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18 Jun 2016

Great-aunt Mary in Wales: the gift that keeps on giving


Shaking the family grapevine in 1991 caused a whole load of rich fruit to come tumbling down.  I had to run to avoid getting splattered on the head.

One particular branch must not have been ripe, as no amount of shaking the tree was getting me the reward.

It was my Grandpa's Great Aunt Mary.  Such a straight-forward relationship, but born in 1839, she has great-grandchildren who are already great-great-grandparents.  It's my job to keep up with *all* of them, even though they are running three generations deeper than our side.  I needed family history dynamite to get me through the barriers.

Her grandson Tom Jones went to Canada and it took plenty of work for me to find that family. A granddaughter married three counties away from Swansea at the age of 40, and left me several surprises to investigate as well. I knew that another granddaughter lived in North Wales, but it wasn't until 2011 that I met up with this family, even seeing some photos.

One of the branches married a Davies and then an Evans. Only today did I get word I had passed through those choppy waters successfully.  Of the many gurus I met along the way, one was sure she'd had cousins Dolly and Molly, but I can't find trace of them anywhere!

At this point we have had two big reunions on this side of the family - and that's barely scratched the surface!  For sure, Grandpa's Great Aunt Mary and her tricky-to-find brood are truly the gift that keeps on giving!

If you wannabe my cousin

...you've got to know my Grandad.

The baby of the family, with cousins many years older, my Grandpa's infancy was enfolded with lots of skirts.  My Grandpa positioned himself as knowing very little about his family.  He even demonstrated this by writing two and a half sides of A4 of social history, with a couple of snippets about basic relatives, claiming that was all the knowledge he had.  This account mentions grandparents, one aunt, one uncle and his own parents.  Full stop.

However, in conversation there was his dad's cousins, May and Tom.  Then there was aunty Taylor, and there might have been a Rodda, and what about Tom Davies, and Tom Taylor, and Tom's daughter or niece who had the farm at Gorseinon.  All from growing up in 1920s Morriston, south Wales.

That wasn't even the half of it.  Photos clearly showed there was a Great Aunt Maggie, with flashing black eyes, who was grandma of two little girls.  There was Cyril the Methodist minister, a Lily who sent blankets during the war, and 20 years later a recollection about the youngest Taylor boy alongside a vignette from the time of the mid-Victorian goldrush.

Grandpa may have been too young to have everyone on a card index, but for an analytical man he was in fact the perfect vector of that wonderful virus - oral history.  His second cousin Cyril was in touch, it emerged, with their third cousin Ben, who I was able to phone way back in 1994.  Which was two years before Wannabe: that's practically pre-historic.

Davies? Evans? no problem, I'll get an address for you...

I knew my relative Bronwen Davies had married Mr Evans in the 1930s.  Today I managed to get a letter back with full details of their family, but where did I begin?  Cousins weren't telling me much - one of the children ran a hotel, and apparently Bronwen was a great-granny.  Not overly informative I think we can agree.  So I pulled up the list of all Evans children born in the late 1930s with the right mother's maiden name.  A fair few appear in this list, below.

However, I was able to home in on one (arrowed).  This girl had Bronwen's middle name.   It was the only one to jump out, and definitely worth pursuing.  I could match this young Miss Evans up to only one possible marriage in the right part of Glamorgan and soon I was penning her a letter.

Back came a letter this afternoon filling in the gaps.  Well, some of them.  There is still plenty that is unclear about this Pontarddulais branch, who are edging perilously close to the Landsker line.  These are just ONE of several branches from my Grandpa's Great-Aunt Mary Taylor: the gift that just keeps on giving.