Skip to Main Content

Richard Burton Archives: Migration

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for Migration and Movement of People

Group of men in an industrial scene.

The Richard Burton Archives has a broad range of sources for the study of migration to, from and around Wales as well as elsewhere. 
This includes:

  • refugees from the Spanish Civil War
  • students travelling for education
  • people moving for economic opportunities, such as the copper trade
  • how migration was perceived

Photograph of Spanish immigrant workers in front of Dowlais ironworks, c1900 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/TOP/33)

Immigration to Swansea and the UK


The collections, in particular the University archives, contain reference to individuals moving for education. Examples from the collections include:

  • photograph of "South African chemistry student, Shropshire (Concord College)", [Richard Turner Scholarship]’, 1980s (Ref. DC3/23/1/4)
  • list of students from overseas for the 1937-38 session, University College of Swansea (Ref. UNI/SU/AS/2/1/211)
  • ‘Overseas News Bulletin’ [Social Science Courses],  in the Registrar's correspondence, 1956 (Ref. UNI/SU/AS/2/1/568)

The digital story below uses oral histories and other items from the University collections to tell the story of international students through the years.

Church records 

The St David's Priory Collection gives an insight into the Roman Catholic Church in Swansea from the 19th century onwards. St. David's Priory is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Swansea, replacing an earlier church building that had been established c1808. Most of the parishioners came from the Greenhill area, which had a large Irish community. It became essential to build a church there, with St. Joseph's church opening in 1866. Documents within the collection can indicate the nationalities of the parishioners, and types of record which may be of interest include:

  • registers of baptisms, marriages and burials (Ref. LAC/99/A)
  • church notices (Ref. LAC/99/C)

Part of handwritten report.

Extract from the church notices of St David's Priory, Swansea, regarding the behaviour of James Quinn 'a true Irishman and a good Catholic' (Ref. LAC/99/C/1)

Emigration from Wales and the UK

Emigration to other countries is also found in the collections, both undertaken voluntarily and otherwise. Examples include:

  • small pocket book thought to be of David Davies, Treboeth, containing notes on book binding, as well as a diary for 1819-1820 and 1825, with entries recording that ‘the Chilly Men intended to set off this day’ (7 June 1825), ‘W[illia]m Francis, W[illia]m Lewis, Charles Davies &c left Swansea for to sale for CHILLY to make copper’ (8 June 1825), and ‘I went to town to see the ship in which David William & D[avi]d Jones &c are going to Mexico’ (4 March 1825) (Ref. LAC/114/2)
  • Evan Carruthers collection includes official and personal papers relating to Evan Carruthers emigration to America and his work in the mines of Colorado 1920-1922 as well as correspondence and official papers concerning the emigration to America of his wife and children c.1922 (Ref. SWCC/MNB/PP/4
  • letters from Michael D Jones to Messrs Ismay Imri regarding Patagonia, 1872-1873 (Ref. LAC/154)
  • record of the emigration of Emma and Elizabeth Price to Canada in the minutes of Ladies' Committee for Cwmdonkin Shelter, 16 December 1889 (Ref. LAC/22/A/1). Established in 1887, the shelter provided temporary shelter for women & girls in Swansea and offered protection to those in vulnerable positions. Many girls emigrated from the shelter to Canada in the 1890s via Miss Maria Rye agency. 

Part of handwritten minute book entry.

Extract from the minute book of Cwmdonkin Shelter, 16 December 1889, recording the emigration of Emma and Elizabeth Price (ref. LAC/22/A/1)



During the Great War refugees from Belgium came to Swansea, possibly because of earlier connections to the area and the copper industry. There are different types of document within the collections that have reference to Belgian immigrants in Swansea, including:

  • Report of the Executive Committee for Swansea of the Prince of Wales' National Relief Fund for 17 December 1914 (Ref. LAC/64/1)
  • Minute book of the managers of St David's and St Illtyd's schools, which has reference to 'overcrowding: This is due to the presence of several Belgians in the school, together with some children who have come recently from London to escape air-raids', 21 March 1918 (Ref. LAC/99/J/7)
  • St David's Priory church notices, which  has reference to fundraising for Belgian orphan children (Ref. LAC/99/C/13)

Extract from printed report.

Extract regarding Christmas gifts for Belgian child refugees from the report of the Executive Committee for Swansea of the Prince of Wales' National Relief Fund, 17 December 1914 (Ref. LAC/64/1)

South Wales welcomed some of the 4,000 Basque refugee children who, through aid organisations, arrived in Britain during the Spanish Civil War (for more information about resources relating to this conflict see our Spanish Civil War guide). There are a number of photographs and other documents that record the arrival of the children and their time in South Wales including:

  • photograph of a Basque dancing troupe touring the Welsh valleys, c1937-c1938 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/52)
  • ticket to a football match to be played between the Basque Boys (Caerleon) and Pontypridd Boys' Club (Ref. SC/681/1)
  • letter appealing for donations to the Basque Childrens' Fund (Cardiff Committee) to enable them to continue to fund Cambria House, 1938 (Ref. SC258)

Gallery - Refugees from the Spanish Civil War

Group of child refugees and miners.

Photograph of South Wales' miners visiting a children's home for Basque children, refugees from the Spanish Civil War, 1938 (ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/28)

Part of printed flyer.

Part of flyer for match between Basque Boys Football Team and Caerau Boys (Ref. 616/6/2)

Group of seated and standing boys in football kit.

Photograph of Basque Boys Association Football Club, Caerleon 1938-1939 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/31)

Ticket for football match.

Ticket for football match between Basque Boys (Caerleon) AFC and Pontypridd Caerleon, 1938 (ref. SC/681/1)

Child refugees dancing troupe in costume.

Photograph of members of Basque Refugee dancing troupe which toured the valleys, c.1937-1938 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/SCW/52)

Part of flyer for concert.

Part of flyer for concert by Basque child refugees (ref. SC616/6/2)

Other Sources at Swansea University

  • Find My Past - Via Ifind staff and students at Swansea University have free access to Find My Past, which includes passenger lists, census data and other relevant sources.
  • South Wales Miners' Library - The oral history recordings that are part of the South Wales Coalfield Collection include interviews with people who had emigrated to Wales from Spain including Mr and Mrs Nicholas and Casimira Duenos (Ref. SWCC/AUD/200 - audio clips are available online) and Leo Macho (Ref. SWCC/VID/38).

Sources Elsewhere

Have a look at the Archves Hub and The National Archives Discovery to find more archival resources.