Ancestral Wales

Our Stories, Our History


Time flies

It’s been a dreadful amount of time since I posted to the blog.  I have been working slowly but surely on the website, however going back to full-time employment has eaten into my time at the keyboard.

I had a couple of delightful suprises these past few weeks.  I discovered a reference to Lewis Davies, my 3 x great grandfather in the index to press cuttings on the Ceredigion County Council website.  I also found reference to a newspaper article about my Clayton family in another article.  I sent an email asking how to go about obtaining the two articles, and the Aberystwyth Library kindly scanned and sent them to me.  My thanks indeed for doing that.  It is just so very very cool, to find something like this in a newspaper and I will be taking the time to follow up on the clues in the first article, which describes Lewis’ lengthy military career, under both the Duke of York and the Duke of Wellington.  One thing led to another and I found an article about the home he built in Aberystwyth.  Again I’m so grateful for the opportunity to view these articles online.  I would never know these details and be able to add to the story of my family in this way.

The article in Ceredigion:  Journal of the Cardiganshire Antiquarian Society was written by Caroline Palmer.  It is absolutely filled to the brim with information on the house from wallpaper, to descriptions of the fireplaces purchased, and although Lewis died shortly after it was finished, his eldest son’s family lived there a long time.  They worked extensively on the house and the details in the article were such that I could almost picture it all in my mind.  There is a brief mention of my 2x great grandfather who was Lewis’ youngest son, and also plenty of dates to provide clues for further research.  As a brief aside, I’m certainly very glad that I wasn’t one of the poor tradespeople working on redesigning the home under Lewis’ grandson and his wife.  It does sound like they were quite difficult to deal with in terms of paying for any work done on the home!!

As I opened the pdf of the second article about the Clayton family, I was thrilled to see photographs attached to it.  It was an article about a relative who has written a book on the Clayton and Thomas families of Aberystwyth.  I had been in touch with her a little while ago and she had very kindly sent me a copy of the book.

The wonderful part about genealogy is that everytime I think I’ve reached a dead end, finds like these spur me on again.  It’s like a good cup of tea when you’re thirsty!!

Here are the two links I talked about today.  Even if you don’t have relatives in the articles, they are interesting to read, because they give a flavour of life as it was…

Ceredigion County Council Local History Resources: Press Cuttings Collection

Welsh Journals Online

A Child’s Christmas in Wales (remembered)


With Christmas just around the corner, my thoughts have been returning to my own childhood Christmas.  Remembrances of waking to the rustle of a stocking at the foot of my bed full of wonderful things to play with – flashlights, pens with red and green and blue ink, jacks, marbles and magical kaleidoscopes. Memories of the smell of mandarin oranges and chocolate mix together with those of reading a brand new Christmas annual by flashlight under the bedcovers.

Although my Mum is always so good about my need to listen to stories of her childhood, I realised that Christmas was one area that we hadn’t really talked about.  I wondered how many of our family traditions were carried over from her childhood and so we had a lovely talk about it last week.

We talked of typical Welsh winters with rain and snow, once in a while deep enough to halt travel.  Mum remembered her Dad and some other village men walking to Llandre one year, to pick up food that was sent by train from Aberystwyth because the roads were blocked.

We talked of Christmas Eve with an early bedtime so that my grandparents could put up the tree and decorate it.  The living room was strung with paper chains and paper lanterns.  Stockings were filled with nuts, oranges, apples, coins, yoyos and new skipping ropes and new Girl’s annuals, Beano or Dandy were wrapped and set next to the stockings.  When I asked Mum what her favourite Christmas memory was, she told me it was ‘always’ coming downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing the tree.  Christmas gifts for Mum were always books (she never liked dolls).  I laughed at Mum’s memory of going to the shop to buy her Mum either Ponds  vanishing cream, or the biggest and shiniest ring or broach she could find and cigarettes for her Dad, because my own memory of Christmas shopping was buying Mum the largest most colourful bottle of perfume I could find and cigarettes or tobacco for my Dad.  After all our parents deserved the biggest and the best!

Perhaps my love of food stems from my Grandparent’s home.  The smell of food cooking in their home still permeates my brain.  It was many years before I realised that all this wonderful food was made without a real kitchen, as my Grandparents only had a cast iron oven/hearth, similar to those shown on the Bricks and Brass website and once in a while the primus stove was called in to action. There was no running water in the house either, so water was collected from the village water pump close by.  However, delicious rice and tapioca puddings came from that oven on a Sunday and Welsh cakes were baked on the griddle.  Christmas dinner was a similar meal to Sunday dinner, with a goose, duck or chicken from Mamgu’s cousin’s farm and Christmas cake and mince pies. After dinner, parents napped in front of the fire, while children grabbed pieces of cardboard to go sledding if there was snow.

Welsh Christmas traditions such as Plygain, Mari Lwyd are well covered on websites such as BBC Wales and Historic UK, but if those were held in the village, they were not attended by my family.  However New Year was a really important time.  My Grandparent’s home always had a welcoming open door, but at New Year everyone’s homes were open for friends and family to visit.  The children headed out well before noon to participate in Calennig by singing carols at homes in the village and they were given a coin or apple in exchange for singing.  Mum told me she was always excited to put this money towards new shoes from Emlyn’s Shoe shop.

I loved this Christmas conversation with my Mum, but yet part of me felt sad afterwards – not at the memories, but at what Christmas has become.  My Christmas shopping list seems to have become a series of gift card purchases at the request of family members.  So I fret and worry, hoping that our grown children will have the warm, delicious memories of Christmas that Mum and I have - because I wouldn’t trade any of those memories for the biggest, shiniest gift in the world!

Enjoy making your own memories this Christmas and New Year! 

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Ancestral Wales. 


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