Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wales, Wales

When I was  a wee tyke, my friends and I jumped rope  to a rhyme that included "Wales, Wales, Puppy dog  tales"  and little did I know that I'd be visiting long, lost relatives there many years later. It was a wonderful time visiting there and seeing the land of dragons.                                                                         One climb up my family tree netted some glorious insight and incredible branches. The family photo on the left helped to make much of the growth happen.  It was one of my Grieg Gar's photos. She was my Dad's mother and, if she was still alive, would have celebrated her 121st birthday this year.  So, to come away from this particular search with living relatives was really powerful for me.  
Please click on the photo for an enlarged view. Mr and Mrs Thomas Thomas and their sons Bernard (standing) and Thomas on his mother's lap.  Pay special attention to Bernard's collar. That detail always makes me smile wondering if he caused that positioning or if it was his father? 
The key mystery solving photo is on heavy stock paper and has the structure of a post card. The note was written on the back by the gentleman in the picture: "Dear Cousin May, Just a post card of my little team. Now blessed with two boys. Promise to write you soon and hope you will write to my new address. Love to your sisters. Good night and God bless you all, Love Tom"
May is my grandmother, my Grieg Gar, as we came to call her. 
He was Thomas Thomas, my Grieg Gar's cousin.  At one point, Thomas Thomas the older had ventured to Pittsburgh and stayed with James Joseph O'Brien and his family shortly after his wife, Mary Hennessy O'Brien, died.  Mary O'Brien was Thomas' aunt and her sister, Johnanna Hennessy Thomas was wondering what had happened to her. So, he was sent to find out.  During his lengthy stay, he traveled to New York and other places with my Great Aunt Margaret. His address was a home in Aberavon, Port Talbot, Wales.  
Playing detective, I wondered if the photo studio could possibly be in business on some scale. Would this family have been listed on the Wales census?  Checking out further sources, it came to me that one angle for more details would be to write a letter to the 4 possible addresses I had, which included the one on the post card back.
                                   Mary Morgan and her home. 
The same home of the Thomas Thomas Family in 1920.
So, I copied the Thomas Family photo along with several others, giving some background and a letter of introduction and mailed an envelope with it all off to each address.  Within two weeks I had an initial response from the one and only Mary Morgan.  Her letter detailed that she purchased the home once owned by the Thomas Family and was working on contacting them.  Her neighbor was a childhood friend of the baby in the photo, Thomas Thomas the younger and so she was working on this with him. 
Her letter sent my heart sailing knowing that a connection had been made.
My next connection was made through Mary Morgan's neighbor, Wyndem. He has been Thomas Thomas's (the younger) friend for over 80 years. Now, that is a record. I thought I had some long term friendships, but these two beat mine coming and going.  What darling people.  He and his wife were so warm and welcoming when I stopped by to thank them.  
Tommy was given my address and wrote to me directly after seeing my letter of introduction.  The family photo was the clincher for him since he, too, has a copy of the same post card in his possession.  I guess that sealed the deal and confirmed my pedigree.  
So, that brought me to Tommy and his wife, Dor. What dears. What darlings. What a treat it was to be in their company and that of every member of their family.  Here we are on the beach of Ogmore by the Sea just near Bridgend, Wales.  Well before traveling to Wales, Tommy, Dor and I exchanged letters, photos and some small gifts. After spending time with them, we also exchanged hearts.  (Photo of Ogmore Castle...or what is left following the Reformation Period.)

(Photo: Ruth (the Irish maid); Jasmine with Dor Thomas, obviously the holders of my indenture contract
In preparation for our visit, Tom and Dor were apologizing profusely that Wales just wasn't the hot bed of activity. They sheepishly told me they really didn't have a candle to hold next to Washington, DC and that they only had old castles and pubs to offer.  Castles and pubs, my friends, castles and pubs? Well, permit to enroll for that program!  That is right up my history, geeky, cider swilling alley. (Photo: Ruth inspecting her ancestral manse.  Oh how I wish. It is the once upon a time home of Mr. Talbot who ran the seaport of Port Talbot.)
Recently, I've learned that Tommy and Dor celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. I wish I could have been there sharing in the celebration. As it is, I am thrilled having had the enjoyment of their company. Maybe next year!?

1 comment:

  1. what a Owesome Deep Inside Feeling of Belonging you most have felt, very exciting. I am happy for you.