Miners Cottages - New Zealand
Miners cottages, Denniston,New Zealand
Main Street, Thirroul
Main Street, Thirroul, New South Wales, Australia.
Welsh coal mine, Kentucky
Welsh coal mine, Kentucky
Lewis Williams
Lewis Williams, Loaned by Hywel Gwyn Evans
Tong Colliery
Tong Colliery, Kaiping, China.
Letter from Lewis Williams
Letter from Lewis Williams written 12 February 1889. Loaned by Hywel Gwyn Evans
Letter Home
Letter from Lewis Williams to his parents, Loaned by Hywel Gwyn Evan
Joseph Pugh
Joseph Pugh
Empire Mine, Pennsylvania
Empire Mine, Pennsylvania
Sugar Notch Mine, Pennsylvania
Sugar Notch Mine, Pennsylvania

Wales experienced a spectacular boom in coal mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The world looked to the Welsh mining industry for expertise and advice.

As other countries developed their own economies they also began to exploit local sources of coal. The skills of Welsh miners led to them being recruited by foreign mining companies. The miners were offered generous wages to develop and manage foreign mines. Welsh miners were found in large communities in the coalfields of Australia and America. Welsh mining engineers helped to develop the industry in South Africa and even China, which is, today, the largest producer and user of coal in the world.

Welsh miners were also to be found in England. There was a large Welsh community in Kent, where the coalfield was developed in the early 20th century.

The most important areas of coal production by Welsh miners outside of Wales were in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, in the USA.

The town of Scranton in Pennsylvania became the centre of the largest concentration of Welsh people outside Wales. Many street names reflect the Welsh heritage of the area, for example, Jones Street, Evans Court and Eynon Street.

Chapels were common and built in the Welsh style and the Welsh language was in common use, supported in the chapels and eisteddfodau as well as newspapers.

Even when financial backers of mines were not Welsh or of Welsh descent they often preferred to employ experienced Welsh mine managers. These, in turn, tended to employ Welsh miners.

Although this often created a strong camaraderie among the Welsh in the mines it sometimes caused difficulties among miners of other nationalities working alongside them.

Lewis Williams

Born in Rhiwfawr, Upper Swansea Valley, Williams was a collier who studied in night-school to become a mining supervisor. He was recruited with two other Welshmen to operate the first modern coal-mine in China. He travelled to Kaiping in 1888 and letters home show he enjoyed the work but he unfortunately died of cholera in June 1889.

Joseph Pugh

Born in Pantygorlan, Cardiganshire in 1854, Pugh was a lead miner who emigrated to the USA in 1869. He returned to Wales two years later to work in coal mines at Dowlais, Aberdare and Cwm Rhondda until 1880. He then returned to Pennsylvania and became famous for sinking deep and profitable mines, dying in 1903.

Comments(4)

Jennifer Protheroe-Jones, Principal Curator – Industry Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
17 September 2019, 15:59

Dear Sandra Jones,

Thank you for your enquiry. Regrettably Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales does not hold any resources that would assist you in researching your ancestor’s emigration.

Recruitment to work abroad likely occurred through newspaper advertisements in regional south Wales newspapers with agents undertaking interviews of promising candidates. Newsplan Wales lists all the newspapers that were published in Wales; Welsh Newspapers Online provides free access to page scans of a useful range of titles and might possibly contain adverts of this sort seeking to recruit miners to work abroad. Sometimes the departure of a local person abroad was reported in very local (not regional) newspapers particularly if there had been a farewell function with workmates or in a church or chapel that they attended. To track down possible reports of this type, you will need to check Newsplan Wales to establish which newspapers circulated in the place that your ancestor lived, and then either view and search them on Welsh Newspapers Online, or in the archives listed in Newsplan Wales as holding runs of the original newspapers, or microfilms of them.

Your ancestor’s emigration will probably be recorded in UK outgoing passenger lists in The National Archives. His arrival in Canada will probably be recorded in Canadian incoming passenger lists (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/passenger-lists-1865-1922/Pages/introduction.aspx). His death in Canada will probably have been recorded in Canadian death and burial records (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/vital-statistics-births-marriages-deaths/Pages/births-marriages-deaths.aspx). His death may have been reported in very local (not regional) Welsh newspapers: to track down possible reports of this type, you will need to check Newsplan Wales to establish which newspapers circulated in the place that your ancestor lived, and then either view and search them on Welsh Newspapers Online, or in the archives listed in Newsplan Wales as holding runs of the original newspapers, or microfilms of them.

I hope that these research suggestions are useful and wish you luck with your search!

Yours sincerely,

Jennifer Protheroe-Jones
Principal Curator – Industry

Sandra Jones
16 September 2019, 16:41

I am at a loss and wonder if you could help? My great grandfather John Edward Jenkins, a miner in South Wales, according to family stories, was recruited to work in Canada. He possibly emmigrated between 1903 and 1910. His son, my grandad Sydney, was born in 1903 and remembered being told he had died over there when he was about eight years old. Where do I start to solve this mystery? How can I find out firstly which mine he was recruited from, who/what company recruited him and the ship he would have sailed to Canada on? Is there a comprehensive resource on Welsh Mining with the relevent information. If we can find out his starting point then maybe we can find out his ending. Are all the resources I need in the National Museum of Wales?
I thank you in advance for your time and consideration of this matter.

Sandra Jones

Sara Huws Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales Staff
1 March 2017, 10:59

Hi there Don,

Thank you for your comment and for sharing your family history.

I will pass on your comment to one of our curators, to see if they can point to some resources that can help you. I'll ask them to answer you here, or get back to you by email.

Best wishes,

Sara
Digital Team

Don Thomas
21 February 2017, 16:15
My Great Grandfather Samuel Thomas came to the USA in about 1862. He left a wife and two small children in Wales, one of whom was my grandfather, came here and then the rest of the family must have arrived in ~1864 since the first child born here was born in 1865 in Ohio. I have never found ships records of any of them arriving here. According to family and a newspaper item written at his death Samuel was a "mine boss" who was injured in a rock fall at a mine in Clay county Indiana. It appears he lived about a year in ill health after the accident.

One of his descendants was told by her mother said that she thought he stowed away on a ship to get here. I find it hard to believe that a married man would leave his family and stow away on a ship to get here. It seems that he had a plan, and I have been wondering if he had been recruited by a mine owner who also provided support for the family in his absence. I am wondering if anyone knows if this sort of arrangement was common in those days. I also wonder if the reason I am unable to find records of them on a ship coming here is that the coal mines provided the transportation on ships they owned or hired.

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