PENRHYN CANOL FAMILY

People know me as Griff Pencaera; because I was brought up on Pencaerau Farm. I moved there with my Mother and sister Jennie to live with my maternal grandparents and Uncle John as a two year old when my Father died at the age of 44 in 1937. We moved there from Penrhyn Mawr where I was born, next door to Penrhyn Canol where my Father was born, so from one side of the family I’m a member of the Penrhyn Canol family.

Taid (grandfather) and Nain (grandmother), William Robert (1850 – 1935) and Jane Catherine (1854-1936) had four children. In order of birth, Robert (1885); Ann (1887); Evan(1889) and my father Abram (1893).

Taid was a carpenter and worked on building the stage at Porth Ysgo for shipping manganese. Robert followed in his footsteps as a carpenter and emigrated to America in 1907. Here’s a copy of his Ellis Island register and that of Jane Owen, Tŷ Oer, Clwt y Bont who emigrated in 1910.

Robert - Ellis Island    Jane Owen - Ellis Island

         

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Robert sailed on the "Teutonic"

 

and Jane on the "Baltic"


It’s interesting that Jane moved to Vermont a quarrying area remembering that she came from near Bethesda the slate quarrying area of North Wales. Was that the reason for moving to that area? It’s unlikely that they knew one another in Wales because Clwt y Bont was quite a distance from Aberdaron, but they did meet and married in May 1919. Robert built his own house, 715 Cherry Street, Rome in the Hudson/Mohawk Valley NY State and their only son Bill was born in 1922. Bill and Beverly of Irish decent, married and moved to live in Rochester. The year 1922 does however cause me some confusion because my Mother used to claim that that was when they last visited Wales. Mam was then 18 years old and remembers seen them for the only time in Shop Isa (Mrs Rice) Pencaerau.

Robert and my father corresponded until my father’s death in 1937, and then Jane and Mam corresponded regularly. In fact Robert and Jane were keen for the three of us to emigrate to US during the Second World War, because they assumed that we were in danger being so close to Liverpool.

Robert Bill and Jane in 1934

"It became my childhood dream to go to America to meet them"



I remember receiving parcels of food that we had never seen before from America. Lemon meringue pie, the lemon being in tablet form, also fair isle socks in the clothing parcel! I later started writing to them as well. In 1966 I sent then photographs and a 35mm film of Penrhyn Canol and Aberdaron bay. Also Jane’s old home, Tŷ Oer, Clwt y Bont together with the auction catalogue when her father had sold the old home and one of her old school friends.

This is a translation of part of one of her letters, which was written in Welsh:

“Well at last I’m having a moment to send you a word to thank you for sending me photographs of my dear old home. You cannot imagine the feelings I experience when seeing photographs of the area I left 56 years ago. Believe me I’ve spent hours looking at them……….” Nov. 26 1966.

For some reason, I cant remember when or why we lost connection with them and didn’t receive any word from Bill, in fact I don’t think that neither him nor Beverly were keen on corresponding! Mam then found out that they were both in a Nursing Home in Boonville together with their address. I wrote to the home in 1979 and here’s’ their reply:

You’ll notice that they both died in 1977 at 92 years old. I was surprised to read the reference to “… baby son who created so many happy moments….” because we didn’t know of his existence.

I often thought of trying to find a newspaper in Rochester to publish an article about my efforts to try and find Bill, but the task seemed too complicated.

New technology has brought us such things as Rhiw.com which is a wealth of historical information; it also opened a new world for me. Initially it was through my friend and co-actor Huw Emlyn who bought a computer and started exploring the internet, where by chance he came into contact with a lady who was originally from Llandeilo and lived in Bethel, Connecticut. I contacted her by fax to tell her about my interest in finding my relatives. Rhianon found an interested reporter Carol Ritter and the following article appeared in Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle in September 2000.

In less than a week someone contacted Rhianon to say that my cousin Bill had died but that Beverly was still alive and soon afterwards she phoned Rhianon to say that she had remarried and was living in Elba. On the 19th of
September 2000 I spoke on the phone to Beverly. Although we are not blood relatives, I was very exiting experience to speak to one of my “American relatives” after all those years.

I then became an internet addict myself and e-mailed Beverly and her son Michael who was interested in finding more about his family particularly being that he was an only child like his parents.

In January 2001 I arranged to meet Michael in New York, and his first reaction was my likeness to his father and his excitement at meeting his first “blood” relative. We spent a couple of hours together including a visit to Rockefeller Centre.

The following summer I was invited to a wedding of Rhianon’s niece in Toronto and we were driving relatively close to Elba and Rome.  I visited Beverly and also found the house which Robert had built, 715 Cherry Street in Rome.  Out of courtesy I asked the owner of the house who happened to be watering the garden for permission to take photographs and explained why.  Her reply was “I’ve come out in goose pimples because my grandfather came from Anglesey”. It was a thrill to see inside the house and admire my Uncle Robert’s work particularly the woodwork, as a small amount of that talent has been passed on to me. I knew that Robert and Jane were buried in the Rome Protestant cemetery, but little did I imagine that it was about a mile long, covered in trees and that you could drive through it.

It soon became obvious that it was an impossible task to find the graves, but as I stood on a hill looking through a gap in the trees something told me that that I should explore a spot I could see in the distance. I was driven there and knew exactly where to stop and after walking about fifty yards I was by Robert and Jane’s grave.

"Possibly the next best thing to achieving my boyhood dream"

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Thanks to Mr Griff Williams, for his family's history

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