act, poor relief would only be granted to those who passed the “workhouse test”, in other words you would have to be desperate to enter a workhouse.
They were there for the truly destitute, the so-called “incompetent poor” - an able bodied man could only enter if his family came with him. The elderly, the infirm, orphans, the mentally ill and single mothers were all accommodated but life inside the workhouse was intended to be as off putting as possible. Men, women, children, the infirm and the able-bodied were all housed separately. Food was basic and monotonous - gruel, a watery porridge, or bread and cheese. Inmates had to wear the rough workhouse uniform and sleep in dormitories and baths were allowed, supervised, once a week.
The able bodied were given hard work, stone breaking or picking apart old ropes. Families were only allowed minimal access to one another and in the early days were not even allowed to speak to each other outside these access times. The workhouse came to be seen as the ultimate degradation.
Some people only stayed in the workhouses briefly, when there was no other option, others spent their entire lives in the same workhouse. If an inmate died in the workhouse their family was notified and would be given the option to organize a funeral themselves. Many were unable to do so because of the expense. If no one else came forward the Guardians of the workhouse would arrange a burial in a local cemetery or burial ground usually the parish where the workhouse stood but later rules did allow for the deceased’s own parish if such a wish had been expressed.
The burial would be in the cheapest possible coffin in an unmarked grave, often a communal one. Bodies that were unclaimed for 48 hours could also be donated for medical research or training, a form of disposal allowable under the terms of the 1832 Anatomy Act for any institution whose inmates had died within its care. All deaths were registered in the normal way.