A Door Slams Shut

For various reasons I am now thinking about removing or rewriting a whole lot of material from ‘Just Another Forgotten¬† Hero’. Chapter 12 may well end up in the bin, which is a pity because it shows some of the less obvious difficulties a genealogical researcher has to contend with. So I think it deserves an airing somewhere.

Chapter 12

20th September I spent some time filling in some more details of Ann and Elwyn Thomas’ life story. Elwyn had worked at the explosives manufacturing site just outside Penrhyndeudraeth and had died in 1985, Ann died just two years later. I e-mailed Gregory with a full update.

25th September I picked up an e-mail from Greg in the evening. It included a copy of Mary Ellen Davies’ death certificate that had been sent to him by another researcher, Di. I had no idea until then that anyone else was attempting to assist Gregory in his epic quest. I had previously been very impressed with everything that he had uncovered, I was sure I could not have produced the records that he had found in a foreign country. Now though, his secret was out!

The address on the death certificate was in Penrhyndeudraeth, but gave Mary Ellen’s usual home address as 1 Mount Pleasant in Barmouth, which was where she was living with her second husband and son William in 1939. The informant was A I Harries of School House Penrhyndeudraeth and he gave his relationship as ‘Brother in Law’. He was, of course her sister Gwen’s husband Anuerin Ioan Harries. This all reminded me yet again that I had been unable to find Ann Griffiths in the 1939 Register records. She was not living with her mother and stepfather in Barmouth, and I had found her nowhere else. Since I now knew that she married in 1947 she would have been listed under her birth name, and there was a chance that her entry may have been amended with her married name and not redacted. Looking back, I can see that I had more than enough clues to be able to work out where she was, but I just could not figure it out at the time. I would get another huge clue the next day. But even then, I still did not see it.

26th September The marriage certificate for Ann and Elwyn Thomas Griffiths arrived in the post late in the morning, and I had an e-mail from the GRO that I had some certificates ready to download from there too. They were Elwyn Thomas and Iris Jane’s birth certificates that I had been waiting for since the 17th of the month. They were all as I had been expecting. I did notice that Ann’s address was given as Bryniau Hendre, Penrhyndeudaeth on the marriage certificate, which I thought that I had seen somewhere before, but could not place. I had a brief look through my notes on Ann’s family, but I could not immediately find it. I should have looked a lot harder.

I then checked on the ancestry trees for Iris Jane Griffiths, born 1911 in Pontypridd and later living in Penrhyndeudraeth. It turned up a match in the same private family tree where I had found Elwyn Thomas. So I now knew that we were certainly both researching the same family. Naturally I sent her a follow up message detailing everything I had just proved that morning and asked if she had managed to contact Elwyn’s son. A man she actually knew. The very same chap that we were trying so hard to find. I also asked her to pass on my address, e-mail address and telephone number to this mystery chap. Again I would have to wait for her reply. When it finally came, it was certainly not what I had been hoping for.

6th October I finally received a reply from Elwyn’s relative. She had not contacted his son, and gave no reasons for that. She had instead talked the whole thing over with some of her cousins. Between them they had concluded that I was looking at the wrong family. Their Elwyn Thomas Griffiths had married a woman called Nanw, who was from the Harris family, and could not possibly be the same person as William R Griffiths’ sister Ann. The fact that I had the marriage certificate to hand, Elwyn and his sister Iris’ birth certificates and his parent’s marriage details all made no difference. I must be wrong. I was not, as events would later prove, but that would make no difference, she would not be persuaded.

I have used other people’s trees on Ancestry in my research in the past. As I have previously said, I knew that many, if not most, were more works of fiction than fact; often containing really impossible scenarios. I had seen women listed as having given birth to three children at different times and places many miles apart in the same year, a mother aged just six when her first child was born and over sixty when the last one came along, children born several years after their mother had died: I could go on for pages. But this was a completely new slant on the problem. We were researching the same family, but even when presented with documentary proof, she simply would not believe it. I would get no further correspondence from her. That would extend the search by a good two months!

She had however confirmed that, at least according to her possibly unreliable tree, there was someone to find, and given me another massive clue, but that was just a little too well hidden for me to spot at the time. I knew that I had to reduce the list of Griffiths – Griffiths children in the area to a more manageable number, for now I could at least concentrate only on the males, but that still left 40 names to sort through. Once I had reduced this list of possibilities a lot more then I would be able to enlist the help of my favourite registrar to find him. It was not going to be an easy job.


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