Sunday, January 22, 2006

Last tango in the archives

Thursday 19th January

Last day in Dolgellau, and I’m back at the archives office to make my final foray into records covering Ellis’ parents and grandparents.

I first requested the parish baptism records from 1813-1837, hoping to find a record of his mother Sydney Ellis and maybe some siblings, and some candidates for the father of the twins. So I traced through 160-odd pages looking for any children of a Griffith+Anne Ellis, and any baptisms of an Ellis Williams.

Working backwards (as I thought Sydney was likely to be under 20) I quickly located 3 siblings:

October 30 1831, Richard Ellis, son of Griffith & Anne Ellis (Tailor)
July 8 1821, Elizabeth Ellis, daur of Griffith & Anne Ellis (Tailor)
August 8 1819, William Ellis, son of Griffith & Anne Ellis (Tailor)
August 3 1817, Gwen Ellis, daur of Griffith & Anne Ellis (Pensioner [war?])

I also found

September 25 1813 Ellis Williams, son of Richard & Susanah Williams (skinner)

- the only Ellis Williams baptised in this parish in the period 1813-1837. So for now he is lead candidate, but there is no firm evidence that an Ellis Williams was the father, or even if he was: perhaps he was unbaptised or came from another parish. If a paper trail doesn’t yield up more clues, I might have to wait for any evidence from the DNA record.

Still I hadn’t found mother Sydney. Looking at the sequence of siblings I saw the 10 year gap between Elizabeth and Richard, and realised that I had probably missed her. When I started exploring that time period, I found her:

June 11, 1826 Sydney Ellis, daur of Griffith & Anne Ellis (Tailor)

So that really tied up some things nicely: the only Sydney Ellis of Dolgellau being born to the same couple shown in the later census report, and continuity of profession (tailor) from grandfather to grandson.

I took the time to look for more records of the grandparents Griffith and Anne Ellis, from the marriage records of 1786-18--. I found only one set that matched: Griffith Ellis and Anne Lewis tying the knot* on October 25 1816, 11 months before the birth of daughter Gwen. I wondered if Griffith (born in nearby Barmouth) had returned from (Napoleonic?) war or active service elsewhere on an invalid pension and married Anne before taking up or resuming work as a tailor. And where did the name Sydney come from? It’s tantalising to imagine him visiting the new settlement of Sydney as a member of the Royal Navy ahead of his great-grandson moving there 100 years later.

*not to be confused with Griffith Lewis & Anne Ellis tying the knot in 1824.

The final to-be-confirmed item was a listing for a Griffith Lewis and Ann Jones marrying on May 14 1786 – a possibility for Anne Ellis (nee Lewis) parents.

The remaining records that I could search were microfilmed parish registers from various churches , that would take hours of eye-straining attention that I was not ready to give at this time. One hopes for transcriptions to appear in online records over time, or that I will
accumulate other evidence that will give me a date-range in those records to focus on.

On the road again, bound for Hay-on-Wye. I stopped in Llanidlloes for lunch, as various brochures had indicated it was a centre for arts and crafts. We made a circuit around the heart of town without finding much evidence for this, and no food options aside from Welsh heartland stodge.

In booktown Hay-on-Wye, I had a few immediate stops to check out for reading material. The town was unusually quiet and I was able to sail directly into a kerbside parking spot. The few few bookshops I visited didn’t seem to have had much turnover since I’d visited 4 months earlier, even the remainder stores. In Richard Booth’s main store I did have a curious moment of intuition. Having decided that I was a little too tired to focus properly, I started leaving the store. Passing the children’s bookshelves, I looked up and spied 3 copies of C.H.Abravanall’s 1947 title Prelude, a fantasy-laden rendering of pianist Eileen Joyce’s early childhood in Tasmania. I already had a copy of the book, but I whimsically thought “What if one of them were signed?”. I reached up for one book, turned to the title page and read an ink dedication “with love from Eileen & Twink xxx” OMG! I nearly flung the £2.50 on the counter to get it out of the store. In another bookshop that Bondi had insisted on entering (I think he liked the owner) I recounted this story. As I did so, I turned to the title page, and then noticed for the first time that the book had not only been signed by the subject, but by the author, on the prior page.

After that we retired to our pub accommodation that night at the Baskerville Arms in the nearby hamlet of Clyso. Bondi got to be the hound of the Baskervilles that evening during dinner in the main bar. Posted by Picasa

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