My Welsh

by Loretta (Williams) Houben

While I was growing up, my mother would often tell me, "You're just like your Dad!" My Dad has Welsh blood flowing through his veins, but because we didn't know much about the place where his parents came from, I wasn't too pleased to be told that I was just like my Dad, the insinuation being that I was slow and stubborn! Since then I'm quite proud of the fact that I'm half Welsh, and I'm still slow and very stubborn!

Recently I've had a desire to dig into my Welsh roots and see what I can discover. I've always heard that genealogy is a fascinating, time consuming subject. It's quite true. The week of May 1st, 2007, I had the inclination to browse on the Internet, and began to hunt for  information regarding Penygraig, Wales. Within one week, I've learned so much I thought I should add it to my website, and begin my own Welsh history page.

Penygraig is the town where my Grandma, Alma May (Palmer) Williams grew up. She was born on January 20th, 1908, in Cardiff, Wales. This picture is the only one I have of her as a little girl. She is 7 years old in this photo, taken in 1915. The photo above is taken in Penygraig as the family moved there so Alma May's father, Herbert, could find work in the coal mines. The address for the house above may be: 53 New Century Houses, Trealaw, Rhondda. That is the address listed on the burial record for little Stanley James, who died on March 14, 1915 at 2 years and 5 months.

Standing next to her is her brother, Norman, and Bert is on the right. Stanley, age 2, is held in his mother's arms. Her name is Florence (Bellamy) Palmer, age 32 years. (Florence was expecting John in this photo.)

Here is another copy of the photo above: this one reveals the children's feet. I tweaked it a bit and removed some scratches. It also shows Alma May's face more clearly than the other photo. It looks like Bert is holding something in his left hand. I wonder what it could be? This photo was emailed to me on January 7, 2013, from Jacqueline V.

I was given a copy of this photo by email from Jacqueline V on January 7, 2013. Isn't it priceless? I had seen this photo when we visited Great Aunt Violet in England in 2007, but didn't have a good copy of my own. The young woman on the left is my Grandma, Alma May, around 14 or 15. Once I know the date of the twins' birth, I can figure out the date of the photo. My Great Grandma is sitting down holding one twin. In her journal, Alma May states she had to drop out of school to help care for the twins, who were sickly at first. Neither she nor her teacher wished her to quit school as she was doing very well in her studies. I don't know which twin is which! One is my Great Aunt Violet, and one is my Great Uncle Harry.

The coal mining industry in Wales began to wind down in the 1920's so the Palmer family decided to move to Canada in 1927. This must have been a difficult decision for them with 6 children. Alma May was now 19 and she had been working in London England as a maid for a while, according to her journal. I guess she wanted to go with her family rather than be left behind alone. I think I would have done the same thing. Canada needed families to settle on the prairies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. My great grandfather, Herbert Palmer, wasn't a farmer but I guess he thought he would give it a go! So they sailed in July 1927 on the Montclare, and I believe the photo above was taken on July 9th...however if it was, they are all dressed in their winter coats with fur collars!

From left to right: John (11),  Norman (17) with Violet (5) in front, Florence (43) Herbert (42) with Harry (5) in front, Alma May (19) and Sydney (9). I've always been fascinated by this photo.

Postcard of the SS Montclare.


While poking about in the Library and Archives Canada website tonight, January 9, 2013, I found the copy of the passenger list for the ship the Montclare, and entered the name with the date of 1927, and found the microfilm number: T-14734 in Volume 13, page 46, and from there it was easy to locate the page with the numbers listed, and fortunately not too difficult to find these pages as they were right at the beginning of the 600 listed! Whew. Because I knew the name of the ship and the date of their sailing, I could find my great grandparents, Herbert and Florence Palmer, with their 6 children who sailed with them. Chatting with my Mom tonight, I discovered that Bert, age 21, remained behind in England at the time and although he wished to move to Canada later in life he wasn't able to. In Column 16 above, my great grandpa, Herbert Palmer was "assisted" with his passenger fare. I wonder who assisted him?

This is the other half of the page. Later I'll put a link to these pages so you can see them in a larger format. The ship arrived at Quebec on July 9th, 1927. Herbert's father is listed as "G. Palmer" living in "High Street, Stoke Under Ham in Somerset, England". Herbert followed "Mining" as an occupation in his own country, and planned to take up "farming" in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada! In column 26 it states Herbert had $225 in his possession. I find this extremely interesting and I'm thrilled to have found this documentation!


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Copyright 2014, L H Houben