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15 Oct 2016

Who Exactly are Rachel's Kids? A 1911 Mystery.

Take a look at this pair of census entries lovingly curated for you.
The couple concerned marry in 1908 in Builth, and the 1939 register for Bristol, lately released, reveals a daughter Heddus Rachel born 1919 in Bristol (deceased), who suffered a family tragedy.  We'd prefer not to contact this branch.  Looking at the census we see that two children are listed, but where are they!  They will be gone from the family home by 1939 and we do not have any family wills to help us.  Also - the various obituaries for the Roberts family members in Bristol steadfastedly omit our missing two.

Combing through all the births in Builth Wells from 1908 to 1911 we home in on apparent 'twins' Eira and Melfyn Powell born early in 1911.  Sure enough, neither one appears in the census with alternative parents, and Melfyn goes on to become a baptist minister with a connection to the Bath/Bristol area.  This sounds highly likely as Rachel's brother and nephew were both baptist ministers in Bristol.  Eira is a mystery until we find her marriage under 'Powel' which reveals her date of birth to be different from Melfyn's.  So, not a twin after all.  Coupled with the fact she stayed in Builth, she is eliminated.

So who is the missing (elder) sibling to Melfyn?  We have just two likely years to search, births in 1909 and births in 1910, and this time we home in on BRISTOL.

I count up 27 possible Powell births in Bristol. I can eliminate Maurice Vyvyan Powell (1909) as he is an illegitimate relative on a completely different branch whose son used to live ten doors away from me.  That just leaves 26.  It's time to harness a splash of intuition to speed up the process.

Although many of these Powells in Bristol are likely to be of Welsh origin, mine had so recently left, their hair likely still smelt of Welsh rain. .... My main candidate slid rather than jumped off the page, being Gwenyth Joyce (1910), who it turned out was a full 16 months older than Melfyn despite her birth being registered just a year prior to his.

My weak theory that Gwenyth was the missing Powell gained traction when, like Melfyn, there was no trace of her in 1911.  Finding her marriage in Bristol gave no extra bite as unlike the brother she was already born in Bristol, so the marriage was hardly proof.

Worriting away at Gwenyth and keeping her on the Searchlist eventually paid off.  Whilst Gwenyth's address in 1939 appears to bear no relation to her 'mother''s address at the same time (in Baptist Mills), persistence was about to be rewarded.  By the way, whoever said patience is a virtue was not a family historian - that sounds awfully too much like sitting around on your B-hind, while another's persistence and impatience is about to win through.

I had already gone deep with Gwenyth - finding her marriage, her 1939 entry, her husband's death (not easy given the name of Smith) and now I checked out her husband's probate entry.

Picture my surprise when we get a match.

In both cases, 1939 entry for Gwenyth's mother and 1963 entry for Gwenyth's husband - the same precise address is given: Seymour Road, Bishopston.  Despite the married name of Smith, I have just found family members on Facebook, and there are both Scandinavian and Baptist connections (again) to bolster up the family tree.

All thanks to a couple of squiggles in 1911 indicating Rachel Powell, formerly Roberts, had unknown children born 'somewhere in the world' within a vague timespan.

Now to send a second letter to the Roberts family researcher who lives 5 miles away as I'd like to make contact there, and can only imagine my previous letter got eaten by a hungry hound.

2 Oct 2016

Certificated: the Weapons of a Family Historian

You know when you just need to press 'play' on a project and get things moving.  Seven certificates rolled their way up the drive last week and the intention was that they would lay to rest a couple of family mysteries.

I'm pretty happy with the results.  There are one or two corners of the family tree where I have literally had to step from one certificate to another to make any progress, and the Jenkinses is one of them.  It all started with Elizabeth Morton born 1814 in Newport, Monmouthshire who came to Abercanaid as a young girl with her dad, who built boats for the canal which ran down to Cardiff and the Bristol Channel.  She quickly disappeared into the folds of the smoky town as Mrs Jenkins and we just catch a wisp of a cloak here and a deathbed scene, there.  A bit of bloody-mindedness and charm helped us find her daughter, who died in childbirth age 28 and whose descendants have reshaped parts of Melbourne's familiar skyline, Australia.  But what of the Jenkins boy?  Four certificates later and I'm not exactly sure.  What I do know is the grandson James Thomas Jenkins was a bit of a phoenix from the ashes.  Losing his parents at an early age, he was adopted by a family in the Rhondda, and he worked his way up the ladder moving to the head of the valleys at Abercrave overlooking a lot of the smoke and organising musical evenings for the village folk.

Confusingly, his mother does actually turn up later on, but essentially J. T. had broken away.  I'd never have found his only son except that a bit of helpful transcribed news gives his son's occupation as 'schoolmaster'.  This has now given me an address for a grandson in London, thanks to the fourth certificate I ordered on this line.

In Manchester, Emma Davies born October 1873 was looking likely to marry in Pennington Methodist Church to a baker, Mr Fearn, but I needed proof that Emma was my relative.  Sure enough, with the help of LancashireBMD to confirm the precise Emma and her location, I found only one lady who fitted.  Her birthday matched the one she gave as Mrs Fearn 66 years later at the eve-of-war, 1939.

Also in Manchester, we lay to rest a cousin whose journeys have required much pondering.  And down in southern England, it looks as if a lady we suspected as being 'very guilty' of some pieces of wartime shenanigans has at last been let off the hook.


I cannot justify any more certificate purchases currently, as the rest of the school of fishes are swimming along nicely and don't need any special coaxing to return to the fold.