Place-names are an invaluable tool for understanding the evolution
of languages as well as giving important pointers about the impact of man on the landscape. Wales' place-names are formed from a mixture of languages - Welsh (including archaic British), English,
Latin, Scandinavian and Norman-French. In 1998, the Carmarthenshire Antiquarian Society established a survey to record and study the place-names of Carmarthenshire. This was
not the first time the Society had been instrumental in such a venture, because it had published a paper on the subject as early as 1912.
The initial aim of the survey was to collect place-names forms
from early maps (original OS Surveyors' drawings about 1812; 1" OS map of 1830; the Tithe maps of each parish; and the 6" OS first edition). This was a mammoth task undertaken by a group of
volunteers co-ordinated by Peter Wihl. At the early planning stage, it was agreed that the information should be computerised and a database was set up for entering and interrogating the
development work for this was undertaken by Terry James who set up a four-table relational framework using FoxPro. Subsequently he collaborated with Simon Taylor who was
working on the place-names of Fife in Scotland. They first met at a symposium on the computerisation of place-names at Belfast. Since then, with the formation of the Scottish Place-name Society,
the two have been working on a more comprehensive data structure for the collection and study of place-names. The FoxPro application, called Enwau, (pronounced en-why) has two main
modules: one based on the original 4-table structure in use in Carmarthenshire, and the 'international' module. This has more tables and is aimed at the analysis of forms with the use of
phonetics and information on medieval charters, general and specific bibliographical sources (press here to see a screen dump of the input edit module, 26k).
The Carmarthenshire Survey completed the initial task of collection from the main map trawl in 1997. Since then, Peter
Wihl has been concentrating on collecting form manuscript sources including estate maps in the Carmarthen Record Office. Work has also started on collecting forms from medieval sources.
These are mainly from printed transcripts and calendars. In total over 40,000
records have been entered. The information includes (where possible) an accurate map reference and altitude of the 'site', a list of the historic forms with sources
and dates and the parish name. The database is already capable of undertaking searches according to any chosen place-name element, or provide distributions of all the names from particular sources. It was
recently used to provide information for the former existence of mammals which no longer or only rarely exist in the county.
Links to other sites/email addresses
Peter Wihl, Co-ordinator, Carmarthenshire Place-name Survey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Simon Taylor, St. Andrew's Scottish Studies Institute, St Andrew's University ( email@example.com ), Tel. 01334 462942 (day) 01337 860473 (home)
Scottish Place-Name Society
Terry James (xxx @tiscali.co.uk) replace xxx with terry.james