Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Meeting Family and History

Cardiff Castle - 29 July 2013
The sun was shining as our train pulled into Cardiff on July 29th.  Shortly after arriving, I received welcome emails and texts from my cousins - which were delightful and made me feel at home. One of them sent a list of pubs near our hotel that we could try - knowing my husband wanted to sample UK lagers and ales and I was on a bit of quest for the perfect pint of cider.

As we explored Cardiff and the Castle, I kept thinking about what the city would have looked like to Thomas before he left in the late 1890s. Why had he been the only one of six siblings to have left Wales? It's still a mystery, but I think that he must not have left willingly - Wales is such a  beautiful place.

We had been invited to Penarth for dinner on the day of our arrival. My cousin arranged to meet us in the lobby of our hotel that evening. As I stepped out the elevator, I instantly recognized him - the first thing I noticed was his blue eyes - a trait common to my siblings and myself. He drove us to his home, where we met his family and father.  We had a lovely meal and shared many stories of our upbringings, ancestors and life in general.  When it was discovered that my husband was originally a Nottingham lad, they forgave him for being English (actually, he's more Canadian than English as he grew up here). I have to say that it felt like family.  I brought copies of my current research and photos to share - and learned many new stories and some possible clues to mysteries yet unsolved. It was a lovely evening, made all the more special by our hosts.

A perfect first day to our Welsh adventure.

Cheers, Karen

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


After a very long break, I'm back. Work has been crazy busy - we moved the Local History collection twice and have now finally settled into our final location.  I have also launched a large WW1 volunteer project, a blog Historically Speaking and entered the Twitterverse .

Despite the busy-ness, I really missed working on my own family history and have decided to carve out time to pursue this once again. As summer rolls around again, memories of our trip to South Wales have flooded back and I'd like to share those with you.

As we landed at Gatwick on July 27th last year, the anticipation of meeting my Welsh cousins and seeing the hometowns of my great-grandfather, Thomas Huxtable Ball, was sweet.  My husband and daughter were eager to see all the sights, but for me, Cardiff was going to be the highlight of my trip.

After the overnight flight to the UK and the train ride to Oxford, we tried to soak in as much of this wonderous university town as much as we could before crashing for the night. The next day, we made the pilgrimage to the Bodleian Library and wandered through the hallowed laneways and courtyards of the University.  I even managed to have my first pint of real cider on tap - a luxury not often found at home.  However, all through the day, I could not help but wonder what it would be like rolling into Cardiff and meeting up with my third cousin Matthew and his family for dinner.

The next morning, we made the long walk with suitcases in tow to the train station and boarded the first of two trains, headed in the direction of Cardiff. We changed trains at Didcot Parkway, just outside of Oxford.  I didn't let the ominous skies dampen my excitement.

As our train pulled into Cardiff, I felt like it was a bit of a homecoming.

Stay tuned!

Cheers, K.