|Carl Thomas, Steven Thomas and me at our ancestors'|
farm in Herefordshire, England
Lately, I've been digging around in my roots again and I've started to find solving all those family history mysteries interesting again.
But, you know what I've discovered most recently? Searching for dead people is just part of the process, and not nearly as much fun as finding your living kin!
I write this while sitting on a plane home from London. I'm fortunate to work for a company that occasionally flies me there for business, and I try to take advantage of the opportunity to stay over and do a little exploring while I'm in the area. This time, I had the bright idea to explore my Welsh roots.
|Steven and me, hamming it|
up the oldest pub in Cardiff, Wales
Well, when I found out I was going to be in London for a business trip this week, I jumped at the chance to see if Steven would be up for meeting in person. He was!
So, Wednesday morning, I woke up well before my alarm clock and caught a train from Paddington Station to Cardiff, Wales, to meet Steven and his dad, my third cousin, Carl. Can you imagine my excitement as I walked toward the station exit and saw them waiting for me?? I recognized them immediately from all the Facebook photos we've shared over the years. I think we were all a little bit nervous about meeting for the first time, but our nerves quickly dissolved with the first big hug, and we were soon talking nonstop: about our lives, about our shared family history and about our plans for the next two days!
|Steven and his dad, Carl, in front of the keep at Cardiff Castle.|
We'd just climbed to the top.
The next morning, the three of us met up to start on a real adventure. Carl drove us up to Monmouth in Monmouthshire County, along the Welsh/English border. This was where my great grandfather, Joseph Bartram, father of my beloved Grandpa John, was born in 1860. It's an adorable town that was settled along the Monnow River, and we took a nice stroll up and down it's main street before heading up the road to explore more of our history.
|Carl and me at St. Mary's the Virgin|
Church in Welsh Newton,
|Graveyard at St. Mary's Church|
The next stop along our picturesque drive (think rolling green hills dotted with small villages and farms, and lots of sheep and cattle grazing in the verdant fields) was St. Mary the Virgin church in Welsh Newton, Herefordshire, England -- just a couple of miles over the border from Wales. This is the church where Joseph and Louisa's parents, John Bartram and Esther Meredith, were married in 1846. St. Mary's is an ancient Norman-style church and has the distinction of being one of the few English churches with a saint buried in it's courtyard. Welsh Newton is also the village where John was a publican (pub keeper) when he and Esther were first married. We thought Esther might have been buried in the graveyard that surrounds the church, so we asked a woman who appeared to be working there. Turns out they are in the midst of conducting a cemetery inventory, and she was happy to show us the records! Well, Esther doesn't appear to be there, but the records show her parents, Joseph and Sarah Meredith, buried in the large plot just in front of the church entrance. Of course, that plot hasn't yet been inventoried, but we were welcome to traipse through the graveyard to see if we could find them. There are a lot of really old graves there, and some of the markers are impossible to read. Sadly, we didn't find the exact spot where Joseph and Sarah are resting. A good genealogist doesn't give up, though, and I'm hoping the church staff will eventually find them in the plot and send us the coordinates (and maybe a photo).
|Entry gate at Wern Farm|
|With my third cousin, Carl Thomas, at Wern Farm|
After a cup of tea, we wound up our trip with a stop in Chepstow to view the outside of the castle there, and spend a bit more cash in their gift shop. We then made the drive back into Cardiff, which was a little bittersweet for me. I had been having such an amazing time with my family, Steven and Carl, exploring our roots together and really getting to know each other, and I wasn't ready for it to end. When they dropped me off at the hotel after a long and fantastic day, I think we were all a bit sad to leave each other.
|With Cousin Steven, traipsing|
through the graves at St. Mary's.
So, what's next? Well, I touch down in about five hours, and I can't wait to get home, call my mom and sister, pet my cat and add pictures to all these words so I can share them with you all. I'll also send a Facebook note to Steven to let him know I got home ok and send hugs to him and the rest of my Welsh clan. And, I'll bug him to get his passport in order so he and Carl can come visit me and the rest of their American Bartram cousins soon. Oh, what a family reunion that will be!
Meanwhile, thanks again to Steven and Carl for showing me such hospitality and genuine love. I do plan to go back to Wales to visit them and meet the rest of the family, including Steven's siblings, Simon (aka Sid), Martin and Sarah, his mum and his son, Steve. I can't wait for the next adventure!! (goosebumps...)
|My cousins, Carl and Steven, looking|
out at the Monnow River in Monmouth, Wales