People know me as Griff Pencaera;
because I was brought up on Pencaerau Farm. I moved there with my Mother
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
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
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
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
“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
New technology has brought us such things as Rhiw.com which is a wealth of
historical information; it also opened a new
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
In less than a week someone contacted Rhianon to say that my cousin Bill
had died but that Beverly was still alive and soon
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
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
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
"Possibly the next best thing to
achieving my boyhood dream"