Postcards and Family

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Survivor of the 1950s this card has been around the world a couple of times or maybe more. It’s a picture of The Square, Caerau in South Wales taken somewhere in the 50s.

Now, South Wales to me growing up was always “where nan came from”. I didn’t know her, she died a year before I was born. But i’d heard snippets of stories from those who had dared to cross the border into England. Questions were usually answered with vague “…a long line of miners, from villages that now resemble ghost towns, and a big family…”  My nan was the eldest of six children but crossed the border shortly after the war and began a decade or so of following my grandpa and the British Army across Europe.

On my last trip to the northern hemisphere I took a few days to visit the town that house my family. Not sure if it was due to the rain, but all I remember is empty streets and middle-aged men leaning over dusty pub bars. A melancholy story of villages that died when the mines closed and the people left. Saying that, there was an amazing Indian restaurant just outside Caerau that did the best korma I’d ever had in Wales.

I’d like to say the picture in the photograph had changed almost sixty years later but alas it hadn’t. The only difference is the subtle weathering of time.

On this same trip back to yesteryear I acquired a photo album that had been put together by my grandpa shortly after my nan died. The pictures telling a story of the young welsh girl that married a chelsea boy and travelled together with their little soldiers in tow.

The above postcard is the only postcard in the album, and I always assumed it was grandpa showing where nan was born. I turned the page many times before today, when I decided to peel over the plastic and have a peek at what could be on the other side.

It was a treasure, a written time capsule, and further clues to wet the appetite of this amateur-family-historian…

There are three awesome things about this postcard:

1. It was written by my great nan Edith to my nan Iris.

2. It places my grandpa, nan, dad and uncles in Hemlyn, Germany in 1956.

3. The handsome man crossing the street is identified as my grand uncle Arthur Edwards.

In one postcard, 50 words or so, and blue ink scribble I got an insight into another world. I had questions. Lots of questions.

Filled with the inner joy of seeing something written by my great grandmother who had always been a name and a face in a photo album, Edith came to life as a concerned and caring mother scribbling a note to her eldest daughter.

The picture of my grandpa’s military career came to life as I read about the reasons for British occupation in Germany during the 50s, and the accomplishments made by his regiment. I got a glimpse into what dads life would have been like as a six year old english boy living in Germany, and my beautiful nan raising three small boys while her husband was stationed at the barracks. It made a great Sunday conversation with the old man.

I also put an image to my nan’s uncle Arthur whom i’d only known as a councillor and possibly a communist, from soundbite stories overheard.

Postcards capture moments of a particular time and place. It is incredible when we can dig into the story behind the pictures and words… I wonder who the other people are? I wonder what there story is?… Knowing Careau possibly another distant relative?

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Who do you think you are?

I put on my genealogist hat this afternoon and went for an adventure to the land adjacent to Albion; home of the red dragon; Torchwood headquarters… known to the rest of the world as the country of Wales.

I know I’ve got Welsh blood because my beautiful nan was born and raised there and she rests peacefully with her parents on a hill above Maesteg. Growing up I knew my great-grandfather was a coal miner and almost every Welsh cousin since has taken on the job so I figured hey I must come from a long line of coal miners… cool. Until, dad mentioned that his grandfather actually came from Ffestinog – a slate mining town near Snowdonia in the north. So I took a deep breath, and began the search…

And after an afternoon tapping away at ancestry.co.uk from my desk in Melbourne, Australia I traced our line back a couple generations:

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Between 1881 – 1901 they seem to be around Glynillfon Street, Bleanu Ffestiniog which is interesting since the street itself dates from the 1870s – I wonder if they were the first residents there? Robert Snr (1843 – ?) and Robert Jnr (1863 – 1932) are both listed as Slate Quarryman so it is only natural to assume they must have worked in the nearby quarries.

Here are the names of a few…

– Lord Quarry

– Fotty Quarry

– Maenoffren Quarry

– Welsh State Company Quarry

– Hollands Quarry

– Llechwedd Quarry

The street names and the quarry themselves seem to be namesakes for the farms that once worked the land. History & progress hand in hand. It’s quite an interesting afternoon of reading and researching.

When I sit down to this family history stuff I usually have a question in mind – today’s journey seemed to spark more questions than answer them. The biggest of them all is Why did the family suddenly move from North to South Wales? I was trying to figure out which quarry they had worked in to see if it would provide explanations of why they moved and then I realised the sheer quantity of quarries in North Wales. However I did manage to narrow it down to somewhere between 1904 and 1911.

I’d love to think there are some other reasons apart from the nomadic traits that seem to have spilled its way through the generations. It is safe to say I do come from a family of nomads. Some times we roam that little isle north of Europe and sometimes we fly to the far reaches of the planet.  They say the sun never sets on an English man. Well, the sun certainly never sets on an Alford-Edwards person.

If you have been kind enough to read my ramblings and know anything of researching Welsh family history or can even enlighten me on the lives of quarryman particulary in North Wales I shall be all ears, as my journey into the past has only begun…

 

 

Introducing Jasper…

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If I had a super power it would be the ability to read dog’s minds. I would love to know what exactly Jasper was thinking when I took this photo.

Tucked into the corner of the black leather couch I had my iPhone aimed in his direction as he perched his long dangly King Charles Spaniel Cavalier legs over my mums resting arm as she attempted to have a nap. Above the sofa was my our little white terrier running along as if he were the night watchman on security rounds. Jasper looked up at him as if to say “…Nothing to report here sir”.

Jasper is the youngest of my canine siblings and isn’t as diligent to our security needs as his brother Ollie. Jasper is more inclined to stealthiness and has been labelled the family tea leaf. His favourite spot is the garden where he has many half-buried treasures. His second favourite spot is the corner of the aforementioned couch where he snores like a steam train roaring across old school England.