GENEALOGY OF THE LEIGHS OF WALES 1550 - 1850
Welcome to our site for the pedigree and family history of the Leigh family who moved from England to the town of Carmarthen in Wales before 1597. The LEIGH name is very well known as an English name from the Anglo-Saxon LEGH, a dweller by a wood or clearing (Surnames of the United Kingdom), and many separate families took the name Leigh independently of each other. So, where in England did our earliest people live? We're still searching for that connection.
The first Leighs in Wales were educated, and they married into gentry families, so we expected they came from a branch of the large and varied Leigh/Legh family of gentry or nobility in Cheshire. Perhaps the earliest was an illegitimate son, or certainly he would have been a younger son without title or inheritance. Alternatively, our Leigh family may have come from a prosperous yeoman whose son went away to school and entered the growing middle class in the cities. Richard Leigh, our first recorded ancestor, apparently entered the cloth trade, and his son Raffe/Ralph Leigh signed himself gent. and became a mercer or merchant in Carmarthen by 1597.
We have now turned to DNA Studies, not only to confirm our documented evidence of our LEIGH lines in South Wales, but especially to find the unknown English roots and origins of our known ancestors. In England there are many families named Leigh, Lee, Ley, Lye, or other variations who could come from our unknown ancestors. Besides our own work we are also collaborating with other projects that have a reasonable match with the DNA of our Leigh line.
Our Leighs were a very healthy and prolific family, and we have stopped their pedigree in 1850 with the many grandchildren of the rural parson 74 Reverend Edmund Leigh of Llanedi and Llandeilo-Talybont. Their descendants in Wales are easily found and documented, as are the descendants of the Leighs who moved from Carmarthenshire to Cardiganshire, England, Canada, Idaho, Utah, or elsewhere (see our web site containing histories and stories of the more recent Leigh families). Whenever possible we cite current descendants who are now pursuing genealogy and can help those who are still finding their way back to the earliest Leighs in Wales.
In the Leigh Descendency Chart we try to follow all of the early lines from Richard and Raffe/Ralph Leigh. Most of our ancestors and collateral relatives were not famous. They were the salt of the earth-- the ordinary, generally decent folk who don't start wars or rule over other people, and I think that many would have made good company and been good friends. For a few relatives, we were fortunate to find enough information for a small biography, such as that of Bridgett Leigh, beloved concubine of Sir Francis Lloyd of Maesyfelin, and that of Oakley Leigh, "evil" steward of Peterwell. They became sources for the legends of the murder of the Vicar of Llandovery's son and the cruel trick of the black ram -- legends still current in Cardiganshire. So please look also at the Biographies section, which supplements the slots of our pedigrees with biographical and historical narratives. Particularly, we have followed the surprising and wonderful lines of the Leigh wives. One of these lines, the Prichard line, takes us back to Rhodri Mawr or Rhodri the Great, king of the Welsh (d. 877), king Hywel Dda or Hywel the Good, who codified Welsh law (d. 950), and other great figures. This same wife was also a cousin 2-times removed of Lucy Walter, the Welsh beauty who became mistress of Charles Stuart, later king Charles II, and mother of the Duke of Monmouth (beheaded in the Tower of London in 1685). See Lucy’s Biography. Another wife Dorothy Oakley had ancestors in the English Severne, Ingram, and Sheldon families who knew William Shakespeare and his father in Stratford-upon-Avon, and some were slightly related to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 (See the OAKLEY ANCESTRY).
Many of our Leighs are found in the Ancestral File and the International Genealogical Index, but they show so many errors and confusing repetitions that we began anew. The first Leigh genealogists labored remarkably well with index cards and hand copies, and we are deeply grateful to them. With new electronic resources, we were able to test, confirm, correct, clarify, and enlarge their work.
Where available our basic source was church records in Wales, either originals or on microfilm from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Equally valuable were wills and similar documents at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, whether originals, film, photocopies, or online. Our other basic source was the massive work on Welsh pedigrees by Peter C. Bartrum published as Welsh Genealogies AD 300 - 1400 in 1974 and as Welsh Genealogies AD 1400 - 1500 in 1983, a total of 26 volumes, and we utilized Dr. Bartrum's system for testing the internal consistency and chronology of a pedigree in the Prichard ancestry. As a source for genealogies after 1500 not included by Bartrum, we used the contemporary pedigrees of the Nashes (signed by Richard Nashe in 1597) and the Leighs (signed by Raffe Leighe in 1597 with his four children added in 1608), which were recorded by Lewys Dwnn in Heraldic Visitations of Wales ... between 1586 and 1613. For the next two generations, we consulted microfilms of the Herald David Edwardes’ manuscripts in the Bodleian library at Oxford University and used his pedigrees of our Leighs and Prichards. These were especially valuable because Edwardes was personally acquainted with our family, as well as a distant relative. For convenience and accessibility we also used the Golden Grove Books compiled in the 18th century, using both the original volumes in the Carmarthenshire Record Office and the handwritten copy made in 1911 in the Public Record Office in London and later microfilmed (Film nos.104349, 104350, 104351, 104352). For details on these sources and all of the specialized references we used, see the bibliographies with each section of our work.
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© Copyright Norma
Rudinsky 1999, 2013