Hillary's Roots are in Swansea

Hillary Clinton

Archives uncover history of Rodham family

It's been discovered that former American First Lady Hillary Clinton has links with Swansea.

Swansea Council researchers working for the West Glamorgan Archives have found that her great-great grandfather, Edwin Howell, worked for a decade in the metal industries of South Wales in the 1870s - five years of which were spent in the Landore area of Swansea.

One son of Edwin's large family of nine children, Benjamin Alfred Howell - Hillary's great-great uncle - was born in Landore in 1872 in an area called Maesydd, according to his birth certificate, which archivists estimate to be the area around Mysydd Road in contemporary Swansea.

The research into Hillary's roots in Wales was first sparked back in 1999 when her mother, Dorothy Rodham, whose maiden name was Howell, talked about her Welsh ancestry to a British guest at a White House reception.

Kim Collis, West Glamorgan County Archivist at Swansea Council, said: "In early 2000, we sent Dorothy Rodham all the information we could find here about her family tree, which she responded to with a lovely letter on White House headed notepaper, thanking us and telling us she had passed the information on to Hillary.  Dorothy died in 2011 but her letter from the White House is still a treasured part of the archives.

"Hillary Rodham Clinton has always been proud of her Welsh ancestry on her mother's side. She has several lines of Welsh ancestors in her family tree from both her grandparents, with her ethnic breakdown having been calculated by genealogists as 31.2% Welsh in origin.

"It was no doubt the prospect of employment and a better life which brought Edwin Howell to Swansea, as indeed would have been the motivation for his son, Edwin John, to emigrate to the USA some years later. As it industrialised between 1851 and 1881, Swansea's population grew from 17,000 to over 65,000. In the 1881 census for Swansea, almost a quarter of the town's population are recorded as having been born outside Wales."

Hillary's great-grandfather, Edwin John, emigrated as a young adult to Illinois before moving to California in the 1920s, where he died in 1941. His son, Edwin John Howell junior, Hillary's grandfather, was born in Illinois in 1897, but died soon after his father in 1946.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Development and Regeneration, said: "This research makes for fascinating reading, linking Swansea to one of the world's most recognisable stateswomen who's been making headlines across the planet for many years. 

"But's this isn't Swansea's only link with famous American politicians. Former President Jimmy Carter opened our city's Dylan Thomas Centre in 1995, and Hillary's husband, Bill, has also spoken of his affection for Dylan's rich body of work."

The West Glamorgan Archive Service is a joint service for the councils of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.  Its main service point is at Swansea Civic Centre, which also includes a dedicated Family History Centre open to everyone to use free of charge.

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