Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Emanuel Griffiths. Part 2

Part 1 can be read here. 

Ruth recalls that while ministering in Ireland their family would travel in a gospel caravan. They were quite poor and dependent on donations from others. Despite this, Harold was a Welshmen and he wanted his children born in Wales. They would travel back to Wales to give birth to each of their children. (1)

I am not certain of the exact year Harold returned from Ireland. The 1931 census covered England, Wales and Scotland, but not Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland had its own census in 1926. The British census was also destroyed so its details will forever be a secret. What I do know that is that during the early to mid 1930's renowned evangelist Edward Jeffrey's put on several evangelistic crusades across the Potteries and Liverpool. He requested that Harold join him as singer and pianist during these crusades. The Bethel Evangelistic Society was formed from this movement. Harold was a significant part of this. (2)

In a much earlier post I described one of the songs that Harold Griffiths wrote while part of these campaigns. As mentioned in part 1, he had a booming tenor and was a beautiful singer. The Bootle Times annual of 1935 mentions the affect of one of his songs and the Crusades in Liverpool.

“A foreman remarked that the men had never worked so well together as now; there was little blaspheming and the general topic of conversation was "the Tent." Men are heard singing at their work, "I fell in love with the Nazarene," and there is concord and a spirit of harmony where once there was cursing and swearing." (3)

As mentioned in my other blog, I am blessed to have a copy of the song sheet for "I fell in love with the Nazarene." 

Several people that attended the Liverpool "revival' and are still alive, left some feedback on the website about the impact this song had on them. 

Sally Wing says, "...during this meeting a song was sung which made such an impression on her that she remembers every word of this to this day, 71 years later: -

I fell in love with the Nazarene
The beautiful Nazarene
Whose face in glory was the light
The fairest I’ve ever seen
By his side I would abide
With never a veil between
Since I fell so deeply in love
With Jesus the Nazarene.

"The Rev. Richard Kays records “He remembers well the Bethel songs that were sung such as "Jesus is mighty to save" and "I fell in love with the Nazarene," which have lived with him for 70 years."

By 1934 they were definitely in Cheddleton, England. Their daughter Ruth recalls they lived in a Bungalow there when she was 5. Harold was both a strict and very loving father. He expected his children to do as they were told but he was also "as soft as a teddy bear." (4)

Ruth continued to recall that, "My Mum was always very placid,but a nice lady. Everyone respected them and they were very much loved in the church. People were always calling in with their troubles.We kids were sent out to play for my Dad to council them as it is called now. Mum would bake welsh cakes & we used to hope there would be some left for us."

Ruth also remembered that usually they were given a crust of bread with jam on it for their tea. (5) Times were hard and the family were very poor. One time Naomi didn't eat all of hers so they hid it under the flap of a tent that Harold had set up in the field at the back of their bungalow. They or friends would often set up tents for evangelistic church meetings. The next day Harold found it and came into the house asking who had wasted it. Naomi was often caught lying about such things and Harold ended up breaking it in half and making both Ruth and Naomi eat it because food should not be wasted. To this day Ruth insists it was "wet and vile."

Harold was often away from home because of work. Ministry still paid little so he would sell Christian books at a market stall and continue to work in the mines where he could. He used to keep cardboard in his shoes because there was a hole in the sole. None of his children went to high school because you had to pay for it in those days and the family could not afford it. They were taught to sing and play piano by Harold and Annie.

For transportation Harold had a little motorbike with a side car. One day he brought it home to take it apart and fix it. He then asked Annie to ride with him and test it out. Ruth was watching as they rounded a nearby corner and the side car came off, sending Annie one way and Harold the other. He had forgotten to screw the side car to the motorbike.  Fortunately neither were injured and were able to continue their ministry as the late 1930's approached. 

(1) Confirmed by interview with Harold's youngest daughter, Ruth Salmon.
(2) Several books and websites talk about the missions and life of Edward Jeffreys. Seminary and Masters of Divinity graduates have written many papers on him. There is not room here to talk about everything he did and I only mention him because I know that Harold worked a great deal with Edward Jeffreys. A summary of Edward Jeffrey's life and missions can be found here.  When Harold Griffiths died Edward Jeffreys wrote a letter of condolence as was noted in Redemption Tidings 1968 Volume 4, February edition. 
(3) Excerpts of this newspaper and others which talk about the Jeffrey's crusades in Liverpool can be read on a website dedicated to his remembrance.
(4) Confirmed by interview with Ruth Salmon in 2012. 
(5) To the Welsh and northern English the last meal of the day is called tea. To this day I still get confused looks from Americans when I ask what they're having for tea. The southern English call it 'dinner' and that, along with how to pronounce the word 'scones', can still be guaranteed a good 20 minutes argument if raised in conversation. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Life And Ministry Of Harold Emanuel Griffiths. Part 1

There is much about Harold's life that I don't know yet but there is much that I do. For instance, I don't have his birth certificate, but I do know a great deal about how many churches he pastored and where. As I start blogging about Harold it's good to remember that family history and genealogy is always about filling in the gaps. Some gaps will undoubtedly be filled as I continue my research, others may not.

He was born, as best as I can tell, around 1894(1). The son of Thomas and Elizabeth Griffiths. According to his marriage certificate(2) he became a miner, following in the footsteps of his father. He was given music lessons as a child. I don't know if this was through a Sunday school or neighbor, or whether it was paid for. They were not a well off family, being a family of miners so I don't expect that they paid for lessons. Due to being so musical Harold would also play(3) piano for the silent movies at the local theatre. This brought in some more income when he was younger.

On July 31st 1911 he married Annie Simpkins at St. Paul's church in Cwmtillery, in the presence of James Simpkins and Emma James.

Between 1914 and 1918 he saw service during World War 1. Whether he was conscripted or volunteered I do not know but he served in the British Navy. (5) When he returned his wife Annie had become a Christian. I believe this was through believers who were converted during the Welsh Revival of the early 20th century. I make this assumption because Harold converted some time after and became a Pentecostal minister. The Pentecostal church was birthed primarily from the Welsh Revival. I don't have any other details about his conversion but his daughter Ruth assumes he must have started going to the local chapel with Annie. You can tell about what time he converted by studying the family tree. After he became a Christian his children were named after people in the bible. His children Steven, Thomas, David, Ruth and Naiomi were all those named after people in the bible. So it was after 1916. 

After his conversion he still worked as a miner but he also became a minister. As with most pentecostal ministers from the early to mid 20th century, a second job was necessary to pay the bills.

The early Pentecostal magazine, Redemptions Tidings records some of Harold's earlier ministry in 1927.

The pertinent information from this article which records a Revival meeting in Ystrad, Rhondda is "Revival meetings were held at Mount Zion Church, Ystrad on March 12th to 21st. The speaker was Bro. W. Lewis, Cross Keys, assisted at the weekend by Bro. Harold Griffiths, Blackwood, who sang the gospel."(6)

It took me a while to make sure this was my great grandfather Harold Griffiths but all the facts fit. First I confirmed with some of my own family members who remember stories of the Griffiths doing ministry with the Davies. My great great uncle David John Davies and his with Julia were pastors at Mount Zion Church in Ystrad during this period. I then spoke with Ruth, Harold's daughter and she confirmed that Iris had told her our two families sometimes did ministry together before she was born. I also found out that Harold's parents and several of his brothers lived in Blackwood during the 30's. They probably lived there during the 20's and it makes sense that Harold did as well before he moved. I know he was a gospel singer and a minister so it all seems to fit.

Later in the year Redemption Tidings records a mission that Harold was a part of. It is found under a section on the work of the church in South Wales and Monmouthshire.

"Many strangers came to the meetings in the chapel and what a surprise they had. Instead of seeing the ridiculous things that people sad was in our meetings they found a band of young men and women praising and worshipping God, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at the might power of God. Bro. Harold Griffiths, Blackwood, rendered valuable assistance at the organ. He also sang at each service, which was an added interest to the mission. - T. J. English." (7)

There is one last recorded detail from 1927 before Redemption Tidings goes silent for a decade on the ministry of Harold. In a future post I will explain what he was doing during that decade.

It reads, "Christmas Convention in ROCKFIELD ST, ASSEMBLY, NEWPORT, MON DEC 25th - 28th (inclusive.) Speakers:- Mr Geo. Vale, Mr. Howell Harrison, Miss Philpotts, Mr. H. Griffiths, Gospel Soloist. Applications for apartments to Mr. A. J. Campbell, 65, Corelli Street, Newport." (8)

Christmas Day and Boxing Day (25th-26th) were public holidays in England so evidently it was a good time for a convention with most people being able to secure that time off work. This ones looks to be attended by people outside of the local area as there is a contact person for those seeking apartments to stay in. Often these apartments were at the house of those residents who were also church goers in the area.

These articles provide a small glimpse into some of the ministry of Harold E. Griffiths. There are many more to look at later in this life. Lastly I would like to another short paragraph about what happened next.

After 1927 he left to minister in Ireland for a few years at the request of some Pentecostal evangelists. With much of Ireland being catholic there was some conflict and there is an interesting story passed along in the family of one such incident. (9) Harold was a church planter and often a street preacher. He would preach on the streets of Ireland. Sometimes the Catholic population would become angry at his preaching and begin to threaten him. Harold was also a gospel singer, and the Irish love their song. When the crowd became angry he would start to sing. He became quite famous amongst churches for his rich tenor voice and often sang for renowned evangelists. In this instance it is said that the crowd would begin to break down crying at the sound of his voice and all violence and anger would leave them.

Whether you believe God's ability to change a hostile situation or not, Harold could be extremely charismatic and from everything I have learned there is no doubt in my mind he had the ability to win people over.
(1) According to the 1911 census. His daughter Ruth records that it was September 1895 or 1894.
(2) The marriage certificate is in my possession and has been transcribed in a previous post. The certificate lists his profession as collier. 

(3) (5) Information came courtesy of an informal interview with his daughter Ruth Salmon.
(6) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 3 May 1927

(7) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 3 Nov 1927
(8) Taken from Redemption Tidings Vol 3 Dec 1927
(9) This story is recorded in an interview with one of Harold's grand children.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Death of Julia Edith Gwynne

In my last post I traced Julia and her new husband's path to America. Due to world war 2 they were not finally together again until 1947. An accounting of her earlier life and role in the early Pentecostal movement within the United Kingdom can also be found.

I assume that Julia and her new husband George settled somewhere near 232 Chestnut Street. Kingston. PA. This is what George listed as his address in 1939 upon reentry to the United States.

On October 19th 1961 the Department of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued a death certificate for Julia Edith Gwynne.

Death Occurred In: Clarks Summit State Hospital Lackawana, Newton Twp(1), PA.
Deceased's Mailing Address: 90 Belmont Street, Carbondale, PA
Name Of Deceased: Julia Edith Gwynne
Date Of Death: October 19th 1961
Where Did Deceased Actually Live?: Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania
Did Deceased Live In A Township?: No, deceased lived within actual limits of Carbondale city or borough.
Sex: F
Color Or Race: W
Married: Yes
Date of Birth: 6/10/1880
AGE (In years last birthday): 81
Usual Occupation: H'wife
Social Security Number: None
Birthplace: South Wales
Citizen Of What Country: Wales
Full Name Of Spouse: George E. Gwynne
Mother's Maiden Name: Not known
Father's Name: Enos Davis
Informant's Name And Address: 90 Belmont Street, Carbondale, Pennsylvania, George E. Gwynne
Death was caused by - Immediate Cause: Broncho Pneumonia (Right)
Arteriosclerosis (generalized)(2)Was Autopsy Performed: Yes
I hereby certify that I attended the above named deceased and that death occurred from the causes and on the date stated above at 5:15am E.S.T.
Signature: Ben Kline, MD
Clarks Summit State Hospital
Date Signed: 10/19/61
Date: 10/21/1961
Name Of Cemetery: Maplewood
Location: Carbondale, Lackawanna, PA.
Date Received By Reg: 10/21/1961
Registrar's Signature: Alyce Burke

So what did I learn from this? Quite a few things which are really useful.

1. I have an address of where they lived together in Pennsylvannia. This will allow me and others in the future to continue research based on census' etc. when they are released. It also means I can do a google search and see if the house or complex is still standing.

2. Julia lived for 81 years. In some ways this means more because I know that she and George had a good portion of life together after World War 2 threatened to keep them apart.

3. We know that George was still alive at the time of Julia's death. I also have his death certificate.

4. We know how she died. Bronchial Pneumonia. I assume that the word "Right" written after this cause means it was in the right lung, but I am not positive.

5. We know the cemetery Julia was buried in. I haven't done a thorough search for this yet, but I am hopeful that I may be able to locate the graves. It certainly is a lot more information to go on that I have even for some of my direct ancestors.

So there we have it. The death of Julia Edith Gwynne.

(1) Twp stands for Township.
(2) Thickening of the arteries, preventing strong blood flow.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Whatever Happened To Julia Edith Davies?

I have written a little about the earlier part of Julia's life and her contribution to women in church leadership here. After 1937 she disappeared from all the church records I could find. A few conversations with an extended family member, Roy Davies, and several record searches later I have been able to piece together a little of what happened after this date.

To begin with let me just say that in relation to earlier posts, I don't yet have David John Davies and Julia Edith's marriage record, but I have located them in the index.

Title of Index: England and Wales Marriage Registration Index
Event: Marriage
Registration Quarter: April - May - June
Registration Year: 1905
Registration District: Merthyr Tydfil
County: Glamorganshire
Event Place: Merthyr Tyfil, Glamorganshire, Wales
Volume: 11A
Page: 1197
Line Number: 64

All of the facts fit so I look forward to ordering this in the future and transcribing the full document. 

But what happened to Julia later in life, after she led the church at Ystrad in the 1930's?

I was tipped off by Roy that Julia remarried in 1939 to George E. Gwynne. Again, I do not have the full record, but I have located it. I will also transcribe this fully when I have sent off and received it back.

Title of Index: England and Wales Marriage Registration Index
Event: Marriage
Registration Quarter: April - May - June
Registration Year: 1939
Registration District: Pontypridd
County: Glamorganshire
Event Place: Pontypridd, Glamorganshire, Wales
Volume: 11A
Page: 1246
Line Number: 109

I am not sure why this was in Pontypridd. What I do know is that George had lived in Wales, but moved to Pennsylvania, U.S.A. He must have returned to Wales in the late 1930's. After they married he returned to Pennsylvania. He was already a naturalised citizen. The plan was for Julia to join him later that year. Roy told me George had travelled on the Queen Mary and with that information I was able to find a copy of George Gwynne's port of entry papers for this journey back to America.

Here's a brief transcription of the pertinent information:

List of United States Citizens for the immigration authorities.
S.S. Queen Mary sailing from Southampton, 14th June, 1939. Arriving at Port of New York 19th June 1939

Family Name: Gwynne.
Given Name: George E.
Age: 58
Sex: Male
Married or Single: W (Which I think means widowed.)
If native of United States insular possession Or if native of United States, give date and place of birth (City or Town and State): 614568 
If naturalized, give name and location of court which issued naturalization papers, and date of papers: Comm. Pleas. Court. Wilkes Barre. PA. 22 April 1938
Address In United States: 232 Chestnut Street. Kingston. PA.

Points of note:
Firstly, I believe the W in Married or Single stands for widowed, but I am unsure why they wouldn't put married since he had married Julia by this point. Perhaps because he is widowed from an American citizen? I need to look into this more. All the other facts fit perfectly so I am quite sure it is the right George.

Secondly, I believe the numbers given on the question about being native of the United States are something like an alien resident number. I need to do some research to find out if this is the case but it seems likely.

The third point is that the "Comm.Please.Court" short hand I believe refers to the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. I am not sure if this was or is a regular place for immigration papers to be issued. I will need to do more research on that aspect.

Finally, his address in the United States gives me something to research further in the future, although it is Julia I am most interested in. It is not surprising to find him living in Pennsylvania, many Welsh people moved to Pennsylvania either temporarily or permanently to look for jobs in the mining industry or working with slate. I have other direct ancestors who did this.

So let's move on to Julia's move to the United States.

S.S. Mauretania. Passengers traveling from Southampton, October 14th 1947.
No. On List: 16
Family Name: Gwynne
Given Name: Julia
Age: 66
Sex: Female
Married or single: M
Calling or occupation: H'wife
Able to Read: Yes
Able to read what language (Or if exemption claimed on what ground.): English
Nationality (Country of which citizen or subject): Britain
Race or people: Welsh
Place of birth (Country): Wales
City or town, State, Province or District: Penrhyw (1)
Immigration Visa, Passport Visa, or Reentry Permit Number (Prefix number with QIV, NQIV, PV or RP and give section of act involved: Sec 5 6A (3) Div 33359
Place: London
Issued: 17th June 1947
Data concerning verification of landing etc. (This column for use of Government officials only.) Blank
Last Permanent Residence Country: Wales
City or Town, State, Province or District: Yrstrad, Rhondda

Points of note:

Firstly, the obvious reason for why there is such a vast difference in time of arrival between George and Julia is that shortly after George arrived in the U.S.A. war broke out between Britain and Germany. World War 2 did not end until 1945. I am sure Julia went to George just as soon as she was able.

Secondly, Julia noted that she could read English. I don't know if a test was done upon entering port or whether this was self declaration. I know many people in Wales of Julia's age could not read English but as a bible teacher and preacher I have no doubt that Julia could indeed read. It is interesting to me that there was no mention of Welsh. Living in the Rhondda and preaching at Ystrad Julia could most definitely speak it. Indeed, all of my grandfathers side of the family could speak it. It drove my grandma up the wall because she could not.

Thirdly, I don't know what the reference numbers and index in the immigration visa question mean. I may be able to find out with a little more research.

Finally, at present there is only one other bit of documentation I have about Julia and that is her death certificate. She lived a good long life and she and George were still able to spend some good years together. I will transcribe their death certificates in a future post.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Reference to "Y Delyn Aur" by Price and Annie Davies

In my last blog I shared the translation and transcription found upon the headstone of Price and Annie Davies' grave. 

It finished with an almost hauntingly beautiful phrase, "Byth Ar Swn Y Delyn Aur", which in English means, "Ever to the sound of the golden harp."
It was a reference to a welsh hymn they both loved. The words are available in several places online. 
In welsh they are: 

"Dechreu canu, dechreu canmol -
Ym mhen mil o filoedd maith -
Iesu, bydd y pererinion
Ni cheir diwedd Hyfryd draw ar ben eu taith;
Melus fydd y fwyn gyfeillach Byth ar sŵn y delyn aur. 

Yn y pur ogoniant maith,
Melus meddwlMelus fydd cydganu'r anthem 
O'r un ysbryd o'r un iaith;
Sut y dringodd eiddil, gwan Na fydd raid ymadael mwy.

Yno caf fi ddweud yr hanes 
Drwy afonydd a thros greigiau
drwy eitha'r nef. 
Dyrys, anial, serth i'r lan; 
 Iesu ei hunan Gaiff y clod 

Nid oes yno ddiwedd canu,
Canmol Duw yn nhŷ fy Nhad. 
Nid oes yno ddiwedd clod, Nid oes yno ddiwedd cofio Pob cystuddiau a fu'n bod; 
Byth ni dderfydd

- - - - -

Dechreu canu, dechreu canmol
Yn mhen myrdd o oesoedd maithY bydd pawb o'r gwaredigion
'R ochor draw ar ben eu taith; Ni bydd diwedd, Byth ar sŵn y delyn aur.
Hyn fydd gwaith yr hyfryd wlad,Ni bydd yno dywallt dagrau: Cofio'r groes, a grym y cariad,
Tynion dannau'r delyn aur! A chlodfori am y gwaed:
Byth ni threulia,

- - - - -

Dechreu canu, dechreu canmol,
Yn mhen mil o filoedd maith,Iesu bydd y gwaredigion
Ni bydd diwedd, Hyfryd draw ar ben eu taith;
Bydd ein croesau wedi darfod Byth ar swn y delyn aur.
Ar ei orsedd ddisglaer bur; Draw ar fryniau'r nefol dir; Pan gawn weled ei ogoniant
Dewch at Iesu, dewch yr awr'on, Ni bydd diwedd, Byth ar swn y delyn aur. Mae yn galw arnoch chwi,
Byth ar swn y delyn aur.I ymuno gyda'r dyrfa Sydd yn canu'r anthem fry;
Ni bydd diwedd,

In English 

Singing starts, extolling starts

At the head of a thousand vast thousands
Jesus, the pilgrims will be
Pleasant yonder at the end of their journey;
There will be no end Ever to the sound of the golden harp.
Sweet it will be to sing together the anthem
Sweet will be the gentle friendship In the pure, vast glory,
There will be no need to leave again.
From the one spirit from the one language; Sweet to think There I may tell the story
Jesus himself
How he climbed, feeble, weak, Through rivers, and over the rocks Tricky, wild and steep to the goal;
There is there no end to praise,
Will have the praise through the highest heaven. There is there no end to singing,
The praise-song of God in my Father's house.
There is there no end to remembering All the afflictions which have been; Never will end - - - - -

Singing starts, extolling starts

At the head of a myriad of vast ages
All of the delivered will be
On the far side at the end of their journey;
There will be no end Ever to the sound of the golden harp.
This will be the work of the delightful land,
There will be no shedding of tears: Remembering the cross, and the power of the love,
The taut strings of the golden harp!
And offering praise for the blood:
Never wear out, will

- - - - -
Singing starts, extolling starts,

At the head of a thousand of vast thousands,
Jesus shall be of the delivered ones
There shall be no end,
Delightful yonder at the end of his journey;
Yonder on the hills of the heavenly land;
Ever to the sound of the golden harp. Our cross shall have vanished
Every to the sound of the golden harp.
When we get to see his glory On his pure, shining throne; There shall be no end,
Who are singing the anthem above;
Come ye to Jesus, come ye this hour, He is calling upon you, To join with the throng There shall be no end,
Ever to the sound of the golden harp.


No one seems to know the origins of the tune and it seems the tune itself was not officially published until 1879, but the song is definitely much older than this. I believe the 1879 version was by Ann Griffiths, but William Williams Pantycelyn was a non conformist minister, writer and composer from the 1700's who penned the words.

Youtube has a harpist playing the song.There is also a version of the hymn sung by Hywe Girls Choir and Hywel boys singers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Gravestones of Price and Annie Davies

My first cousin once removed recently made a trip to Wales and upon request he stopped by the graveyard of Price and Annie Davies to take a picture for me. These are one set of my great grandparents. I had previously tried to find them through find a grave but had no luck. He said next time he made the trip he would happily accomodate my request.

Since he knows Welsh he also kindly translated the inscriptions. The original inscription reads:

"Er Serchus Cof Am
Annie Davies
Annwyl Briod
Price Davies, Cynt o Dowlais Top
Bu Farw 6 Chwefror 1961
Yn 78 Mlwydd Oed
Hefyd Am y Dywededig
Price Davies
Bu Farw 15 Mai 1966
Yn 84 Mlwydd Oed
"Byth Ar Swn Y Delyn Aur."
He informed me that the literal translation is:

"In Loving Memory Of
Annie Davies
Beloved Spouse of
Price Davies, Formerly of Dowlais Top
Died 6 February 1961
At 78 Years Old
Also of the Aforesaid
Price Davies
Died 15 May 1966
At 84 Years Old.

"Ever to the Sound of the Golden Harp."

This relative, Roy, always sends me helpful links to explain references as well. He let me know that "the last line is from a Welsh hymn "Y Delyn Aur" (the Golden Harp) by Ann Griffiths. Her name was almost the same as Annie's before her marriage - Annie Griffiths."
I will share the hymn and some history behind it in another post. I can now add these to the gravestones I have for one set of my great grandparents on my mothers side. I blogged about them here.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Marriage Of Harold And Annie

I promised my great aunt Ruth that I would transcribe Harold and Annie's marriage certificate. So here it is. I originally sent off for this record 5 or 6 years ago so I'm happy to finally put it in blog format.

Date: 1911
Marriage Solemnized at: St. Paul's Church, Cwmtillery in the Parish of Abertillery, in the county of Monmouth.
Number: 136
When Married: July 31st 1911

Name and Surname: Harold Griffiths.
Age: 19
Condition: Bachelor
Rank Or Profession: Collier
Residence At Time Of Marriage: 55 Powell Street, Abertillery
Father's Name And Surname: Thomas Griffiths
Rank Or Profession Of Father: Collier

Name And Surname: Annie Simpkins
Age: 19
Condition: Spinster
Rank Or Profession: Blank
Residence At Time Of Marriage: 11 Earl Street, Abertillery
Father's Name And Surname: John Simpkins
Rank Or Profession Of Father: Collier

Married in the Church Of St. Paul according to the rites and ceremonies of the established church
on after Banns by me.

This marriage was solemnized between us, Harold Griffiths, Annie Simpkins, in the presence of James John Simpkins, Emma James.

D.O Loyd Williams Officiating Priest.


There's a couple of things to note about the information in this marriage certificate.

1. Cwmtillery had the church of St Paul built in 1890 and it was not opened for worship until 1891, so it was relatively new at the time of the wedding.

2. Cwmtillery was considered a very beautiful place before the coal mining industry became the prominent player in the local economy. According to Wikipedia and local sources there were 4 explosions within the mine its self. The mines closed in the late 1900's and the town is quickly reverting back to a place of beauty.

3. At present I am not sure if the two witnesses James John Simpkins and Emma James are both family members. James John could be Annie's father also listed as John Simpkins in this certificate. He could also be a brother, I need to do a little research. The 1901 census shows a Jas John Simpkins as Annie's brother. It's possible Jas is James. Annie's mother was named Elizabeth, so Emma could be a wife of a sibling, or she could just be a friend.

4. The ages on this marriage certificate are 19 for both. However, I currently have Harold born in 94 and Annie born in 96. The 1901 census has Harold's age as about 6 so I am fairly confident he was born around 94. Annie Simpkins is also listed as 16 in the 1911 census. This would make them 17 and 15/16 respectively. Until the Age of Marriage Act in 1929 the age of marriage for males was 14 and for females was 12. Either I have their birth dates wrong, or they lied about their age on the marriage certificate.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pushing Open Doors

I haven't blogged in about 10 days. I haven't had a lot of time, but I've been busy behind the scenes. My Uncle Michael sent through information on my Grandad's funeral. I was unable to make it back to England to attend so I read the list of those present with great interest. At the bottom it mentioned members of Haverstoe Bowling club. I remember watching my Grandad play bowls when I was younger. I ran a google search but couldn't find anything about it. At the last minute I decided to contact the Grimsby bowling club. My Grandad lived in Cleethorpes, which is right next door to Grimsby where I was raised.

The manager of the club said that Haverstoe bowling club had closed but that he knew some of the ex members. I explained that I was looking to see if anyone remembered my Grandad and could tell me a little more about his experiences at the club playing bowls. I had heard once that a trophy was named after him. To cut a long story short, through a series of conversations the Grimsby manager was able to contact an elderly member of Haverstoe who remembered my Grandad. I received this email earlier in the week.

"I've seen the Haverstoe people again. They have a member called Mr Alderson who knew your grandfather well. He's going to compile a report and either send it to you direct or via me."

I am currently looking forward to receiving this report. 

All of this started with me sending out a questionnaire to my family. Here's a copy.

General Information

Name of person answering:

Relation to ancestor:

Name of Ancestor:

Name of ancestors parents and siblings:

General Facts

Birth Date:


Date of death:

Physical appearance


Hair colour:

Eye colour:

Anything else distinctive?


What was their favourite food?

What was their favourite pastime? (Do you remember anything significant about this.)

What did they like to read (If anything)?

What is your favourite memory of them, when did it happen?

What are some things you did together and when?

Can you share one funny story?

Can you share one serious story? 

What was your favourite thing about them?


Do you have any photographs of them or memorabilia you can send back?

I have received a lot of other information with more on the way. Birth certificates, death certificates, photographs I had never seen before. All this to say, I've not been idle while not blogging, but I am also awaiting some information on my other grandfather, Idris before attempting to blog about the end of his life story. My questionnaire template can be modified if I think of other questions but I like the way this jogs people's memories and I've found it really useful in finding out more about family I knew and family I never met. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Julia Edith Davies' Contribution To Women In Church Leadership

Julia Edith Davies. According to my first cousin once removed she was born 9th June 1890, in Manordeifi, Pembrokeshire, Wales. 

Married in Merthyr Tydfil, 11th June 1905 to my great great uncle David John Davies. 

Sometime between 1911 and 1917 they began leading a church together. At that time it was in the Ystrad, Rhondda and they met at a Baptist Chapel. Today it is called Mount Zion Pentecostal Church and has moved to Gelli but is still in the Rhondda Valley.

Whether or not Julia Edith preached earlier than 1926 is not known for sure, but she was definitely preaching at the church by the period of the late 1920's. 

Article in 1926 July edition of Redemption Tidings (The official magazine of the Assemblies of God, Great Britain.) 

The above article was written in July 1926 by Julia's husband. The first paragraph is of note. It reads:

"I am taking the pleasure of writing to you a brief account of our Whitsuntide Convention. Although owing to the present coal crisis[1], we had to cancel our expected speakers, yet we carried the meetings on locally, the other Assemblies rallying with us, and from beginning to end the Lord caused his face to shine upon us. Those who ministered the word were Bro. Dan John, Clydach Vale; J Crew, Tumble; Miss A. Meredith, Treorchy; Mrs. E. Davies, Ystrad."

What conclusions to draw from this? Firstly, at least some and perhaps all of these, were not the intended speakers for the convention, but the general strike made it impossible for the original speakers to make it to the Rhondda and the church in Ystrad.

Secondly, Julia Edith is referred to here as Mrs. E. Davies. This was not unusual. She often went by Mrs. J. E. Davies and Mrs. E. Davies. 

Thirdly, there was more than one woman speaker at this convention. Miss A. Meredith also spoke. 

Later in 1926 both Mr. and Mrs. Davies traveled for an evangelistic campaign in Ramsgate.

Article from the 1926 Oct edition of Redemption Tidings

In this case it's a simple announcement that "This Assembly, too, is having a Special Gospel Campaign during September-October, when they expect Mr. and Mrs. Davies, of Ystrad, Wales, for a Soul-saving Campaign." 

It's not definitive proof that she preached, but it was not unusual for her to do so. Another article from Redemption Tidings in June of 1929 is recalling a miraculous healing that one of the congregation experienced. The full article is provided here.

Article in 1929 June edition of Redemption Tidings
I won't transcribe the entire article, but the bit in question is a paragraph in the middle which reads;

"I went to our mission at Ystrad, where I was a member, and that night our dear sister Mrs. Davies (the pastor's wife), was delivering a message from the Word of God. She said how we people believed in God for everything, yet when we were taken ill we run for the doctor.[2] I was drinking in every word she was saying." 

Julia. E. Davies was a preacher, and in the early days of the Pentecostal movement it seemed that no one batted an eyelid. 

Julia's husband died in 1931. Julia herself was sick when his death occurred and the church initially called David John's brother to lead them for a few months. I've written about this here.[3]

When Julia recovered from her sickness she took over the leading of the church. 

Article in the February 1934 edition of Redemption Tidings
"Time has passed since the homecall of our late pastor, Mr. D. J. Davies of the Ystrad Assembly, to be with Christ, but we can truly say that the Lord has been very faithful in watching over His flock and providing for them another leader, viz, our late Pastor's wife, Mrs. J. E. Davies.
The Lord has granted times of refreshing in our midst; souls have been saved, many of whom have received the Holy Ghost, and many bodies have been healed, Hallelujah."

The 1935 listing of the Assemblies of God churches in Great Britain list Julia Edith Davies as the official leader of the church in Ystrad. 

1935 Jan Redemption Tidings listing of Assemblies of God Churches, Great Britain and their leaders.
This is just the lower half of the listings, but you can see Mrs. E. Davies listed in the bottom right hand corner next to the Ystrad church. She wasn't the only woman leader in the listing. Miss N. Shearman leads in Gloucester, and Miss J. Curtis in Hull.

Price Davies (Julia's brother in law) records in his memoir that there were 700 people sometimes in the congregation at Ystrad[3], which met at the Nebo Baptist Church until the Mount Zion church building was built. This wasn't a woman leader in some church of 20-30 congregants tucked away in the middle of nowhere. The Assemblies of God church in Ystrad was significant. David John (Her deceased husband) was the former secretary of the Assemblies of God in Wales and a member of the national executive board that led the Assemblies of God in its early days in Great Britain. 

I see Julia Edith Davies as a pioneer of women in leadership within the church. 

[1] Unlike the same time period of time within the United States, there was no roaring 20's in Britain and the 1920's were a time of social upheaval and strikes. The 3rd May 1926 to the 13th may 1926 was a General Strike where none of the coal miners worked and non essential railways shut down. Any visiting speakers from outside of the Rhondda would have been unable to visit during this period. This article is written in July 1926 but it is about the May Whitsuntide Convention which would have been affected by this. 

[2] To my knowledge neither Julia Edith Davies nor her husband David John Davies believed it was wrong to visit a doctor. They did however believe in divine healing and often preached on such. The denomination of which they were a part, the Assemblies of God, also believes in divine healing. The denomination does not believe in avoiding doctors and believe that God uses doctors to bring about healing. While this is the teaching of the church, the lady writing the article, a Mrs. Chinn, obviously decided that in her current case of cancer there was nothing more the doctor could do and so she would trust in divine healing instead. 

[3] I am fortunate that my Great Grandfather Price Davies recorded his own memoirs of his involvement in the birth of the pentecostal movement in Great Britain. Mentioned within them is his time at Ystrad assembly in the Rhondda Valley. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

New Photographic Discoveries: Great Uncle, David John Davies

Following on from yesterday, today I take a look at all the photographs I gained of David John Davies my great uncle. Not to be confused with David John Davies my great great uncle. The younger one was named after the older by his father, Price Davies.

Until I researched Redemption Tidings I had the following pictures of David John.

David John (Left), Glyndwr (Center) Idris (Right) Date: Circa 1940

David John and his father Price Davies. Date: Unknown

I am now able to add the following photographs to those two.

David John (Front row, second from left) 1938

Not a picture of him obviously :) But a church he pastored in Donington, U.K. 1955

David John first man on the right. 1957

David John (Second from left) and wife Elizabeth receiving flowers. 1959

David John. Man in glasses at the back. 1959

David John, third from left. 1959

David John, first on the left. Baptismal event. 1960

David John, second from right. 1965

David John, front left. 1967

David John, front left. 1971
I feel fortunate to have pictures from his younger years and older years. There are many stories behind them, but I'm still piecing those together. 


Pictures used with permission of David Gee foundation and AOG U.K

Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Photographic Discoveries of Great Grandfather Harold E Griffiths

Early last week I dived into researching the old Redemption Tidings of the Assemblies of God, Great Britain. I did not expect to discover anything more than some history on my great great uncle, D J Davies. Instead, I found a treasure trove of history as I discovered many more details about my families involvement in the early history of the Pentecostal movement in Great Britain, particularly as it pertained to the establishment of the Assemblies of God denomination. Amidst the magazines there were several photographs of varying degrees of quality.

Here's the photographs I discovered of my great grandfather Harold E Griffiths. All photographs are used with permission of the Donald Gee Foundation and the Assemblies of God in Great Britain. 

Harold E Griffiths, first left on the front row. 1947

Harold E Griffiths, front center, fourth from the left. 1950. His brother Rhys Griffiths is at the door. 

Harold E Griffiths. 4th from the right at the back. Next to the door. 1953

Harold Griffiths, center - playing the piano accordion. 1953

Harold E Griffiths at the very back - Prestatyn. 1967 

The stories behind the photographs will have to wait for a future blog post. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"The Grandfather I Never Knew" Part 8

Another significant event that occurred early in the 1950s was an accident that happened to Idris. He worked for a company in Palmerston that sold mechanized machinery. One day he was operating a crane and attempted to lift something with it that was too heavy. The crane crashed over and Idris was admitted to hospital. This event caused the ulcer that prevented him from eating much of his favourite foods all the time and triggered the rest periods he sometimes took during the building of the house in Umtali.

Despite this unfortunate event he was known to call for English pancakes (Crepes) on his own and other people's birthdays. He would also drink a lot of milk on these occasions. It wasn't always the best idea due to the stomach ulcers he suffered with but it seems he had a bit of a sweet tooth. Welsh rice pudding was also a favourite of his, as was custard pie. He would often try and sneak a Fanta or Vanilla milkshake as well. On occasion he would take the family out after church on a Sunday and buy one slab of vanilla ice cream for desert. Eating ice cream together as a family was a treat I also enjoyed growing up, so Idris must have passed it along to my dad, Merthyn.  One of Idris' favourite main meals was fricadles, which is a type of meatball. 

In the early 60's Idris' eldest child, Wendy, was married in Cheltenham 1964. Idris and Iris were unable to make the wedding. Idris had to console Iris who was upset over it, but they were able to make the local newspapers with their international call to their daughter on her wedding day.[1] 

Their eldest son, Glyn, went off to bible college in the United States. (66-69) Their daughter Wendy had already left in the 50's to join Cardiff College of music. Before leaving, Glyn brought Norma to visit the family, and early in 1966 they were married. Idris never knew quite how to respond to Norma but his wife exclaimed on the first night, "Glyn, you must marry this girl." 

Idris and Iris with Glyn and Norma in Bulawayo
Despite the long distances and expensive rate of international phone calls, Idris must have been in touch with his brothers about the wedding of his son because his older brother David John Davies[2] posted a congratulations in the weekly Assemblies of God magazine, Redemptions Tidings.

Posted in the 1966 March edition of Redemption Tidings
It's possible the communication was through letters; Iris' sister Ruth would often contact them in this way. 

One of Idris' hobbies was reading westerns. Both Glyn and Merthyn would borrow these books from him and read along. He particularly enjoyed Louis L’Amore and Zane Grey. Perhaps the Louis L'Amore appealed to him as he added historical details and wrote about a family leaving England to travel to the United States and set up a home there. Much as he left to set up a home in Southern Rhodesia. Idris would mainly find the time to read on holiday and would then devour these books. He also introduced his son Merthyn to the Hardy Boys.

As far as holidays were concerned there were a few primary locations. While they lived in Umtali they traveled often to Biera in Mozambique and later when they had moved to the west they often went down to South Africa and Amazimtoti. Glyn and Norma, when they returned from America, sometimes went with them. 

While on holiday Idris would go swimming with his youngest son, Merthyn. One time when visiting Biera, his son taught him to body surf. In a form of tubing they would go out into the sea and then catch the waves, holding on to a tube and running the wave back towards the shore. While doing this Idris was knocked over, and so his son taught him to body surf to land so he wouldn't have to swim the entire way. 

Once they moved to Bulawayo it took much longer to reach Biera so they would travel to Hot Springs[3] instead, a place where people still relax today in the heated pools of water, waterfalls, lakes and geysers that spring up from the ground. 

[1] Wendy remembers reading about the phone calls being in the local paper but to date I have been unable to locate the actual articles. 

[2] Idris' older brother David John Davies was named after Idris' uncle who died suddenly in 1931 from Pneumonia.

[3] Nyanyadzi Hot Springs are still known as a tourist attraction in Zimbabwe today. One tourist describes it this way in the online magazine "All Africa."  "Recently I visited Nyanyadzi Hot Springs in Manicaland. At the centre of the breathtaking Eastern Highlands geomorphology dominated by craggy mountains, tour filled lakes, sparkling rivers, spectacular waterfalls, glorious forests, rolling moorlands and dramatic gorges lies a hot spring with water at boiling point, that villagers believe is boiled by mermaids."

Much information for this blog post comes from a series of interviews with Glyn Davies, Norma Davies, Merthyn Davies and Wendy Thomas.