This website was designed as a resource for anyone interested in the history of Welsh settlers in the Chicago area. Chicago, like many large American cities, owes much to immigrants from all over the globe. The Welsh were among the earliest settlers in the city but their contributions are seldom recognized and rarely appreciated. Many of the early families no longer have descendants in the area, thus tracking down Welsh family members who spent time here can be challenging.
You will be able to search and find out about individuals about whom there is sufficient information, as discovered in old record books, or as supplied by family still living in the area. More individuals will be added as details come to light, either through local archival research or from individuals contacting the site with information about their ancestors. The Welsh community in Chicago was most vibrant from the period leading up to the International Eisteddfod at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 until around the mid-twentieth century when the last three Welsh churches in the city merged into one.
The Cambrian Benevolent Society of Chicago, founded in 1853, carefully preserved a number of its earliest minutes books, ledgers, and programs from picnics, concerts and special events. There are hundreds of names listed as members, officers, and participants in different events. As is to be expected, a lot of the names are similar - John Davies, William Jones, Evan Evans - and, without further documentation, it can be difficult to be sure which family they belong to. To avoid confusion, it was decided not to include names unless they have clear identifying information such as date of birth, date of death, where they came from in Wales, etc.
If you are looking for someone with a typical Welsh name, be aware that they may be difficult to find. Enquiries about individuals are welcome but dates of immigration, correct birth dates, when they lived in Chicago, their occupation, and names of other family members will help narrow down the search. Information for the site has been collected from genealogy search engines such as Ancestry.com. Most local libraries provide free access to ancestry. Other information was found in old Chicago City Directories at The Newberry Library, and in articles in Chicago Tribune archives (also available at libraries).
In addition to individuals, you will also find information about Chicago’s Welsh churches and cemeteries. There are no longer any Welsh churches in the city but at one time there were as many as six or seven with Welsh-speaking preachers and services conducted in Welsh.
There is information here about the Welsh who are buried at Graceland Cemetery (alongside some of the city’s most prestigious and successful early citizens), and about two other area cemeteries with significant Welsh sections.
Welsh societies and organizations, past and present, are listed with any information currently known about them. Details of past celebrations, such as St David’s Day banquets and annual picnics, can be found here.
It is hoped that this site will be a gathering place for information about Chicago’s Welsh citizens. Families who have done extensive research of their own may wish to provide a link to their own websites to enrich the wealth of resources for researchers and anyone interested in the history of the Welsh in Chicago. Please contact us to have your information included.
Comments and feedback are welcome.