Always remember Welsh surnames are patronymic, and people with the same surname are not necessarily related. Parish registers for Wales, including the ones looked after by West Glamorgan Archives Service, are all available on Findmypast. Access to both Findmypast and Ancestry is funded every year by the Welsh Government for Welsh archive services and libraries. Andrew Dulley says: “Swansea was known as Copperopolis because of the importance of copper smelting to the town. Although the ore later came from Anglesey and South America, the copper was initially sourced from Cornwall, and it was a Cornish family, the Vivians of Kenwyn and Truro, who were instrumental in developing the industry here at their Hafod Works.
“There were many other smelting works as well, for the manufacture of steel, tinplate, spelter and brass, and a variety of chemical works as a support industry. Swansea’s works were concentrated in the Swansea Valley, between Morriston and the docks. Meanwhile, a constant supply of coal was needed to fuel the works, and collieries were dug across the region.”
Expanding the docks
Swansea’s docks expanded throughout this period. The North Dock was built in 1852, followed by the South Dock (1859), Prince of Wales Dock (1881), King Dock (1909) and Queens Dock (1920). Andrew says: “We hold a series of shipping registers with details of the vital statistics of the ships registered here, and also many thousands of crew agreements recording the people who sailed in them.”
The 20th century saw the gradual closure of all the works in the Swansea Valley, leaving the Mond Nickel Works at Clydach and the Port Talbot Steel Works as a reminder of how things once were. Unfortunately, much of the documentary material relating to the smelting industries has not survived.
However, you can find out more about the Copper Business Archives collection, preserved at Swansea University’s Richard Burton Archives, via the dedicated website welshcopper.org.uk.
West Glamorgan Archive Service is a joint service for the councils of the city and county of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot borough. The records held here
Swansea's North Dock was the location of a serious railway accident on 29 November 1865