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Historical Description

Wales, a principality adjoining the W of England. It was formerly more extensive than now, and included besides its present area all of what is now Monmouthshire and considerable portions of what are now Herefordshire, Salop, and Cheshire. It now comprises Anglesey, Carnarvonshire, Merionethshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, and Montgomeryshire, forming North Wales, and Cardiganshire, Radnorshire, Brecknockshire, Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, and Pembrokeshire, forming South Wales. It is bounded on the N by the Irish Sea and the estuary of the Dee; on the E by Cheshire, Salop, Herefordshire, and Monmouthshire; on the S by Bristol Channel; and on the W by St George's Channel. Its length from N to S is 136 miles, its breadth varies from 37 to 92 miles, and its circuit is about 540 miles, of which 390 are coast. Acreage, 4,779,325, population in 1881,1,360,513; in 1891, 1,519,035. The surface is very mountainous in the N, and hilly in the S. It is intersected by beautiful valleys traversed by numerous rivers, and is rich in minerals, particularly copper in the N, and coal and iron in the S. Slate also abounds in the N. Details as to contour, waters, rocks, minerals, soils, agriculture, manufactures, commerce, railways, roads, government, statistics, history, and antiquities are given in our articles on the several counties. The principality contains the entire dioceses of Bangor and St Davids, the greater part of those of St Asaph and Llandaff, and part of those of Chester and Hereford.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Chapman code

The Chapman code for Wales is WLS.
Chapman codes are used in genealogy as a short data code for administrative areas, such as county and country names.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

We have a list of the Registration Districts in England and Wales, by county.




Old map of England and Wales circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership between the British Library and findmypast to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library's vast collection. Over 35 million pages from hundreds of titles are already online, covering the 17th-20th centuries.


Prior to 1858 wills had to be proved by the church and other courts. The Prerogative Court of Canterbury was the most important of these courts. Copies of the probates of these wills can be searched and viewed online at the National Archives.

For wills after 1858 the Government Probate search service can be used. You will need to identify and copy some information from the National Probate Calendar to order a record, which is delivered online.

The National Probate Calendar is online at