Elizabeth and George Day: a little about my research
During my most recent studies at the University of Tasmania, "Introduction to Family History" I began to set out my further research plan for my Welsh ancestors in Pembrokeshire. I had located my mother's family history sprinkled throughout the Parish Registers of St Mary's in Haverfordwest.
My aim is to build a picture of their lives in the early 1800's and to provide the background for stories about these ancestors woven from the facts and history of the times.
Let me start with Elizabeth Evans who was born in 1786 in Haverfordwest, and who married George Day in 1803. [She is the key to my fictional writing about Celtic history and you can find her storyhere.] Her story is shaped in the misty moors of the Pembrokeshire hills and farms.
Life was simpler but so much harder for those who lived and worked on the land. Their first child, Lettice was born in Trefgarne, a farming village deriving its name from 'tref' meaning town and 'garne' meaning rock. The town of the rock.
The hillfort on top of Great Treffgarne Rocks is thought to be Iron Age and is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Pembrokeshire. She would also have been a visitor to the community of Wolfscastle. Wolfscastle's claim to fame is that it is allegedly the place where the last wild wolf in Wales was slain.
Farms in Trefgarne were set in the alluvial plains fed by the fens and tributaries of the River Cleddau. The tidal estuary enabled sea traffic to reach Haverfordwest. Elizabeth would have been able to see the castle in Haverfordwest in all its glory and no doubt would have been a towering presence to hold her in awe on her trips to the town. The name of the town Haverfordwest means "ford used by heifers" from Old English hæfar=heifer. The family would have need of the trade in the town, and I imagine that is where there were able to sell the wool from the sheep of their farm.
The Day family had moved into Haverfordwest and were housed in Fountain Row, near the castle, by the year of 1811. Here they had seven more children - five girls - and two boys. Infant mortality rates were higher in the towns and sadly several of their children did not live long. Lettice, Sarah and Elizabeth did survive and marry, and their family links have now been discovered and added to my family tree.
Haverfordwest is a market town, a corporate and Parliamentary Borough and aCounty of itself, whose houses, many of which are handsome, are arranged inseveral steep streets, well-paved and gas lighted, from the top of theacclivity down to the river, and the place may be noticed as the residenceof large numbers of respectable families and independent gentry.The trade in butter and com, hops, seeds and timber is considerable.Malting, tanning, currying, lime-burning and rope making are other branchesprosperously pursued.
George Day was listed as a Ropemaker in the first census of Wales in 1841; and from this small fact I can piece together his life as the primary income earner.
In the 1800's ropes were constructed in ropewalks, very long buildings where strands the full length of the rope were spread out and then laid up or twisted together to form the rope. The cable length was thus set by the length of the available rope walk. This is related to the unit of length termed cable length. This allowed for long ropes of up to 300 yards long or longer to be made. These long ropes were necessary in shipping as short ropes would require splicing to make them long enough to use for sheets and halyards.
Rope and twine merchants would have employed George either as a production worker or an overseer and their products would have been sold primarily in the town of Haverfordwest. The ropemakers were considered a minor industry in the area at the time, according to the town history:
The list of occupations given affords interesting reading, as most of them have now disappeared, thus showing how the character of the town has radically changed during the last hundred years. It is noted that there were 6 auctioneers and appraisers; 15 blacksmiths; 3.boot and shoes makers; 3 brewers; 23 butchers, 7 of the name of White; 7 butter and cheese makers; 7cabinet makers; 5 coopers;2 cork cutters; 8 corn merchants; 7 curriers; 5 lime merchants; 5 maltsters;7 porter merchants; 9 saddlers; 2 stay makers; 9 straw bonnet makers; 3 tallow chandlers; 7 tin plate workers; 8 surgeons; 3 tanners; 2 dyers; 31fire and insurance agents (one for the London Indisputable, another called the Trafalgar), 2 flag and slate merchants and the following miscellaneous occupations - pawnbroker; rope and twine merchant; basket maker; oyster merchant; paper maker; wool merchant;' poulterer; Paymaster-Sergeant in the Pembrokeshire Militia; wheelwright; gunsmith; glover and tawer; carrier and gilder.
The children would most probably have attended one of the local schools such as Free Grammar School (Rev. James Thomas, Headmaster) in Dew Street, close to Fountain Row.
The news of the day was available in three local newspapers in circulation:
1. "The Pembrokeshire Herald," every Friday;
2. "Potter's Electric News"
3. "Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph," every Wednesday.
One piece of poignant news was discovered in Pembrokeshire Herald and General Adviser -
March 2nd 1866.DEATHS. On the 28th ult. at Fountains Row, in this town, Mr George Day, aged 86 years.
I have imagined my great x 3 grandmother Elizabeth as a midwife in my fictional stories and I wonder now how much of that was actually true. In my research I have discovered some wonderful historical writings about Midwifery and I especially liked this one about the life of Bridget Hodgson and her will. This one about Frances Hugh as a midwife in Haverfordwest is also of keen interest.
More research is the order of the day, and I believe I will find a wealth of fact and foundation knowledge of midwifery history here in the Deviant Maternity blog.
My story of Welsh Ancestors will continue ....