Tracing my family tree takes me on a journey to Wales

With nothing more than his violin and a suitcase my grandfather boarded the Orient Line SS Orvieto in England and set sail to Fremantle, Australia. He was in search of a new life and looking for a new adventure as there was no work for him as an aircraft draughtsman. To make a living he had been playing his beloved violin in a picture palace orchestra.

Orient Line S S Orvieto

When I lived in England I wanted to find my roots, meet my family I had never known. Was I expecting them to take me in? Give me a roof over my head? Or maybe just a cuppa tea and a biscuit? Would I be able to find them?

I turned up at London Metropolitan Archives asking for help, searching records and looking for answers. Did I think they would just give me all the information I needed about my living relatives? I don’t know what I was thinking.

Turns out you need to dedicate hours upon hours to research your family and finding your living relatives can be near on impossible when you don’t know their married name. All you have is a few old letters to say that your long lost cousin married a man name Alfred and had two children.

Over the years I have dedicated time listening to family stories, sorting fact from fiction, looking at old family letters, records and gathering all the information I can. Searching online records looking at the census, birth, death and marriage certificates. Documenting all my findings and keeping records.

Roath Clifton StThe 1901 census gave me the address of where my grandfather grew up in Wales. Naturally I made the journey to view the building on Clifton Street, Cardiff where his father owned the local grocery store. It was a indefinable feeling walking the streets that he would have played in as a child. Wondering what life would have been like back then. The street is full of shop houses so I imagine it would have been a hype of activity in the early 1900’s.

What number 49 Clifton Street, Cardiff looks like today
What number 49 Clifton Street, Cardiff looks like today

I never had any luck finding my living relatives but who knows they might be reading this and ask me over for a cuppa after all. If you are reading this and want to invite me over I am quite partial to chocolate biscuits!!

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15 thoughts on “Tracing my family tree takes me on a journey to Wales

  1. Tracing family history is a fascinating, yet time-consuming pursuit. I’ve managed to get so far and then come up against a brick wall once I get back to the country of origin. Keep trying, you never know where one small piece of information can lead. Better stock up on the chocolate biscuits!

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  2. I have done a fair bit of research on our family history and a couple of years ago when we were in the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW I spent about 2 hours wandering in the historic Gegedzerick Cemetery at Berridale where most of my Dad’s family are buried. It was fascinating.

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  3. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past researching family trees…and it does take a lot of time, and a lot of attention to detail – it’s very easy to get mislead onto a wild goose chase. The great thing is that so many of the records are now available on line and you can do a lot of the initial groundwork from the comfort of your own computer at home. The key is to start with as much of the detail that you DO know and then work systematically and thoroughly backwards. Each document you uncover may contain clues which allow you to move further backwards. And then, once you have a substantial amount of details, it is much easier to work forwards to living relatives.

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    • I was always told we were related to Murdoch who was a captain on the titanic. I started looking at his family tree trying to link it back to ours but had no luck and wasted so much time! You are right you need to start with what you know.

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  4. Even if you didn’t find exactly what you wanted, I’ll be it was special to grace the streets that your grandfather walked on a daily basis. Cheers to you for going back to your roots – I hope Wales was welcoming for you!

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  5. very cool that you could find the street he grew up in! I can’t imagine leaving with a couple of possessions for the other side of the world. People were braver back then. I know I’m an expat in London but I can hope on a plane and visit my family in the USA whenever. It’s really not the same.

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