1881 Census from Ystradyfodwy, Pontypridd.
1881 Census from Ystradyfodwy, Pontypridd. The eldest child of the Griffiths family was born in America, the youngest in Wales.
America Fach, Porth
America Fach, Porth
Cartoon from the Western Mail, 1928
Cartoon from the Western Mail, 1928
Rees Bevan in Australia
Rees Bevan in Australia
Rees and David Bevan with friends in Denver, Colorado.
Rees and David Bevan with friends in Denver, Colorado. Rees has the gun.

Not everyone who left Wales for a new life abroad stayed away. Many people returned home for various reasons. This is called back migration.

In Porth, in the Rhondda Valley, there is an area known as America Fach (Little America). Many residents of the area, in the 19th century, had spent time living in the USA before returning to Wales. The local pub is called The New York.

In the 19th century, a lower percentage of people from Wales emigrated than from Ireland, Scotland or England. Welsh people also showed higher levels of returning home than other Britons. Various reasons have been suggested for this. It is probable that the high levels of industrial employment in Wales allowed for more people to return home during times of economic success.

Another theory is rooted in the concept called hiraeth in Welsh. This is a longing to be in Wales which draws people back to the country.

Some people seem to have got a taste for the migrant lifestyle. Many left Wales for a short time and then returned home, only to set off again to a different location.

When people moved abroad to look for work they usually had a destination in mind. Often there was a job guaranteed for them, family and friends already there and a community of people from their home country. Sometimes however they moved on again, perhaps several times, before they settled in one place. This is called stage migration.

Abraham T. Lewis was born in Brymbo, an iron and coal town near Wrexham in 1840. He moved to Hanley, Staffordshire and then Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, USA, which were also coal towns. In 1879 he moved to the silver mining town of Russell Gulch in Colorado. He later moved north to Washington Territory and then to Nanaimo, Canada. There he resumed coal mining and died in a colliery explosion in 1887.

It was common for one member of a family to go abroad and then others to follow when he had found work and housing. This is called chain migration.

Wives and children often travelled several months or even years after the men. Brothers, sisters, parents, friends and neighbours were sometimes persuaded to emigrate by news from overseas.

Rees Bevan

David Bevan of Aberdare went searching for gold in Colorado in 1880. His younger brother Rees joined him in 1882. Photographs of them were taken in Denver and sent home. David moved to Australia and again Rees followed in 1888. David then disappears from the records but Rees became a coal mine manager in Thirroul, New South Wales.


Gaynor Legall
6 December 2016, 13:06
Fascinating and informative. It is so good to read alternative or fuller stories of migration and immigration

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