Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ebbw Vale: Not Knowing Enough Beforehand

But still ending up in the right place. Maybe it's the deep mysteries of jumbled memory. And it could be the Spirit guiding through my confused ignorance.

There is never enough time. On the last day of opportunity in Wales, I wanted to visit Gwent Archives. I had already been through the indices online and I didn't think they had the documents that I would have liked to review. So, like the boy searching for the lost quarter under the street lamp because the light was better, I looked at some things in close proximity hoping they might give some hint I could follow. It still may be there in the notes I collected from handling original 1840s Vestry Minutes from the adjacent parish, but it may take a concerted effort with my cousin collaborators to sort anything out.

They were most friendly at the Archives. The friendliest yet. But then I was deep up in the industrial valleys of South Wales. The roads aren't too bad either, mostly modern winding around, over, and above most of the industrial tracks and villages of workers' houses tightly squeezed along the valleys, row upon row. The coal mines and iron foundries are gone. Some replaced by other industry. Some just incongruously flat land lying empty in the narrow valleys of mountains.

The guy who checked me in was a real Welsh kidder. Asking if I had a county readers card, I showed him the one I had obtained at the University Archives in Bangor. I'm pretty sure that it's good for all archives under the National Library of Wales, but he said, "Oh, we're not all as fancy as that!" So I signed some day authorization as I gave a general background of what I knew about my ancestors and the sources I've checked. "So, you've done your homework, you have." In response to newspaper accounts about arrests for "drunk and disorderly" he said, "So, you think they were Welshmen, do ya. Sure they weren't the Irish?" I said I was sure pointing out my surname again. He also asked if I was, "from Canada or America?" I didn't correct any geographical certainties thinking Canadians probably appreciate the distinction these days.

The Archives were in a Victorian building of some official stately nature. It is currently County offices but I need to check to see if its origins are offices of the Steel Works. There is a very modern building attached holding the actual archived documents. And there is a beautifully new educational center of a community college nature on the slopes of the mountain behind.

Gwent County Offices and Archives, Ebbw Vale
Modern Archive Storage
The local college behind the Archives
And an incline people-mover down the mountain side.
Driving up I had the vague idea I was in the area where my 3rd-Great-Grandpa had worked and my 2nd-Great, who came to America (the US not Canada) had been a young boy. I was not able to check it out until just early this morning and yes, I was in exactly that place. Their home is no longer existent. Likely cleared out as one of the worst rows for urban improvement. But it was just up the hill down past the college. I was home.

And looking towards Victoria, Ebbw Vale, where my 2nd Great Grandpa Vaughan lived with his parents.
His dad, a puddler at the forge.
The Ebbw Vale then and the street where they lived. Looking from the opposite direction of the picture above.
The Ebbw Vale sits at the transition zone near the top of the valleys where the foliage gives way to the moors where sheep abide. It's all green now. The poisonous air, sludge, fumes, dust, and waste all gone or covered by the green reasserting itself as Eden will triumph. And I'll be there again.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!