02 September 2011

Deciphering Welsh Writing

Transcribers may have noticed the recent influx of Welsh headstones. When BillionGraves first started to get a lot of photos from Sweden, one of our users provided information to help us transcribe Swedish stones. Luckily one of the individuals uploading photos from Wales has supplied a similar primer that explains phrases and words that commonly appear on Welsh headstones. Below are list of months, weekdays, family relations, feminine and masculine possessive forms, plural possessive forms, notes of affection (usually found in the epitaph), preliminary statements (also common in epitaphs), and  other key words and phrases.

You’ll notice that some words appear in more than one form. For example, son appears as both mab and fab. This is because in Welsh, certain letters undergo a sound mutation when combined with other sounds. Thus mab means son when the word stands alone, but in a phrase like her beloved son it appears as fab (ei hannwyl fab) because the M sound mutates to an F (which, in Welsh, sounds like the English V—are you confused yet?).

(Note: Even though this post will give you translations for some Welsh words, please transcribe the stone in the original language; you can add the English translation in the description box if you so choose. Most of these are listed to help you determine which words on the stone are names and how to determine the birth and death dates.)

Months of the Year
Welsh: English
Ionawr: January
Chwefror: February
Mawrth: March
Ebrill: April
Mai: May
Mehefin: June
Gorffennaf/Gorphenaf: July
Awst: August
Medi: September
Hydref: October
Tachwedd: November
Rhagfyr: December

Days of the Week
Dydd Llun: Monday
Dydd Mawrth: Tuesday
Dydd Mercher: Wednesday
Dydd Iau: Thursday
Dydd Gwener: Friday
Dydd Sadwrn: Saturday
Dydd Sul: Sunday

Family Relations
Baban: Baby
Brawd: Brother
Cefnder: Cousin (Male)
Chwaer: Sister
Cyfnither: Cousin (Female)
Gwraig: Wife
Gwr: Husband
Mab: Son
Mam: Mother
Mam-gu: Grandmother
Merch: Daughter
Nai: Nephew
Nain: Grandmother
Nith: Niece
Plant: Children
Plentyn: Child
Priod: Spouse
Tad: Father
Tad-cu: Grandfather
Taid: Grandfather
Wyr: Grandson
Wyres: Granddaughter

Feminine Possessive Forms
Ei gwr: Her husband
Ei mab: Her son
Ei merch: Her daughter
Ei mherch: Her daughter
Ei phlentyn: Her spouse
Ei phriod: Her spouse
Ei hannwyl blentyn: Her beloved child
Ei hannwyl briod: Her beloved spouse
Ei hannwyl fab: Her beloved son
Ei hannwyl ferch: Her beloved daughter
Ei hannwyl wr: Her beloved husband

Masculine Possessive Forms
Ei blentyn - His child
Ei briod - His Spouse
Ei fab - His son
Ei ferch - His daughter
Ei Wraig - His wife
Ei annwyl blentyn - His beloved child
Ei annwyl briod - His beloved spouse
Ei annwyl fab - His beloved Son
Ei annwyl ferch - His beloved daughter
Ei annwyl wraig - His beloved wife

Plural Possessive Forms
Eu mab: Their son
Eu baban: Their baby
Eu merch: Their daughter
Eu plenty: Their child
Eu hannwyl blentyn: Their beloved child
Eu hannwyl fab: Their beloved son
Eu hannwyl faban: Their beloved baby
Eu hannwyl ferch: Their beloved daughter

Notes of Affection
Anwyl Blant: the beloved children
Annwyl blentyn: the beloved child
Annwyl briod: the beloved spouse
Annwyl dad: the beloved father
Annwyl fab: the beloved son
Annwyl faban: the beloved baby
Annwyl fam: the beloved mother
Annwyl ferch: the beloved daughter
Annwyl wr: the beloved husband
Annwyl wraig: the beloved wife

Preliminary Statements
Bedd: Grave
Er cof am: In memory of
Er cof tyner am: In tender memory of
Er serchog gof am: In loving memory of
Er serchus gof am: In loving memory of
Gorweddle: The resting place
I gofio’n dyner am: In tender memory of
O dan y garreg hon: Underneath this stone
Yma y claddwyd: Here was buried
Yma y gorwedd: Here lieth

Other Key Words and Phrases for Headstones
Blwyddyn: Year
Corff/Corph: Body
Diwrnod: Day
Dydd: Day
Ganwyd: Born
Gynt o: Formally of
Hefyd: Also
Hunodd yn yr Iesu: Fell asleep in Jesus
Isod: Underneath/Below
Mis: Month
Oed: Age
O’r plwyf hwn: Of this parish
Y dywededig uchod: The above named (Male)
Y Ddywededig uchod: The above named (Female)
Yn 7 mlwydd oed: 7 years old
Yr hwn a fu farw: Who died (Male)
Yr Hon a fu farw: Who died (Female)
Uchod: Above

If you’re looking up Welsh words in a dictionary, remember that CH, FF, LL, RH, TH, and DD are all distinct alphabet letters with their own sounds, so words that start with CH will be found in the CH section of a dictionary, not the C section, etc.

If you think transcribers could use some tips for transcribing headstones from your area, send some notes to me at kristy.stewart @ billiongraves.com and I’ll share them here for everyone to use.