Thursday, 30 October 2014

Quick Reminder - Last date for Xmas Orders

Sorry I haven't posted much lately - been very busy! Still have a little space left for Christmas orders though - so make sure you order by 21st November so that you don't miss out!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Link to ἹΣΤΟΡΊΑ: The Woollen Factory

Thought I'd link to this very interesting post from Louvain.

ἹΣΤΟΡΊΑ: The Woollen Factory: An Illustration of Bridgend. "Bridgend's first effort in the industrial revolution was a heavy disaster"    ...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Welsh in America

Many Welsh immigrants headed to America for the chance of a better life and steady work - most notably to Pennsylvania, where many found work in industries familiar to them such as slate.

I cam across this BBC iWonder page about the Welsh in America - including a very interesting theory about a Welsh prince - Madog ab Owain Gwynedd - finding America in 1170, and also a comparison of Welsh words with a very similar Native American language called Mandan.

I'm afraid I don't agree with the theory over the origin of the name America - I'm pretty convinced that that honour goes to the explorer and all-around-rogue Amerigo Vespucci.

Friday, 10 October 2014

WDYTYA? 100th episode - Twiggy

So, what better way to round off this series, and air the 100th episode of Who Do You Think You Are? than with Twiggy - someone whose name caused family tree puns left, right, and centre last night!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/
Twiggy wanted to know about her mother's family - of which she knew very little, and found a story of desperation, crime, and poverty. The poor of London often ended up in such dire conditions as Twiggy discovered, and it was not unusual for a child's father to 'desert' - particularly when they couldn't make ends meet.

The criminal great-times-however-many-grandmother of Twiggy was sentenced to hard labour for passing counterfeit coin into trade - which led to an argument in my house as to how you can get change for a farthing. A farthing was a quarter of a penny; it turns out (thank you Wikipedia) that there was such a thing as a half farthing in circulation from the 1840s until about 1870 - always good to learn a new random fact!

The episode was a bit more interesting than I've made it sound here - particularly the death by bargain hunting. Shopping can be dangerous, it is, after all, a contact sport.

So, the end of the series. Have to fill up my Thursday nights now, and start looking forward to the inevitable next series - hopefully another 10 years and 100 episodes to go.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A conflicting view

I came across this poem entitled Genealogy  by Hannah Lowe; I say this poem - it's actually, rather cleverly, three poems in one. It does show though that sometimes family history can be quite painful. Our families were human, after all, and prone to do the things that humans do - the good and the bad. I think it's important to remember both, because though it can be painful (particularly in terms of recent family) it still made us who we are today.

On the other hand - trust me when I say genealogy is not all doom and gloom! There will always be people within your family who were good and honest, and made successes of their lives - though the interesting stuff isn't necessarily the most positive!

Friday, 3 October 2014

WDYTYA? - Billy Connolly

So, the penultimate episode of this series of Who Do You Think You Are? starred the wonderful Billy Connolly, who's delightful outlook and turn of phrase made every part of this enjoyable. Another fantastic episode, this time we took a trip to India (with Billy sporting come typically and wonderfully eccentric footwear and trousers,) to find out about Billy's ancestral colonial soldiers - with a fair side of alcoholism and syphilis in the mix (which Billy was quite impressed with!)

It wasn't all fun and games though, the tragic events and brutality of war at Cawnpore and other places showed the cruelty on both sides of the Indian Mutiny. John O'Brien, Billy's ancestor, would've seen some very unpleasant things in his military life, as the soldiers witnessed the dreadful atrocities - as Billy said, this is not the history that's taught in schools, and perhaps, to an extent, it should be.

My favourite moment was when the penny finally dropped and Billy realised that 13-year-old bride Matilda Allen was in fact an Indian girl, not a European. So, the famous Scot has some Indian, as well as Irish and Scottish, blood.

I have to say, the experts the series found to talk to Billy about his ancestors were also fairly entertaining - and quite the characters, though, of course, not as funny as the man himself.

Friday, 26 September 2014

WDYTYA? - Reggie Yates

Last night's episode of Who Do You Think You Are? showed us the interesting story of the diverse family of Reggie Yates. Reggie's father was born in Ghana, the former British colony of the Gold Coast, to a mixed race father.

The theme of mixed race family runs through Reggie's episode. His great-grandfather was the white British goldmine employee George W Yates, who maintained his family in England while travelling back and forth to his mixed-race family - his son and his wife by Ghanaian customary marriage, Dorothy. This marriage was as legally binding as existed between a Ghanaian and an Englishman at this time - though this was argued about by the British government when Reggie's father tried to obtain the right to stay in this country in the 1980s.

Dorothy was herself the result of the mixed race relationship between a Mr Lloyd who worked for a mining company, and Dorothy's black Ghanaian mother Sarah. Dorothy and Sarah seem to have been very close, and also very, very, strong - both having to raise their mixed race child without consistent support from the child's father.

The other thing I found interesting was the way in which Reggie's family in this country were very much thought of black African, but in Ghana were thought of as white European. I guess this was the fate of many mixed race families - always slightly different to their friends and neighbours; though the family were very clearly loved in their communities.

The tradition of oral history in Ghana was also very interesting - albeit leaving Reggie in a very fish-out-of-water position when it came to addressing the elders. He made a fair few blunders in terms of etiquette, and you wonder if maybe the production team could've drummed the rules in a bit more, but it was all taken in good grace.

So then, a very interesting episode about a country and a part of history I knew very little about.