Monday, 22 October 2012

Visions of family sporting glory... shortlived

Well.. my hope that Swansea football star, Billy Ball, was one of my elusive Ball cousins has been dashed... Based on inquiries that I made to the Local Studies Department of the Swansea Central Library and the 100 Years of Swansea City FC Project at Swansea University I can safely presume that Billy Ball, was not one of my William Ball cousins, born 1892 and 1893 in Glamorgan.

Philip Bethell, Project Officer from the Department of History and Classics from Swansea University indicated that Billy Ball, of Swansea FC fame, had been transferred to Swansea Town in 1912 from Stoke, and had played for Swansea until 1920. Ball remained in Swansea until his death in November 1960, at the age of 72 (estimated birth year late 1887 or 1888). My William Spickett Ball died in 1982 and William Henry died sometime before July 1947.

Local Studies Librarian, Gwilym Games, Swansea Central Library, confirmed the above information, and noted that the Swansea Club recruited established players from all over the UK to ensure that the club got off to a good start. It is possible that Billy was the same Billy Ball from West Derby, who played for Manchester United in 1904-1906, and was born in 1886.

Many thanks to Gwilym and Philip for all of their help! One mystery laid to rest, but always another one around the corner...

Cheers, K.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A bit of a flutter about Billy Ball

A couple of weeks back, one of my distant Welsh cousins sent me a scan of a brief history tidbit which noted that the "aptly named Billy Ball" had scored the first goal for the Swansea City football (otherwise known as 'soccer' to those of us in North America) team in their opening match on 7 Sep 1912 against Cardiff (game ended in a 1-1 tie).

While it was a very long shot, I started on the hunt for Billy Ball - knowing that we had two cousins in the family, both named William Ball (one Wm Henry and the other Wm Spickett), who were born in 1892 and 1893 respectively, which would have put them around age 19-20, when the match was played. According to the 1911 census, they were both working in a Cardiff bakery, operated by the Evans family, who were related to the mother of William Henry. After 1911, the trail went cold, but I found them later in life.

My father always talked about my great-grandfather, Thomas Ball, having played rugby for Wales. I grew up thinking that there was some great sporting legacy in the family. However, since starting this journey, I haven't been able to place Thomas in any rugby league or on any team. There are a couple of years in his late teens for which I have no information. In the back of my mind, the lost sporting glory may be lurking in these shadows... but without any proof, I remain open to the possibility that the story may be fiction or misunderstood by Dad. When the news of Billy Ball came to light, I thought that maybe this was the sports legacy retold so many times by my father.

So what of Billy Ball? The newspaper site, WalesOnline, carried an article mentioning Billy Ball. I was able to find a wonderful online archive of Swansea City FC on the 100 Years of Swansea City FC blog. I was also able to find a photograph of him on the Swansea University Flickr site. I've made a few inquiries about him and will let you know what I can find out.

Cheers, K.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Food for thought about North Devon emigration

A few weeks a ago, the August 2012 edition of the Devon Family Historian landed in my mailbox - always a welcomed event and interesting read. Published by the Devon Family History Society, the journal is a fascinating glimpse into the research of other Devon family researchers and a record of the Society's events and activities.

I found this edition particularly interesting as the lead article, Faith, Fish, Farm or Family: Motivations for Emigration from North Devon, 1830-1900, by Janet Few, challenged readers to rethink their preconceptions about the reasons why our ancestors might have left their Devon homes. Few outlined clues to consider when evaluating why a family member moved - including date of migration, conditions at new/old locations, life stage, migration companions, occupations in old/new locations, and religion. She also lists reasons for emigration, ranging from economic, educational, familial, religious, political and social. Few then recounts her family's migration story to Canada. Their end destinations, Mariposa (near Peterborough)and Toronto, are well known to me (I grew up in the west end of Toronto). According to the research quoted by Few, 434,806 people left via a Devon port between 1840-1900. Nationally, 75% of Victorian emigrants moved to America, but Devonians headed for Australiasia, but in the case of those from North Devon, their destination was Canada.

Few's article has gotten me thinking about why William Huxtable Ball left Devon in the late 1858-1860. Was it for economic reasons? Were there other Ball family members who lived in the Gower area? Were there religious tensions? What was happening in North/South Molton and in the Gower which might have contributed to a push or pull out of Devon?

Always something to think about and more research to do!

Cheers, K.