Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Travel plans, genealogy and compromises

Once we decided to include a visit to Wales and Devon in our UK itinerary, I had great plans to spend time doing research and further work on my genealogy.  In my mind, I was drawing up lists of questions to be answered and directories to be consulted. I wanted answers to those questions that kept me up at night... like when and why did my great-grandfather, Thomas Huxtable Ball, leave South Wales for Leeds, and what may have pushed or pulled him to Yorkshire?  I really could have spent the whole of the four days allotted for Cardiff trolling through local library and archives resources.

Our initials plans also included a day trip to Filleigh, Devon to see where my 3x great-grandfather, John Ball, had his tailor shop. My North American sense of 'drive anywhere' and straight line travel took a beating once we rented a car in Cardiff.   My husband did admirably driving a right hand stick shift, but we spent a couple of hours lost in various places - albeit in the lovely Welsh countryside. We decided to enjoy the journey rather than race about keeping to a timetable. The 3+ hour trek (each way) to Filleigh went by the wayside in favour of exploring more of Cardiff and nearby Caerphilly.

In the end, I realized that making this a research trip would not be fair to my husband and daughter, who don't share my fervent interest in genealogy and ancestor hunting. After all, this was their summer vacation too. Instead, we decided to make this trip about connecting - with family, with the land of my ancestors and the beautiful country that is Wales. 

In retrospect, the research trip is a journey for another day and my mother would be the ideal travel companion - now that has me thinking...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Journeys past and present

As I began this genealogy journey a few decades ago, I never thought that I would be retracing the steps of my grandparents, Bill and Mary Ball.  Back in late 1961, Grandad and Nana embarked on a round-the-world cruise on board a freighter. One of their last trips before returning to Canada was to Wales to visit Grandad's Welsh cousins in Dinas Powys.  Just over 50 years later, little did I know, I would be making a similar journey to connect with my family in South Wales.

It had always been a dream of Grandad to sail - he had always lived near the coast growing up in British Columbia.  Captain Bob Thomas, the husband of his cousin, Gwen Charlotte (Ball) Thomas, was a mariner and had visited with Grandad and Nana many times on his visits to Vancouver and Victoria.  Grandad loved the sea. I will always remember his beloved telescope in the big living room window of his Parksville home that overlooked the Strait of Georgia. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of ships, flags, and cargoes, having worked at the Shell Oil refinery in Vancouver.

When Grandad retired, my grandparents decided to fulfill a dream and sail around the world, in a freighter, no less.  They flew to Los Angeles, boarded a working ship and sailed to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean, and finally out onto the Atlantic to France and then onto London. Nana always recalled fondly having dinner at the captain's table and the friendly and hardworking crew that worked on the freighter.  From London, they drove to Dinas Powys to visit with Gwen and Bob Thomas and onto the south of England. They sailed to Montreal from Southampton and then drove across Canada, back to Parksville and the west coast.

My grandparents managed to get lost in Dinas Powys and finally stopped at a corner shop to ask for directions. When Nana spoke to the shopkeeper, he smiled and said "You must be the cousins from Canada" and gave her the directions to the Thomas' (which was coincidentally, just around the corner from where they were). They had a lovely visit with Gwen and Bob. Nana wrote to Gwen on 10 Apr 1962 from Leominster, Herefordshire and noted they felt that "we have known you all for ages". (Gwen's grandson kindly sent me a copy of Nana's letter).

Welsh brass figure.
 My Nana, Mary (McPhee) Ball, is in the framed
 photo to the right - London, April 1962
Of all the trinkets that Nana brought home from her trip, one was a brass bell of a woman in traditional Welsh dress. After Nana passed away in 1997, my mother gave me that brass bell as a keepsake. I think that she knew that I would, one day, make that connection with Wales again. And I did - happily, in late July of this year.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Hiatus and Holiday

As you can probably tell from my lack of blog posts of late, I am not a prolific (or even a consistent) blogger.  I will admit that it is often difficult to juggle family, working full-time, volunteering at a local historical society, conferences, gardening, maintaining a house, sleep, exercise and blogging. And at times, I've decided to let some of the 'balls' (if you will excuse the pun) drop in order to keep my sanity.

Part of my hiatus from blogging was to plan and prepare for our summer vacation.  It was a particularly special trip as we traveled to Wales to meet my third cousins and their families. While I didn't do any research while on the road, I learned many interesting and wonderful tidbits about the Ball family in South Wales and visited a number of towns and villages where my great-grandfather, Thomas Huxtable Ball, and his extended family had lived.  As this was a family trip, visits to archives and libraries were not on the itinerary (although I did sneak one in to say thanks to a librarian who has helped me immensely in my research - I will write about that another day). I have been working through my photos, notes and discoveries from the trip and will share them in the coming weeks.  Back on the blogging beat... again.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Genealogical ADHD... I think I have it

As you can probably tell from my relative silence on the blogging front that I haven't been very productive on the genealogy research lately. I hate to admit that it's true ... work has been mad, have had some rather complex research queries at work, gave five presentations within a month, planned and booked summer holidays (which will include time in Cardiff to meet my third cousins, who I have met through my research), and am in the process of organizing a genealogy fair.  Time seems to be going by at a frantic pace.

I have done bits of research, but I think that I've been suffering from a bout of genealogical ADHD - bouncing from one branch to the other without fully committing to finishing the job at hand. To say that my attention has been scattered is an understatement.  I know that my lack of discipline reflects my tired inner genealogist and self.

My happy place
With an upcoming 2 day weekend, I am going to retreat to my happy place, sit in the sunshine, relax and assess the state of my research. I've come across a lot of interesting bits and pieces and will tell you about them shortly. I promise.


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Acts of Genealogical Kindness Keep Me in Awe

St. George's Church, Reynoldston, Wales
After a particularly busy month at work and a frightening tumble down some stairs at home (no broken bones thankfully, only bruises and a few bumps on my head), I started catching up on my home email to find some lovely photos of William James Ball's church and home in my inbox.

The photos were sent by a very kind soul who had connections to Reynoldston as a child and contacted me after I posted the story of William's stay and death at the Glamorgan Asylum. She also attempted to find William's grave in the Church cemetery, but found that the headstone had sunken below the grass and was no longer visible.

I can't tell you how much the photos brightened my day.  Thank you, Vivienne. I am always in awe of the generosity and kindness of people in the genealogical and local history communities.  I promise that I will pay it forward.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Hits and misses at the Family History Library

As part of my RootsTech experience in Salt Lake City, I visited the Family History Library to do some personal research. It was  very much a fascinating experience - so much to see and do and so little time.

I decided that I would focus on John Ball, my 4x great-grandfather, a tailor in South Molton, Devon. I had very limited information on John - much of which came from a copy of an 1815 will that I had obtained last year.  He's been bit of a mystery as his life predates civil registration. And, I have learned that there were many John Balls in Devon during that time period.  In any case, I also knew that he had married Agnes Painter in 1797 and had been recorded as a widow in the parish marriage register. So, my focus was on finding his previous wife (or wives) and any children. I had searched the FamilySearch.org website and had some leads on microfilm of parish registers which might yield some results.

Much to my chagrin, many of the microfilms were of transcriptions of parish registers and didn't yield much more information than was found in the online records on the FamilySearch website. I did find serveral marriages indexed for John Ball - one of which could have been my John Ball, but alas with nothing to corroborate the facts and details.

However, all was not in vain.  I did find a cemetery transcription for South Molton where John Ball is buried. According to the headstone transcription, John's age at death was noted as 76 - making his year of birth approximately 1739 or thereabouts.

So back to the drawing board, I go - at least armed with  another hint or clue about John's life.  I am thinking that I'll need to review what I have collected so far and contact the Devon Record Office and Online Parish Clerks (OPCs) for Devon. Substantiating facts before civil registration is proving to be a challenge.  If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you.

Cheers, K.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Remembering RootsTech and Dad

My first RootsTech experience is now a pleasant memory of many great sessions, lessons learned, wonderful genealogists and the friendly people of Salt Lake City.

 I also came away feeling a little bit closer to Dad as Mom and I attended Gonzaga's final West Divison game at the Energy Solutions Centre.  The game was held on Saturday March 23rd against Wichita State.  Sadly, the Bulldogs lost, but it was an exciting game with the scoring going back and forth. And it was neat to experience the mania that is US college sports - so unlike our university athletics in Canada (well, perhaps with the exception of hockey...)

The anniversary of Dad's passing always sneaks up on us - but the fickle weather of spring and Easter mark the final countdown to "the day". It's always a bittersweet time - of reflection on love and loss, fond memories of good times and the pain of his passing. Perhaps Mom and I were meant to be in Salt Lake while Gonzaga played in the basketball tournament finals - I like to think that Dad would have wanted it that way. He's been gone 21 years today, but not forgotten.

Cheers, K.