Caerwys, Flintshire

The early days of America, surprisingly enough, begin in this tiny Flintshire town. Caerwys had a reputation already, as the smallest Welsh town with a Royal charter, but in 1682, a Caerwys doctor, Thomas Wynne, took its influence even further. He sailed to America with Quaker William Penn, who had been given 45,000 square miles of land by English king Charles II. Penn wanted to call this new land New Wales – Charles II overruled him, calling it Pennsylvania – but the street plan for its largest city, Philadelphia, was based on Caerwys.

Wynne’s home, Bron Fadog, two miles away from Caerwys in the village of Ysciefiog, is Grade II (2) listed, and still stands today.

castle like walls with flowers and lawn
road in foreground, flower pots and bollards with parked cars in the mid ground and buildings in the background
Flower pots with blooms and wall with flowering plants and palm tree with road signs on the wall

Caerwys, Flintshire

Waunfawr, Caernarfon, Gwynedd

This is the home village of John Evans, an ambitious and eccentric 26-year-old explorer who set out to America in 1793. An album and film by the Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys about him, American Interior, was released in 2014.

Evans’ reasons for his trip were unusual: to find Welsh-speaking Native Americans. A medieval legend suggested that a Welsh Prince, Madoc, had been the first European to discover America in the 12th century. He had met with a tribe of Mandan Indians there, who had learned to speak Welsh. Evans was determined to find out if this was true.

His trip involved him crossing mountain ranges alone, boating for hundreds of miles, getting imprisoned in St Louis – and eventually finding the Mandan, who didn’t speak Welsh at all. Tragically, Evans died ravaged from his adventures and homeless in New Orleans in 1799. 

A memorial in his village by local sculptor Meic Watts shows him with a low boat in front of him, his soul being brought back to Waunfawr. 

Trailer for Gruff Rhys' American Interior

Plas Yn Ial, Llanarmon-yn-Ial and St Giles’ Churchyard, Wrexham, Clwyd

Yale University is named after the hugely wealthy merchant trader Elihu Yale, whose surname is a corruption of the Welsh word 'ial'. His family were named after their ancestral home, Plas Yn Ial in Llanarmon-Yn-Ial west of Wrexham – a place you can stay today, in beautiful self-catering accommodation. 

white stone holiday property with lawn in front and trees to the back

 Plas Yn Ial, near Wrexham, North Wales

By 1649, when Elihu was born, his family were living in Boston, Massachusetts, but they kept their connection with their home country. Elihu returned to Wales later in life, living between London and his grandfather’s home, Plas Grono, on the Erddig estate. He was buried in St Giles Churchyard in Wrexham, where his tomb is still easy to visit today. It bears the legend 'Born in America, In Europe bred'.

Close up of tomb stone
Close up of tomb stone

Elihu Yale's tomb, Wrexham

Wrexham AFC, Wrexham, Clwyd

Another more recent connection between America and Wrexham was made in 2021, with the most unlikely alliance in sporting history. American A-list actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham AFC, plotting to change the fortunes of both club and community. Just two years in, in April 2023, Wrexham won promotion to the Football League, after 15 seasons of playing in the semi-amateur National League (the fifth tier of English football). 

Wrexham Association Football Club (AFC) are one of the oldest football teams in existence. Their home ground, The Racecourse, is the oldest international ground in the world. Discover more about Wrexham’s AFC’s rise to stardom

An open top bus with several people on the top deck. Two people are holding a trophy above their heads.
Crowds of people on a street outside a football stadium, with a 'Wrexham AFC' banner held high.

Wrexham AFC Victory Parade, 2 May 2023

Banc-Y-Llain Farm / Jabajak Vineyard Restaurant and Rooms, Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire

Four centuries before it was the site of Jabajak, a gorgeous five-star restaurant with rooms and vineyard, Banc Y Llain was a farm where the great-grandfather of America’s second President, John Adams, was born. He became a tenant farmer here, in a home known locally as The White House, before leaving Wales behind to seek his fortune in America. His great grandson would be the first person to live at the house’s rather larger namesake in Washington. John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, also became the sixth President, making his reputation as a staunch opponent of slavery.

daffodils and lawn in foreground with white building in the background
room with large dining table laid with flowers and ivy leaves in the centre, room with beam in background

Jabajak Vineyard, Llanboidy, Carmarthenshire

Bryngwyn, Ysbyty Ifan, Conwy, Clwyd

Abraham Lincoln's great-great grandfather John Morris was brought up in the Bryngwyn farmhouse, now long derelict, located in remote foothills south-east of Betws-Y-Coed. John’s daughter, Ellen, emigrated to America with the Quakers, and over there she met her husband Cadwaladr Evans, from Bala. Lincoln stays close to his Welsh roots: in his 1860 election campaign, he had 100,000 election pamphlets printed in the Welsh language.

Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, South Wales

The first sitting President to visit Cymru was a President with a Welsh ancestor. Barack Obama’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Robert Perry, was born in Anglesey. In 2014, Obama came to Wales for the 2014 NATO summit, and stayed in one the Hunters’ Lodges in the Celtic Manor Resort. So can you, although you’ll have to bring your own security.

exterior of lodges in countryside surroundings

Hunters’ Lodges, Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, South Wales

Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, Swansea, South Wales

Hillary Clinton’s great-grandfather John Jones was a miner from Llangynidr who moved to Pennsylvania in 1879. Her great-grandmother, Mary, was believed to come from Abergavenny. Clinton talked of her warmth towards her Welsh roots in 2017, when she received an honorary doctorate from Swansea University. Their College of Law and Criminology was renamed the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law. She also stayed in the Gower’s Fairyhill restaurant with rooms, and even had her photo taken with the staff afterwards.

woman wearing gown speaking at podium with university logo and name  with university logo projected onto wall behind

Hilary Clinton speaking at Swansea University during her investiture in 2017

Pwll, Carmarthenshire, and Amelia Earhart Obelisk, Burry Port, Carmarthenshire

The first woman to complete a flight across the Atlantic landed in Pwll, our small coastal village between Llanelli and Burry Port. Her plane was towed into Burry Port Harbour, and nearby on Stepney Road, the 20-foot Amelia Earhart Obelisk commemorates the full journey. It even has a weather-vane on top, in the shape of her seaplane. 

Yr Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen, Llandysul, Ceredigion

The story of one of America’s most pioneering architects, Frank Lloyd Wright, began in Yr Hen Gapel, a tiny chapel in rural Ceredigion. This is where his mother’s family embraced the radical branch of Christianity that inspired them to cross the Atlantic, moving to Wisconsin. They didn’t forget their Welsh roots, and neither did Frank, who named the groundbreaking estate that he built on their land Taliesin, after the Welsh bard. Taliesin became a National Historical Landmark in America in 1976, and is being considered to be an UNESCO World Heritage site.

exterior view of chapel with graveyard in foreground
interior view of chapel looking down

Yr Hen Gapel, Llwynrhydowen, Llandysul, West Wales

Horton Beach, Gower, Swansea

On this beautiful beach at Horton Beach, among others on the South of the Gower Peninsula, thousands of American GIs practised for the D-Day Landings. The troops also lived in our seaside villages, and the dancehalls of Wales still hold memories of their effects on their communities. Today, Horton is a spacious stretch for families and lovers of watersports, with a lifeguard on duty from May to September, and an accessible car park only 100m away.

long grass in the foreground with sandy beach and blue sea and sky in background

Horton Beach, Gower, West Wales

Find out more

If you're interested in researching your Welsh ancestry, local archives are a good place to start. The National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth holds extensive archives and has a fantastic online search facility. You can also do bespoke family history tours with Dragon Tours.

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