Sunday, December 14, 2014

Making Utah Connections - Thomas Evans Giles (1881-1959)

So, I was up in the music building at the University of Utah for my son's senior recital (which was very good, by the way), and standing outside the room was a portrait. Noting the name I said, "I know that guy's grandpa!"

That was a bit presumptuous on my part, so I did a quick check on Family Search - Family Tree. And . . . Yep! I was right.

Thomas Evans Giles was the son of  Henry Evans and Catherine Hughes Giles. Catherine was born in Wales in 1861. Henry, born 1859 in Utah, was the son of Thomas Davis and Hannah Evans Giles. Thomas, the grandfather, was born 1820 in Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, just over the Blorenge from where my ancestors lived in Llanfoist.

While I don't know Grandfather Giles personally, I feel like I do because I know my Welsh forebearers did. Elinor Vaughan's son-in-law, John Lewis (1822-1867), served in Conference and Branch Presidencies with Thomas Giles.

Thomas Giles was known as the "Blind Harpist" in Utah. Yeah, that guy! He came in the Bunker Handcart Company, 1856. Brigham Young gave him a harp so he could earn a living by performing. The harp is in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers (DUP) museum. I wonder if his grandson, music professor at the U, ever played it. I bet he did. The Welsh blood flows strong in the musical talent of Utah.

And there was my boy with the good Welsh name of Vaughn, carrying on the musical tradition. I wonder if the DUP will want his tuba one day?


  1. I love it when you know the past so well that you can make these connections -- the past seems "realer" when we recognize the same social ties that these people themselves knew ... if that makes any sense.

    1. Thanks! Yes, it makes perfect sense. I'm just a little bit like you knowing more and more Utahns from the 19th Century! Well, I guess I mean I'm getting all the Welshmen sorted out.


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