Friday, December 27, 2013

"The Grandfather I Never Knew" Part 4 1948-1950's.

Although the move to Africa was precipitated by Iris' being sick it is important to remember that Idris also felt called to the continent when he was a child and believed God wanted him to be involved in mission there. During the next four decades Idris was constantly at work with local churches, hospitals and outreaches.

When he first arrived in South Africa, Idris purchased a black coloured 1938 Ford V8 with red wire wheels from the city of Salibsury. Later this was replaced with a 1941 Plymouth. This was the vehicle his family would all learn to drive in! A number plate was attached to the car when it was first registered. This would remain with the vehicle for the rest of its lifetime. The license was U4472 and was placed on a circular paper disc on the inside [Drivers side] of the windscreen. The number plate would remain with the car whomever it was sold to although the paper disc with the registration changed and had to be renewed each year. The Plymouth was bought in Kempton Park, South Africa but registered in Umtali so the designated letter was U - its place of residence. Later this car was also re painted after Iris ran it into a post at their home. Idris was very fond of cars, another that he rebuilt was a 38 Chrysler, which he then repainted and sold on.

Iris standing next to the 41 Plymouth

 The family first lived in Hatfield, a suburb of Salisbury but around 1950 they moved to Rainbow Ranch, Inyanga, part of the eastern highlands of Southern Rhodesia. This was only a brief stop over as later that same year they moved onwards, to Umtali. [Below a picture of the Inyanga Mountains.]

Muturazi Falls, Inyanga
He also continued to use motorcycles as he had in England. Below is a picture of an old 250 Royal Enfield, built around 1951. Idris would use it to drive to work and back on. He bought it second hand and rebuilt it again. His son Glyn loved playing with it and once, when Idris was away to the mountains on a mission trip Glyn tried to kick start it. It fell on the ground and started to burn. Fortunately some boy scouts were walking by and they helped Glyn put out the fire by piling dirt on it. Glyn remembers never being so scared of anything in his life.

Iris standing next to the 250 Royal Enfield
Idris was a stern father but loving. He forbade swearing of any kind and would not allow his children to go to the movies or play cards. These were places and things of the 'devil' and children should not mess with them. He was also full of kindness, his daughter Wendy always remembering him as her hero, kissing her better and seeing with great kindness to any cuts and bruises that she sustained. He was also not above playing with his children, sometimes pretending to be a horse as they rode him, and as they grew older, fixing up bikes and cars for them to drive and ride.

As the 1950's drew on he had some more great undertakings ahead of him as well as personal tragedy.


Facts and information courtesy of interview with family members Glyn Davies and Wendy Thomas, which took place between 2012-2013.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day

I have spent the past decade in America and many of my friends do not know what December 26th, Boxing Day, is all about. There are essentially two traditions that have merged to give Britain and many of its old dominions this day of celebration. The first is that, dating back all the way to Medieval times, alms boxes were often left out for people to donate to the poor. On the 26th December the contents were then delivered or given away. The second is that servants and tradesmen were often required to work during Christmas day and were therefore given their own day of celebration. This became Boxing Day. The day their boxes were opened.

Growing up my memories of this day were always very similar. Christmas Day was spent either at my parents house or at my grandparents house. Boxing day was then celebrated at whichever place we had not yet visited. While Christmas saw the traditional Christmas meal, Boxing day was left overs and other delicious foods that were supplied in a buffet style by either my parents or my grandparents. Mince pies, pigs in a blanket, cakes [more Christmas Cake particularly], small sandwiches with various fillings available and so on.

This has also been a big sports day in the U.K. Similar to how Americans what their 'football' on Thanksgiving, the Brits love their 'football' on Boxing Day. It's the start of a rather hectic period of sports where one of the big teams can often put themselves ahead in the English Premier League. If we never went to watch our local team live then we rarely saw a game on T.V. but I do remember watching a show on BBC1 called "Grandstand". This was a popular sports show and the latest scores would always be flashed up on the television. Nanna would also often turn the radio on. Our local team, Grimsby Town,  was not particularly famous but the local radio would always broadcast live from the stadium.

We would spend the day playing games, showing off the presents from the day before and I would often read a lot. Usually at Christmas I would receive a book of some kind and Boxing Day would find me marking time by devouring it as quickly as possible. The day was also interspersed with movie watching. Christmas movies and one or two former big blockbusters would be on T.V.

Since moving to America it has been little different. I still manage to make it to England periodically for Christmas but when I'm not then Boxing Day is no national Holiday. It's just December 26th, the day many Americans return the gifts they didn't like. I follow the football scores on the internet but rarely watch the Boxing Day games. I still eat left overs with whichever family members are visiting and I still read rigorously. I've always had that day off work so the fact that it isn't a national holiday has never factored into my enjoyment of it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve 1938

On Dec 24th 1938 Iris was married to Idris and became Mrs. Iris Davies. The wedding took place at Bethel Gospel Temple, Wardend Road, Birmingham, England. Iris' father Harold Griffiths was a traveling preacher and he was due to be speaking and planting churches in Ireland both before the 24th and after Boxing Day. (1) So the 24th it was!

From this marriage was born Wendy, Glyn and Merthyn Davies. Merthyn was to marry Christine Davies and that eventually led to the birth of John, Michael and Peter. 

And it all started December 24th 1938!


[1] Boxing Day. The day after Christmas Day. St Stephens. There are multiple theories as to why it is called Boxing Day, perhaps the most likely is that it became the day servants of the wealthy would open their "Christmas boxes" and the day tradesmen received "Christmas Boxes" as thanks for services rendered throughout the year.

Monday, November 18, 2013

"The Grandfather I Never Knew" Part 3 1944-1947

As the war dragged on Idris continued his work as a munitions inspector for the Home Guard. Their daughter Wendy would often watch the barrage balloons rising into the air before she headed off to school. They called them "Elephants," perhaps in an effort to make some cheer of the situation.

Idris never evacuated his children. If they were told that a particular heavy air raid was coming then he would take them in the little side car of his motorbike up to Stoke on Trent. Here they would stay with the rest of the family.

David John,  Glyn and Idris Davies. Three brothers.

Idris loved his motorbike.  He rode a Matchless 500 and would often ride with his brother Glyn from Birmingham to Wales. One time there was a major fog in Gloucestershire and the brothers recall that Idris ended up with a policeman on his handlebars.

Victory in Europe was celebrated in Britain and the Commonwealth on the 7th May 1945. Celebrations occurred all over the country with young and old dancing in the street. Iris' younger sister Ruth was sick in bed and Idris kept checking inside to make sure that she was ok. 

With the long war over people could at last look forward. Idris bought a house in Sheldon, it was one of many that were being built at the time and one of the first on the street. Others were still being erected as they moved in. The house is still standing at 45 Shirley Road,  Sheldon, Birmingham.[1]

The winter of 1947 changed their plans. It was one of the worst on record. Idris' wife Iris struggled with Pernicious Anemia and nearly died. The Dr. informed them both that unless they moved to a more suitable climate she would probably die within the next five years. The options then, were Canada or Africa.

Idris' brother Glyn had been with Montgomery's expedition force. He had traveled with the Armored Car division, landing in Cape Town and traveling the length of Africa, passing through many British commonwealth countries on the way. He told Idris about Southern Rhodesia and its amiable climate. The decision was made final when Britain announced it was paying £10,000 to any citizens who moved to the colonies. The motherland would also cover the cost of the fare there.

So on 22 July 1947 Idris left England for Africa. He traveled aboard the Carnavon Castle, leaving from the port of Southampton. The records show his last English address as 318 Longton Road, Stoke on Trent[2]

Passenger List for the voyage from Southampton.

[1] Wendy knows that they lived at two houses during and just after WW2. One was a Shirley or Shiela Road in  Sheldon. The first was at Heather Road in Birmingham. The two numbers were 45 and 54 but she can never remember which number belonged to which street.

[2] This was the address of Harold and Annie Griffiths, Iris' parents. Ruth Griffiths remember them staying there when Idris left for Africa

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Oleander Jacaranda

This week my Aunt posted a picture of Jacaranda trees from Salisbury, Rhodesia. They apparently bloom before leaving their leaves and this is an example of what they look like in October - November.

My friend Bill has been posting scenes from fall in Massachusetts, U.S.A. and I realised that the one thing I do miss about living in the Dallas area of Texas is the fall. I miss the loud crunching of leaves under feet as one walks along the old pavements of England. I miss the browns, reds, ambers and various shades of purple as one waits for the bus. Fall doesn't last long here in Texas but it sure did back home.

I think that sights such as the one shown above are part of what cause my Dad and his family to miss Rhodesia, they bring with them so many memories of what used to be. This reminded me of a book we read for English class when I was a student in High School. It was called "Oleander Jacaranda" and was a memoir by Penelope Lively, detailing much of the life she lived in Egypt during the early to mid 1900's. At the same I hated the book. It seemed like a bunch of pictures an old woman had put together along with brief memories of her own life that were so unimportant and disconnected from my own.

Now, at age 30, I appreciate it much more.

Oleander Jacaranda. I can see the trees and flowers. I understand why the title meant so much to the writer.

Here's to the memories!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Researching Idris

In the course of interviewing people for the blog series I am writing on "The Grandfather I Never Knew," I have ended up with many pages of interview notes. One person I queried was my second cousin Roy. He was able to answer a few questions but then asked me if I knew any of the details about Idris traveling to Africa. The totality of this information will be forthcoming in the next blog I  write in the series but I told Roy I would take a look at my interview notes. I discovered that my Uncle Glyn had remembered the names of the cruise ships which his family have traveled upon.

I sent the information to Roy; lo and behold he was able to find the following on the website

The pertinent information reads:

Name of Ship: Carnarvon Castle
Date of Departure: 22/7/47
Port of Departure: Southampton
Port at which passengers have contracted to land: Capetown
Name of Passenger: I. Davies
Age: 32
Last Address: 318 Longton Road, Stoke on Trent
Country of intended permanent residence: S.Rhodesia
Occupation: Mech Ex

Roy had been looking for my grandfathers information before but he had never known the exact date or the name of the ship. Thanks to Uncle Glyn we were able to discover this. I was also able to let Roy know he traveled alone since the rest of the family departed at a later date so Idris could set up home for them.

The "Castle" line of ships were all former war ships in the British Navy which were decommissioned and became cruise ships after WW2. The last known address mentioned here is the home of Harold and Anne Griffiths where my Great Aunt Ruth lived until she was married. Idris moved his family in with them during the months of his departure.

As for Idris occupation.  This is still somewhat of a mystery. We think he wrote "Mech Ex" though it may have been "Mech En".  This might stand for Mechanical Engineer or perhaps Mechanical Experience? We're not too sure. He definitely did not have a degree although he was quite mechanical minded. In some of the interview notes with my Aunt Wendy she mentioned that at some point she believed Idris to have worked mechanically on airplanes during WW2. We also know he was a munitions inspector.

When he arrived in Southern Rhodesia, Wendy is sure that he worked on farm machines for a while, perhaps he put this down as his occupation because mechanical skills were something he felt confident with.

Iris, Wendy and Glyn all traveled on the Warwick Castle. The relevant pages that have been scanned onto the site are all black and obviously were not scanned correctly. Roy has requested for this information to be updated but it may take several months.

In the mean time I now have this information to add to the story of "The Grandfather I Never Knew."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hymns Of My Fathers: "Tell It Again."

One hymn which my Grandfather Idris would sing is "Tell It Again."  It was also known as the "Gypsy boy" song which might not be entirely politically correct in today's world but that is what it was called.

The song was written by Mary Bridges Canedy Slade, the wife of a Pastor. She also wrote numerous others. These songs, as with so many old hymns, were often inspired by an experience of the composer or one which they had heard about.

Mary always said the song was based on a true story. A missionary in England walked into a gypsy camp to visit a dying boy. The minister recited the famous verse John 3:16 to him. "For God so loved the world He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." The boy responded faintly, "Nobody ever told me."

Heart wrenching stuff for a Christian to hear and I can only imagine how it stirred the heart of a missionary, church elder and preacher like my Grandfather Idris Davies. He may have heard it first in the revival meetings he used to attend as my Great Grandfather Price Davies preached. Below is the sheet music which contains the brief annotation of this story at the bottom.

Fittingly the first stanza is: "Into a tent where a gypsy boy lay, dying alone at the close of the day, news of salvation we carried: said he: "Nobody ever has told it to me."[1]


[1] The following website was very helpful in discovering the history of this song:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

"The Grandfather I Never Knew" Part 2

Idris was a teenager before that term was ever coined. In the 1920's you were a boy or a young man, there was no in between, particularly in Wales with the coal industry. It was also therefore understandable that Idris would accompany his father on the weekly missions Price conducted and that he would learn himself a trade. At one such mission he went forward for prayer himself to experience healing as he was ill. Later, in Penrhiwceiber, somewhere between 1929 and 1934, Idris would tell others that God gave him a vision and called him to the missions field. This took place during a 'cottage meeting' which was when a group of people would gather in homes to pray.

Idris Davies 1930's.

Idris had many skills. His father was a coal miner and for a while father and son would go to the 'Pit' together, yet Idris also learned to be an interior decorator and was handy with a paintbrush. This trade would come in very useful in his future; when he would build from scratch a family house. For now though, it was enough that he could work for a living. He also loved to sing and would often do so at the church meetings. Throughout his whole life people would always remark upon his voice and how lovely it was to listen to. For sports, he loved rugby and in that fashion he was a "true Welshmen."

At some point he moved to the Birmingham area and there met a young lady by the name of Iris Griffiths. They were married on December 24th 1938, at Bethel Gospel Temple, Wardend Road, Birmingham. The minister was Iris father Harold and he was a traveling preacher, busy both before and after the 26th which is holiday named Boxing Day in England. Therefore the 24th was the only date that would work. In 1939 they gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Grace Wendy.

As British involvement in World War 2 neared Idris began to work in some fashion upon the airplanes of the Royal  Air Force. I am unsure if he was an engineer or a general mechanic but as the war approached the tale is told that he had to parachute out of a plane, perhaps in some form of training and preparation. On one such occasion the exercise perforated his ear drum and he became unable to serve in the military. He was therefore placed in the Home Guard. His brother Glyn went to war

While in the Home Guard his job was a munitions inspector and a collector of the dead. He would have to physically put body parts together so they could be given a proper burial and funeral. If he found bombs that had not yet exploded he would have to call the bomb disposal unit immediately. Once, a spy gave away the location of a nearby ammunition factory that had been camouflaged by the British government. As the bombs dropped and the factory exploded Idris was in the area and dived to the ground just as they had all been trained to do. Upon opening his eyes and struggling to his feet he saw in front of him a single hand; an engagement ring upon the finger. His job now was to find the body to which it belonged.

That night, when he returned home his family asked him about the large explosion. It must have been more disturbing than usual because Idris had to share what happened with Iris and unknown to them their daughter Wendy overheard. That memory has stuck with their daughter ever since.

Fortunately, putting body parts together and inspecting munitions was not to be Idris lot for the rest of his life. There was work in Africa, building a house and raising three children but before all of that, the war had to end.

The information written in this post is drawn from the following material:

[1] Much information is provided courtesy of "A TESTIMONY and a brief record of the of the BEGINNING of the PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT in the MERTHYR BOROUGH,BEDLINOG AND THE ABERDARE VALLEY by PASTOR PRICE DAVIES – annotated by RoyDavies

[2] Interviews were conducted with Glyn Davies, Merthyn Davies, Wendy Thomas nee Davies and Ruth Salmon nee Griffiths during the time period June 2012 - April 2013.

[3] Copy of Idris and Iris wedding certificate in the possession of the author.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Using the Flipboard App

As the title suggests, I want to talk about the 'Flipboard' app for Apple devices such as the iPad and iPhone. Flipboard collates information from the web and puts it into a magazine format. A quick search on the internet tells me that it is also available for Android. Here's a brief video I made to explain how it works!

I love things like this: That make navigating stories in a blog easier! So in a nut shell - you download the app from the app store then when it loads in your phone or on your iPad find the search bar in the top right hand corner.

You can type anything into the search bar. So to find my blog I typed "Tall tales of a family." To find my friend Bill's stuff I typed "West in New England." Then a list appears and you select the blog or video or magazine you wish to see. Once you have selected that it will open up the blog site in magazine format.

If I want to create a specific magazine - like one specifically about the series I created on my Grandma then I click the little 'plus' buttons you can see appear in the image above. Each 'post' should have it's own 'plus' sign. Once I select this button it gives me an option to put it in an existing magazine I have created or to create a new one - I get to title it etc.

In the picture above you can see that I have three magazines. One is the stories of "The hymns of my fathers." One is "The Grandma I Never Knew" and the other is just a 'favourites' where I put my favourite selections from all over the web. It's not specific to genealogy - hence the "Man of steel" image. Once you have your magazine created you can select to view it and then on the left hand side is the option to share it. You can share it on a social network or you can share it via email like this:

Once it is shared a link is created that you can then send to others as well. The link for the magazine about "The Grandma I Never Knew" is here:

You can't see it without the actual Flipboard app but if you have the app go ahead and try it.

It might seem like alot of work but I'm always looking for ways to engage my generation of genealogists and those that are even younger than me. If they already have this product and you've created your 'magazine' it's so easy for them to add and see any updates. I've already had friends of mine that aren't generally interested in 'genealogy' begin reading my blog and the stories within because of this discovery.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"The Grandfather I Never Knew" Part 1

“The Grandfather I Never Knew” Part 1

Idris Davies was born on December 2nd 1914 to Price and Annie Davies. His birth was registered in the borough ofMerthyr Tydfil on the 11th January 1915. [1] His hair would become dark, nearly black and his eyes were blue. He had what can only be described as ‘A real welsh nose.’ At the time his father, Price Davies had been asked to pastor at Aberaman Assembly. Idris had an older brother, David John Davies and a sister Mair Davies who had died in 1910. In 1917 the family moved to the Old Prince Of Wales Public House. This had five living rooms and the front part, where the bar used to be, was used as a meeting hall for a new church congregation. [2]

His mother Annie used to make jam[3] and store it in the pantry for later use; strawberry was the preferred flavor and at age four while Idris was sleeping his parents stepped out for a short while. Idris awoke and made his way into the pantry where he began to open the stored containers and with a spoon he ate all of the jam. By the time Price and Annie returned home they found him on the floor unconscious.

They immediately called for the itinerant doctor and nurse, which must have been done by running to the local clinic since they did not have a phone. By the time the doctor. and nurse arrived on the scene there was little that could be done and they pronounced him dead, apparently issuing a death certificate. Price and Annie were devout Christian believers and they invited a small group of people from the church over to the house, wanting them to pray for Idris before they gave up on him.Annie had witnessed her own miraculous healing when younger and they hoped for the same thing to occur now. [4]

As Idris’ children, Glyn and Wendy, remember it being told to them; "this small group of Christians was delightedly disturbed when a voice was heard from the bedroom in which they had placed their child. Idris was singing loudly, “I’m three three three, I once was lost and now am found, Christ has set me three.”" Yes, the pronunciation of the word ‘free’ had changed but his family was ecstatic. They believed God had healed their son and brought him back from the dead.

Now fortunate to live the rest of his life, Idris was mischievous and full of fun, like any young boy would be. When living in Brynithel and Six Bells they would fill up buckets of water and spread it over the ground so that it would freeze at night creating an ice slide. The boys would get someone to chase them who did not know about it and at the last minute the person doing the chasing would turn and Idris with the others would slide on down and make their escape.

While in Brynithel, aged 7, Idris became a Christian and was ‘saved’. While it was at Six Bells that Idris was baptized in Bethany Baptist Chapel at age 11. [5] Both these events set the scene for a life of missions and church work but before much of that could occur Idris must first navigate his way through such major cataclysms as World War 2

[1] Birth Certificate for Idris Davies, registered 11 Jan 1915, Ref No 11a 1603, County Borough of Merthyr Tydfil U.K. Certified copy in possession of author

[2] Much information is provided courtesy of "A TESTIMONY and a brief record of the of the BEGINNING of the PENTECOSTAL MOVEMENT in the MERTHYR BOROUGH,BEDLINOG AND THE ABERDARE VALLEY by PASTOR PRICE DAVIES – annotated by RoyDavies

[3] Americans use the word jelly.

[4] There is no death certificate to officially document this miracle, it is likely that before the records were sent to authorities they had realized the mistake in certifying him as dead and did not send his name with the records. There is however a record of Annie’s healings, to be found in 'The WesternMail', 'South Wales Echo', 'South Wales Daily News', 'Merthyr Express', and theWelsh language newspaper 'Tarian Y Gweithwyr' in September 1905.

[5] This is again found in the written Testimony of Price Davies.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Healing of Annie Griffiths Part 1

This week I decided to go through some old posts and start citing sources I have used. So with the best of intentions I opened an envelope my parents had left me at Christmas. Within were several birth certificates and a copy from a 1905 "Christian Herald" a religious newspaper published in the United Kingdom. I glanced at it and realised it cites several Welsh daily newspapers in recording the healing of my great Grandma Annie Davies nee Griffiths. [There are two sets of Griffiths in my Dad's family tree and so it becomes confusing very quickly.]

The article states:

"Under the title of 'A Modern Miracle at Merthyr,' the daily papers report: "An unusual occurrence has taken place at Penydarren, near Merthyr. A young lady, twenty four years of age, named Annie Griffiths, living with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Griffiths, at 74 Brynhyfryd Street, who had been laid up with an affliction of the hip for some weeks, and who it was thought would not recover the use of her limbs without the aid of crutches, got up completely cured as the result, it is claimed, of faith-healing. Two ministers, the Revs. Mr. Owen, of Elim Baptist Chapel, and MR. Francis, Aberdu, Cabdiganshire [Possibly reads Casdiganshire], visited her, and prayed earnestly for her recovery on the Saturday evening, , and shortly afterwards she got up, dressed herself without assistance, and came downstairs. The following day she took part in all the chapel services, and is evidently completely cured, for she can walk about the neighbourhood, to the astonishment of the residents, without assistance, and looks in better health than ever. She is a young lady of a religious turn of mind, and regards her recovery as having been brought about by the intervention of the Divine will. She says her faith was strengthened owing to the reading in a pamphlet of a similar recovery. Miss Griffiths, although deeply interested in the revival, did not take an unusually prominent part, but in the course of the year her interest in religious matters has become more intense, and her pastor had been much distressed at the fact that she was so very ill."

It is followed by another short article:

"The Doctors Testimony

Dr. Morrison, of Merthyr, said that he diagnosed the case as one of tubercular disease of the hip-joint. His opinion was confirmed by his chief, Dr. Cresswell, and he last saw Miss. Griffiths on Friday, Sept. 15. On September 18 he was astonished to see her walk into his surgery without the trace of a limp (see picture below). "I am cured now," said Miss Griffiths, in reply to the doctor's question. "You have been very kind to me and done all you could for me, but of course you are only an earthy physician and I took my case before the heavenly physician, and here I am well." Dr. Morrison added: "There is no humbug about it. She walked into the surgery apparently well."

The picture supplied is here:

There are other newspapers that record this. I believe my great uncle Roy did the research to discover that 'The Western Mail', 'South Wales Echo', 'South Wales Daily News', 'Merthyr Express', and the Welsh language newspaper 'Tarian Y Gweithwyr' printed accounts of the event. I know my Aunt Norma has a copy of the article from 'The Western Mail' and I am inquiring with the British Library about the others. I hope to post them here when I have received them.

All of these confirm what my Great Grandfather Price Davies [Annie's husband] recorded in his personal testimony shortly before he died. He wrote in a document entitled,


"...In 1904-1905, at number seventy four Brynhyfryd Street, [i] Penydarren, Merthyr Tydfil, where Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Griffiths lived with their family, their daughter Annie Griffiths was bedridden with a Tubercular Hip (Hip disease) a large growth on her hip and the one leg shorter than the other, she was a helpless, hopeless cripple.  The doctors gave no hope of her ever being able to walk again.  The family were members of Elim Baptist Chapel, Penydarren, where Mr. Thomas Griffiths was a deacon, the minister was the Rev. O. M. Owen [ii] who had been wonderfully blessed of God during the early days of the Welsh Revival, and he was for many years the Secretary of the Keswick Convention at Llandrindod Wells.  Mr. Owen was very friendly with the family and used to visit Miss Griffiths often and was very much grieved and burdened at seeing her sad plight and suffering as she was.  He was spending much time in prayer with God on her behalf and also on behalf of the family as a whole.  On one of his visits he asked Miss Griffiths if she believed God could work a miracle in our time and heal her.  She said “Yes Mr. Owen, I believe God can do all things.”  “Well Annie,” he said, “I don’t believe it is the will of God for you to be lying there suffering like that.”  He gave her a tract to read that told of a young woman that had been healed in answer to prayer of Spinal Trouble.  He also asked her to read some Scriptures especially James 5: 14-16 which she gladly did. 

            One Saturday night, Miss Griffiths was in fact due to go into hospital the following Monday so that she could be made more comfortable on an Air Bed and also that her mother might be relieved a little; that evening another Baptist Minister from Aberduar, West Wales called.[iii]   His name was Mr. Francis and he was on his way to Fochriw to preach but lost his connection at Dowlais Top and so called at Mr. Owen’s house.   During their conversation Mr. Owen asked Mr. Francis if he believed God could perform a miracle today in answer to prayer.  “Of course I do, why not?” said Mr. Francis. So Mr. Owen told him about Miss Griffiths.  They decided there and then to visit the home and have a definite time of prayer with her father for her, so they came.  After a little talk with Miss Griffiths the three of them knelt and prayed that God would touch and heal her. 

            These are Annie's own words to me, (after the ministers and her­ father had prayed for her and as she was about to ask the dear Lord to heal her), she felt the Lord was there by her bedside and laid His Hand on her head and the Power of God came upon her and went right through her whole body and took the disease away, the bed itself shaking with the Power of God.  Glory be to God she was Wonderfully and Miraculously Healed.  She told the ministers and her father that if they would leave the room she would get dressed.  Praise the Lord for ever.  One minute a helpless, hopeless cripple unable to move without help, the next minute Gloriously Healed by the touch of God.  Hallelujah.

            She asked her mother for her clothes and then got up and dressed; then she walked from the front room where her bed was, through the middle room to the kitchen.  When her father saw her, he leaped for joy shouting “Hallelujah” with a loud voice.  Mr. Owen asked her if he would see her in the meeting, the following, Sunday.  Her father said “You tell Mr Owen that you will be there before him tomorrow morning” ... and she was.  Praise God.  Oh what a stir that miracle caused in the Borough.  Elim chapel was thronged with people night after night for weeks, Open Air meetings were held on the bottom of the street. [iv]  I remember Dai Ruth (D. R. Williams) taking his coat off in one of those meetings and laying it on the ground for people to kneel on it and get converted.[v]  That miracle was published in the Daily Papers and the Christian Herald.[vi]  I remember reading the report in the South Wales Echo September 1905.  Some may ask “Are healings permanent?” Annie Griffiths was healed of a Tubercular Hip when she was twenty one years of age, she passed out of this life to her reward in heaven at seventy eight years of age with never a return of the complaint.  Diolch Iddo Bendigedig."

Roy [A second cousin I believe] made some annotations to describe more of the historical settings and facts concerning the comments in this part of Price's testimony. Where these annotations were made has been indicated in the text. I'll be sharing those in part 2.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Faith and Family History

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to write regarding matters of faith within this family history blog. To date I've focused most of the posts in this blog on my Grandma Iris Davies nee Griffiths, although I've written a few posts about other research. Moving forward the people I write about will be expanding, beginning with my Grandfather, "Grampy" Idris Davies. Idris, like a great deal many of my ancestors was not only a Christian but in the ministry. In fact if you look at the more recent part of my family tree it is full of people in the ministry. My parents are missionaries to Bulgaria, my Uncle is a Chaplain, and he and his wife were missionaries to Africa. Many of my great Uncles were preachers, both my great grand parents on my Dad's side were ministers and so forth.

The result of this is that the more I research and interview family members, to glean stories passed down from one generation to the next, the more I discover stories of miracles. These range from healing's and mass visions confirmed in newspapers, to testimonies either written down or told to another family member about people being raised from the dead. All of these make blogging about my ancestors intriguing, enlightening and spiritually enriching. I now find myself with a question to face moving forward: how will I describe these miracles to you the reader?

I've decided how.

I will share them as they have been passed down to me. If there is evidence outside of just family interviews to support the story then I will make a small annotation and details will be available in a footnote at bottom of the post. Personally, I choose to believe these stories and they encourage my faith. I do not want to interrupt future posts with discussions about whether they are true or embellished, I'm simply going to tell the story. Then I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to make your own decision.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Celebrating - and considering another benefit to blogging family history.

Today the pages viewed on my blog passed 3,000. I missed the early celebratory marks of one and two thousand. I'm truly thankful to the family members and fellow genealogy bloggers that have commented on and followed my blogging. It's an honor to have such great friends in the family history blogging community and to know that many in the family feel my research has, as it were, 'brought the family closer together.'

I wanted to celebrate this landmark by re publishing the most popular post. It was a surprising one but the page with the most hits is one which talks about the hymn my great grandfather wrote his own music for; "I fell in love with the Nazarene." I think it's popular because there's very little information on the web about this song. In fact if you google the song title my website is often in the top 5 hits. This led me to realise another side benefit to blogging about family history. Sometimes it's just possible that what you write adds to the history and knowledge of the world.

The stories you type and the interviews you conduct are all valuable in more ways than to just your family. They contribute to a growing body of information that when pooled together increases the richness of society and the uniqueness of your families smaller or larger role in it. It seems even more fitting to re-post this again having now found out that Idris Davies also sang this version of the song.

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This is the first in a series of blogs that will endeavor to capture the heart of some old hymns. They are not just any hymns but those which I know my ancestors sang. I will post the lyrics with some information about who crafted the hymn and why. Sometimes I may explore the words and lyrics of a tune and sometimes there may also be a family story behind them. I hope you enjoy reading about this as much I will sharing them with you.

Harold Emanuel Griffiths

There are many things to write about Harold but for the purpose of this blog it is enough to say this: He was a man of great conviction who became a Christian sometime after World War 1. He became a Pentecostal minister who planted churches around the United Kingdom and Ireland in partnership with the Jeffreys' brothers who started the Elim and Assemblies of God churches on the European side of the Atlantic. Many of the churches he planted bare the name "Bethel" today. As well as a preacher he was a pianist and a singer. He composed a new tune to the formerly well known hymn of "I fell in love with the Nazarene." The words are as follow:

Verse 1
"The Master stood in the Judgment Hall of Pilate great and strong,
He stood there silent and alone for all his friends were gone.
They had scattered far and near, and left him with the throng,
No voice of love his heart to cheer, thro' all the morn' so long."

"I fell in love with the Nazarene, "The beautiful Nazarene." 
Whose face with glory was a-light, the fairest I have seen.
Near his side I would abide, with ne'er a veil between,
Since I fell so deep in love with Jesus "The Nazarene."

Verse 2
"His face was fair as lilies white, a halo round his head,
While all around was black as night, their souls thro' sin were dead.
See his hands all bound with thongs, the thorn crown on his brow,
Hark! The Angels mournful song, "All heav'n in sorrow now."

Verse 3
"The angry mob cried out in wrath, "Crucify him now!"
And so he trod Golgotha's Path, The life blood on "His brow."
On on he trod and bear the Cross, But never made a moan
Weak and falling from the loss, of blood yet not a groan."

Verse 4
And when they nail'd him to the Cross, with cruel spikes and deep,
His face diviner grew to me, And I began to weep.
All His anguish quite forgot, I heard him gently pray:
"Father forgive, for they know not the wrong that they have done."

I must confess, I don't know the original tune, and I haven't yet heard the tune my Great Grandfather composed for it. I have however convinced my Mum that when my parents are over to visit at Christmas she will play the tune for me. How do we know the tune? Harold's granddaughter sent me these images via email:

They came with the following message:

"I think it is an appropriate song to remember Harold by as he never got over the love of God, the wonder of his salvation and he had a deep love for the Lord. It is a moving song and anything Harold played was moving and congregations would laugh, cry or worship depending on what Harold did on the piano as he sang. When you hear this song you can imagine the power of God at work when Harold ministered in music.

I remember hearing Harold (tenor) and Nance (alto) singing it. I also remember hearing David singing it. He had a lovely voice, as did all of them. I suppose you know the whole family sang song items together at services."

It has taken me a while to track down the origins of this song. I searched some of the books about old hymns from the 19th and early 20th century but couldn't turn anything up. Eventually however I found a site online that contained "The Weekly Evangel Issue 169, Dec 16th 1916." I believe this was a tract that was given out in the beginning of the Pentecostal movement to people and churches connected with it. In it is the story of Sarah Payne, a former song writer for 'the world' as she said herself. This was the first song she created after "Giving her life to Jesus." It was written within moments of this commitment and nearly burned to ashes a few days later. Fortunately for my Granddad and many many others, it wasn't.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Researching with interviews and photographs.

One of the first tips given to me as a want to be 'family historian' was to start with those that are still alive. I have never been more thankful! If you are familiar with my blog at all you will know that to date it mainly covers the story of my Grandma. The Grandma I never knew. Her name was Iris Davies nee Griffiths. This year I hope to start the story of my Grandpa, Idris Davies. The mini biography I have written was put together using interviews of family members; Ruth one of my Grandma's younger sisters, and Iris' three children. I am sure there are others out there that knew my Grandma but as of today they have not yet contacted me or returned questions about her life.

I remember when I started out asking my friend and avid genealogist Bill West how to best interview people. He hadn't been able to interview many family members himself but did give me a few tips such as showing the family member some photographs and seeing if that sparked any memories. For several months my Dad, Aunt and Uncle were instantly inundated with photographs and requests to Skype with me and share their thoughts. It was a great idea, thank you Bill! If you want to read more of his genealogy journey you can discover it at West in New England.

I knew that I had best make a record of all the interviews I conducted no matter how informal they might be so I created some word documents. The first one contained something like this:

House in Rhodesia 18 – Merthyn and his mum

Rhodeisa 17 – 4 Taylors Avenue, Morningside Umtali – sunken garden in front – use to fill up with rain in the rainy season and the ducks would swim in it.

Rhodeisa 16 – Car – Wendy with the Plymouth 1963 – Straight 6 Engine. Bill Mundell, Idris worked on it to get it fixed for Wendy to drive back and forth to work. Dad was messing around as they did. She worked at Eagles High School in the Vumba. It was about 30-45 minute drive from their house. [Can google it]

Eagles High School was the place the Elim missionaries were massacred in 1979 [Double check date of massacre]

Rhodesia15 – Idris downstairs bay window at 4 Taylors avenue
Idris built it! – google earth it

Rhodesia 12 Wendy at 4 Taylors Avenue

Rhodesia 11 – Idris and Iris at Kingsley Fairbridge Memorial – Christmas Pass Umtali

Rhodesia 10 – Flossy the Dog, Wendy and the other 2 women?

Rhodesia 13 – Chinky the cat 4 Taylors  avenue – bay window

Rhodeisa 9 January the house boy – serving tea or elvenses on Saturday morning

Rhodesia 8 – Idris, Iris, Glyn, someone else, January and Flossy

Rhodeisa 7 – Wendy, around 63? – Either just before or after going to England to study. 63 if after
Rhodesia 6 – Merthyn Davies on left – rest not sure?

Rhodeisa 4 – Iris and Glyn or Merthyn

Rhodesia 3 – 4 Taylors avenue Iris and Norton/ Or BSA Motorbike of Idris or Glyn?

Rhodesia 1 – NO idea

I essentially numbered all the photographs I had and made a summary of all the comments the person I was interviewing made. In later interviews I started recording them word for word. At first glance it doesn't seem like I received much information from them. However, I had an address for the house, the name of several people from many photographs and the name of a house cat and dog. I was fortunate that there were so many pictures to begin sparking the memories. I understand not all can have such fortuitous beginnings.

From here I was able to take specific photographs to specific people. So when I interviewed Glyn I first showed him the photographs that he might recognize and then I asked if he remembered who else was in them or what was going on at the time. Other questions followed:

1) Was this what life in Rhodesia was like?
2) Are there any stories connected with that motorbike? [Short answer - yes and they will come out in another blog post.]
3) Do you know the name of the tree or flowers? - And this led to a story about how much my Grandma loved gardening.

Here are the pictures I began my genealogy search with.

In the course of my questions and research I also discovered much more about Rhodesian/Zimbabwean history than I ever expected.

I can go on and on about this but I shan't. For now at least. There's more to come.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Family History Blogging - A Good Thing!

This weekend I received some priceless photographs. They are digitalized. They are not worth millions of dollars but they are priceless to me. Firstly, Gerald Griffiths emailed me some.

Who is Gerald Griffiths?

Gerald is the nephew of my Great Grandfather Harold Griffiths. I've never met him and until just a few weeks ago I didn't know he existed. I started this blog back in June 2012. I haven't been incredibly consistent due to other pressures, such as attempting to write a novel and Holidays etc.

But I kept the blog.

My Great Aunt Ruth Griffiths-Salmon connected me with Gerald. For many months Ruth had mentioned that we had extended family members who lived in Australia. Due to my blog, which Ruth has contributed to, my aunt knew that I would love to connect with Gerald. Gerald has published his own family history book in memory of his mother.

Without the blog Ruth and I may never have connected and the facebook conversations that are now so dear to me would not have taken place. Without the blog I would not have met Gerald over Facebook. I would not have connected with that side of the family at all.

Without the blog there would be no pictures from Gerald.

My Uncle Glyn and Aunt Norma have also been following my blog. They sent me pictures over the weekend as well. We met up with them over Christmas while my parents and brothers were in town. Norma mentioned the photographs of family that they kept and I asked for them. My Aunt, being the amazing lady that she is, has kindly begun to scan and send them to me via email.

Glyn and Norma know I love the family photographs because of the blog.

My friend Bill West is a proponent of publicly blogging the family research he discovers and the family tree. This is one of the reasons why I concur with him. It's important and it connects! There are exceptions. When I know that my blog will affect or concern those still alive I give them a chance to read the blog and make changes. They also have permission to ask me to edit any previous blog post that I've written if they notice changes that need to be made.

My Mum and Dad brought an envelope full of photographs and birth/death certificates when they visited me this past December. They said that I could keep them. They know I will look after them and that they are priceless to me. They know because despite living in Bulgaria, the best part of two continents and one ocean away; they read my blog.

The point is, blogging family history is a good thing.

And now to the grand finale; my photographs!

[Below my Great Grandfather Harold Griffiths and my great grandmother Annie Simpkins Griffiths]

[Below my Grandfather (Grampy) Idris Davies with my Grandmother (Grammy) Iris Davies and my Aunt Norma Davies]

[Below my Dad with my Grampy and Grammy Davies]

[Below my Grampy Idris Davies standing by the grave of Iris Davies. This is particularly dear to me because we did not think we had a picture of this and now here it is! Since both Idris and Iris were buried in Zimbabwe you can imagine the difficulty of getting back there at this time to search for their graves to take a photograph of it]

[Below my Great Grandfather Harold Griffiths is on the right. Then from left to right are: Ernest, Rees(Rhys) and Will.]

[Below - I believe this is Ernest, brother of Great Grandfather Harold]

[Below - I believe this is Morgan Griffiths, another of my Great Grandfather Harold's brothers and Gerald's father.]

[Below - Front left and right are my Great Great Grandfather Thomas Griffiths and his wife my Great Great Grandma Elizabeth Emanuel Griffiths. I believe Gerald said the man in the middle is Morgan on his wedding day. This photograph is another that is really important to me because I had begun to doubt I might find another picture of my Great Great Grandparents.]

These pictures will no doubt be presented again as I write about each of my ancestors in greater detail. I think this all goes to show, there are always family members or artifacts, or letters or photographs just waiting to be discovered.