A Genealogical Study of the Family in Wales and America
by Dr. Carl M. Voyles
A genealogical study commences, as in my case, when an individual becomes curious about his or her ancestors, then scratches around for facts, eventually accumulating an untidy pile of scraps and bits of paper and notebooks. At the moment I am sitting with such a pile and shall try to organize it as best I can.
The Voyles name is not now and has never been particularly common, an advantage, there being less culling of unrelated people in a study such as this There are a number of Voyle and a few Voyles in Great Britain, mostly in Wales, and there mostly in Counties Pembroke, Cardigan and Carmarthen in the southwest of Wales. There is little doubt that the various spellings are of the same origin. "Voyles" is the genitive form of "Voyle" just as Boyles is the genitive form of Boyle, and Jones of John, etc. I have noted variations of spelling repeatedly, often in the same individual, particularly from records of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when census and other record-takers as often as not spelled phonetically, i. e. Will Voyles, Voiles, Voils, Voyl (first U.S. Census 1790, North Carolina; pay vouchers of Revolutionary War; and deeds to land in western North Carolina); William=20Voyle, Voile of County Herford, 1609 (Oxford University Directory); GerogeVoyell, Voyle,Voel of County Pembroke, 1560 (Oxford University Directory and other references from County Pembroke).
To start as near the beginning as possible, there is a pedigree for the Voyles family in the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth which establishes that the contemporary Voyles (and related spellings) have derived from Voel (or the Welsh Foel, which was pronounced just as Voyle). In the "Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames" (New York City Public Library) are ference is made to "George Voyell, 1586, County Pembroke; IBID page 153 ;and WilliamVoyle, 1609, County Herford; IBID page 308." The derivation of the name is given as follows:"Baptismal 'the son of Voel'; an ancient Welsh personal name. Voel has become Voyell, it is probably that Voyell comes from Voel." Another reference: "William Voile,(genitive would beVoiles) County Herford, IBID page 303, 1609. The personal name Voel may have referred to baldness, or to a rounded or bare mountain top." In this regard, we note that there are several mountains in Wales with "foel" prefixes, i.e. Foeleryr, Foel-Cwncerwyn, and Foel-dryeh, all in County Pembroke, and several others in the mountains elsewhere in Wales. In West Britain "f's"and "V's" were pronounced alike as "V".
Some Voyles in the United States have heard that the family originated in France, and that Huguenot Voyles or Voiles left France "to escape the sword of Louis XIV",went to Wales for a short period of time, then came to America in the mid 1700's. The authenticated presence of the name in Wales long before the Huguenots and the lack of any French influence in the earlyAmerican Voyles (by given names, marriage, or custom - all typically British) cause me to discard the French (by way of Wales) origin.
One of the first Voels of record was “Ievan ab Lewelyn Vychan," called "Sir Sion Llewelyn Voel", Vicar of Abernant cum (?)nwyl, (who married the) second daughter of David abGriffith, Esq. Of (?)trad Cowwg." This information is found in manuscript No. 12356E, pages 22-23, (National Library of Wales.) Sion Llewelyn Voel by my calculation was born about 1300.=20His father was Eineon Vychan, “Lord of Towyn, a sea-bordered tract of land from the mouth ofthe Teivi northwards." This Eineon Vychan married Joan, a daughter of Steven Langley, Lord of Coedmore. Eineon's father was Gwilyn (Welsh for William) ab Eineon, Lord of Tewyn, who"built a mansion there," (Towyn), and was "said to be constable of Cardigan Castle." He "slewthe Irish at Pitcherd for firing the house of his foster father." We would estimate Gwilyn's time of birth at 1250. His father was Eineon Vawr of Coed, (married Ellen) and was"elected Chief ofthe Hundred of Cemais for slaying 26 of the (?tax) collectors in that district." From the comments found in the Voyle pedigree it would appear that in the 13thcentury we were getting back into the rather bloody years of Welsh history.
Eineon Vawr's father was Bwilyn ab Gwrwared of Cemais, Pembroke, "Constable= of Cemmais." Mentioned in Register of Book of Cemmaes, vis, Sir Elider of Stackpool, Knt. SirElider's father was Gwrwared ab Gwilym of Cemmael and he married a lady named Gwenllian. His father was Gwilyn ab Gwrward of Cemmaes who also married a Gwenllian. His father in turn was Gwrwared (descended from Cyhalyn) and he had married the sister of Ednfe(?) Vycham. Gwrwared's father was Cyhelyn Vardd, who was mentioned as "a Peor of SouthWales. "Cyhalyn's father was Gwynvardd Dyved, "said to be descended from Meurig, King of Dyved (Pembroke.)" His coat of arms is given as follows: "Az: a lion in an Orleof Roses, or." This is as far back as the pedigree goes and although it is interesting to find a king mentioned in one's ancestry, it should be noted that the link is not definite.
It is likely that the early Welsh "kings" were actually tribal chieftains similar to early Irish kings. I would like to know more about this Meurig but doubt that much inthe way of historical records from that era are available.
To come a few centuries forward, another Voel, and apparently the one from whom all present Voyle (s) are descended, was David Voel of Cemmaes, (Pembroke) born approximately the year 1300, a second cousin of Sir Sion Llewelyn Voel. His father was David ab Owen, whose father was Owen Vawr, mentioned as "the one who slew the Wild Wolf near Ameny Blaidd, i.e.Wolf's Stone." Owen Vawr's father was the same Eineon Vawr of Coed, who was the "Chief of the Hundred" mentioned previously. Owen Vawr was also the father of Gwilyn,the first Lord of Towyn.
The "second son," David Voel of Cemmaes, referred to elsewhere as Voile, married an Ellen in St. Dogmaels (?1336). St. Dogmael's was an ancient Abbey in Cardiganshire, the ruins of which are (1961) on the south bank of the Teivi River opposite the town of Cardigan. This David Voel was possibly the same David Voel who graduated from Oxford University in the early fourteenth century (David Voil, CHIRK, Denbighshire, 1331.) It is noted in the pedigree that "Arms were given." The decedents of David Voel of particular interest to present day Voyle(s) are those descended from the second son, William. William Voel of Filbeach, married a Margaret Barrett. Their son was John Voel of Filbeach who married a Joan Jordan .Joan Voel had two sons, Owen Voel of Haverfordwest and Thomas Voel, gentleman, of Filbeach. "Thomas Voelmarried an Elizabeth and they had sons, John, William, Richard, Thomas and George, in addition to five daughters. John married a Miss (?)awkiam and they had sons, Rowland and Thomas, and four daughters. This Rowland married a Miss Barlow and they had sons William and Rowland and four daughters, which seems to have been a regular pattern for the Voels of Filbeach.
Now, going back a bit to Owen Voel of Haverford west, the other son of John Voel of Filbeach, we note that he had sons, John, David, Harry, and Thomas. JohnVoel, Esq., marriedthe daughter of James Bowen, Knt. Their son was Morgan Voel, Esq., who was Justice of the Peace for Haverfordwest and was quite active as a landowner. His son was John Voel, Esq., of Haverford who married the daughter of Sir John Wogan, Knt. In 1591. They had two sons, Francis and Thomas. Francis Voel, Esq. Was born in 1613 and married an Elizabeth.
The Voel spelling became Anglicized to Voyle in the late 1600's and early 1700's. The genitive of Voyle is Voyles, used in the 1700's and 1800's in America. There are various references in the church and tax records of Voyl and Voyle Families in Pembroke and Cardigan in the late 1600's and early 1700's. Major Francis Jones of Carmarthen, a member of the Royal Society of Genealogists, and a specialist in Welsh genealogy, has considerable data bridging the transition between the Voel and Voyle spellings of the name
During a trip in Wales in the summer of 1961, we scouted about in Wales for places where earlier Voyles had lived and places which might be of historical interest to the family. We found in Wales parts of five buildings or groups of buildings which are of particular interest to the Voyles family. The location of these sites demonstrates a gradual shifting of the family from its origin (as Voel) near Cardigan in the early 13th century in the north of Pembrokeshire, then to west and mid-Pembrokeshire, and finally, as we find reference to the family in the 18th and 19th century along a semicircle of the south coast of Pembroke from Cardigan, from Kidwelly to St. Ann's Head. This fanning out of the family into the north and west, and then along the south coast of Pembroke was apparently the result of the law primogeniture, i.e., that the first son inherited the family land and homestead. The second and third sons, etc., of necessity moved, and as a consequence established homes of their own elsewhere.
The earliest and perhaps the most impressive of these homesteads was Towyn, the ruins of which are now (1961) partly occupied by an industrious and hospitable Welsh farmer, D. S. Nicholas. The remains stand on an "imposing hill overlooking the Irish Sea and estuary of the Teifi River just to the north and west of the town of Cardigan. This was the building originally constructed in the 13th century by Gwilym (William) ab Eineon, whose father was Eineon Vawr of Coed, whom the registry describes as follows: "(he) married Tudo or Ellen(vz): Cadwgan Ddu, whose father was Lord of Blaenan Aberporth, son of Madog Frych of Iswern." It is further stated, in an interesting aside, that Eineon Vawr was elected Chief of the Hundred* of Cemais for slaying twenty-six of the collectors (presumably tax collectors) in that district."This bloody gentleman's first son, Gwilym, the builder of Towyn, is described as: "Gwilym ab Eineon, Lord of Towyn, where he built a mansion said to be Constable of Cardigan Castle. He slew the Irish at Pitcherd, for firing the house of his foster father." This then began a long line of Lords of Tyron. The second son of the second Lord of Towyn, Eineon Vychan, is described in the pedigree: "Gwyrvil ab Eineon ab Llewelyn Vychan, called Sir Sion Llewelyn Voel, Vicar of Abernant cum Conwyl." (He married) "the second daughter of David ab Griffith, Esquire, of Ystrad Corwg." Eineon Vawr was probably born about the year 1200, the first Lord of Towyn about 1225, and Sir Sion Llewelyn Voel, one of the first Voels of mention, about the year 1300. Under the description of Eineon Vychan, the second Lord of Towyn, mentioned as "a sea- bordered tract of land from the mouth of the Teivi (River), northwards."
Old Mr. Nicholas told me a good bit of what he knew about Towyn as we crouched behind the crest of a hill to shield ourselves from the wind, in front of a portion of the original manor in which he and Mrs. Nicholas now live. Old foundations, walls and outbuildings were scattered about over the hill . According to Mr. Nicholas, the estate had in years within his memory functioned primarily for wheat farming under the direction of Lord Rhys, a descendant of the earlier Lords of Towyn. These fields were later divided among individual smaller farmers for reasons of economy.
Mr. Nicholas spoke of the "thirteen chimneys of the old Towyn mansion," and of the local saying that "the doors of Towyn were never finished, "apparently referring to the many additions and the number of visitors coming and going.
A second building of interest to the Voyles family is Trowern, still in existence and well- maintained by the Warren family. Warren was the first son of the David Voel of Cemaes (c. 1300) who built Trewern in the mid 14th century. The son of Warren ab David (Voel) used his father's given name asa family name, and this has remained in use to the present. It was at about this time in Welsh history that the Welsh custom of using the father's first name as the son's second name (i.e., Warren ab David) was being replaced by the English custom of maintaining the same family name through succeeding generations.
At the risk of exposing the reader to repetition, we note that the previously mentioned Eineon Vawr of Coed, born c. 1225, whose first son was the first Lord of Towyn, had a second son, Owen Vawr who "slew the wild wolf near Maen y Blaidd, i.e., (known as) Wolf's Stone." This same Owen Vawr"married Gwenillan, daughter of Sir William Cantinton, knt." Being a second son, we presume Owen moved from Towyn. His son David (ab Owen) married Ellen, the daughter of Llewellyn Vychan, and their first son was David Voel (ab David) of Cemaes. This David Voel, (pronounced as Voyle), born c. 1300, established the family name, and, Major Francis Jones tells me, was the common ancestor to all present Voyles (various spellings). David Voel married Ellen, daughter of john Pratt in St. Dogmael's church in 1330. We visited the ruins of the ancient monastery and church on the south bank of the Teifi River, near Cardigan, and I have a photograph of the chapel in which David and Ellen Pratt were very probably married.
Trewern Manor was built by David near Nevern and Newport, about a dozen miles southwest of Cardigan, in the north of Pembrokeshire. Major Jones believes that the Trewern estate encompassed approximately 15,000 acres during the 14th and 15th centuries, a sizeable tract of land for such a small country as Wales. On the afternoon we visited Trewern, the Warrens were (unfortunately) away, but we found the original house in excellent repair from outward appearances, with an impressive heavy oak door in the front with the appearance of having survived many years, perhaps centuries. There were several stone outbuildings of ancient appearance, and beautiful green hills sloped off toward the nearby sea. This was then, the first strictly Voyles home, and it is thought that all present Voyles can look to David Voel as a common ancestor and Trewern as an ancestral home.
As noted above, David Voel's first son, Warren, by rights of primogeniture, retained Trewern, and the estate has been handed down to the present through the Warren family. David Voel's second son was William, who did use Voel as his family name, as have all of his male descendants. Being a second son, as second sons were wont to do, he moved to Philbeach on the Dale peninsula, and built a home there at the mouth of Milford Haven in the far southwest corner of Pembroke, itself the most southwest portion of Wales. Here the family name Voel was permanently established, and with phonetic changes in spelling (Voyell, Voyle, and the genitive Voyles) has been handed down to the present.
This William Voel of Philbeach (born c. 1340) married Margaret, the daughter of Thomas Barrett, and their first son was John, who married Joan,a daughter of William Jordan. Their first son was Thomas Voel, who married Ellen, the daughter of David Barrett. John and Joan's second son was OwenVoel. The Voels of Philbeach continued on down thru Thomas, son of Thomas, who had sons John, William, Richard, Thomas, and George. This William Voel became a physician and in the Directory of Oxford University is described as follows: "William Voel or Voyall, Born 1559 - Pembroke. Oxford, B.A., February 1581 - 2. Master of Arts, Jesus College, 1585. Licensed to practice medicine as "Voel" July 1588. Rector of Gunton, Norfolk, 1581."His brother, George, is listed in the Oxford Directory as follows: "George Voyell, Pembroke, born 1570 - B.A. Oxford, 1589-90, Jesus College; M.A., All Souls." The above mentioned Thomas had a son John Voel who had sons Roland and Thomas. Roland as the first born, retained Philbeach and had sons William and Roland, William being born about 1620.
A third home of the Voyles was established, as were the others, by a second son, i.e., Owen Voel, mentioned above as the second son of John Voel of Philbeach (husband of Joan Jordan). Owen Voel was born about 1400 and moved to Haverford west, the apparently the business and shipping center of the Pembroke area.
We visited the Voel house in Haverford west which remains in part today incorporated in the H. R. Smith Book Store on High Street. In a backroom of the book store there is a wall in which an old fireplace and mantle is preserved, there being four family coats of arms engraved in the mantle. I was told by Major Jones that these coats of arms pertain to the Voyles family of the Haverfordwest branch (15th and 16th centuries.) Owen Voel of Haverford west had sons John, David, Harry and Thomas. John Voel, Esquire, married the daughter of James Bowin. Their first offspring was Morgan Voel, Esquire, Justice of the Peace for Haverford west about the year 1530. Their first son was John Voel, Esquire of Haverford, who married the daughter of a Wogan in 1591. Their first son was Francis Voel, Esquire, who married an Elizabeth in 1613. Their second son was Thomas Voel, who married Ann in1600 and their sons were William and Thomas.
The following pages are taken from "A History of Haverfordwest," edited by Dillwym Miles (Gomer Press, Llandysul, Ceredigion, 1988).:
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