I suppose it all started with a general curiosity about the name. I mean, everybody knows that "Griffiths" is Welsh, don't they ? So when, exactly, did my ancestors travel from Wales, and why ?
The real impetus came with the purchase of my first computer. Whilst browsing a catalogue for software I came across a small shareware programme which offered the opportunity to automatically draw family trees and then not have to manually erase them when more information was found or the inevitable error corrected. The hunt had started.
I now know that for many generations most of my family have been Black Country born and bred. Chain makers, nailers, miners, gun barrel rollers and forgers. Hard working ancestors to be proud of, with a hint of money here and there (mostly there, and certainly not now !)
The most prosperous would seem to have been William Finney who brought his brick making skills from Broseley in Shropshire to set up a brick yard in Waterfall Lane. This was most likely to feed the boom in canal building which was taking place at that time (1820's & 30's). Unfortunately my line descended from his first wife who provided him with 2 sons and 4 daughters before passing away, probably during the last birth. He then had the fortune to marry into the Gaunt family of Rowley Regis and his own fortune seems to have taken off. The Gaunts were a very well to do family consisting of clergymen and gentry. His son by Hannah Gaunt was educated to be a doctor and William's brick making partnership was listed in many trade directories. It didn't do much good. His son died within 3 years of William, at the age of 30, with Hannah following 6 years later with the money going... ? Who knows. Not to my family. All there is to show for it is a large, imposing tomb in Rowley churchyard.
Then there is Tidal. Good old Tidal.
I had started, of course, by talking to my oldest relatives and was told by my father of his "Grandfather Tyler". Although he had died when my father was 6 he was still clearly remembered, along with tales of carrying dinner to his dad at work, home cured pork scratchings and the hardship of life in the Black Country.
As my search progressed I eventually visited the local office of the Registrar to obtain a copy of the marriage certificate of Tyler's daughter. There was some delay and eventually the Registrar herself came out and apologised about the father's name on the copy. After a lot of study, she said, she and her assistants had been unable to make any other word out of the name of the bride's father in the register and she was obliged to make a true copy. His name was Tidal Robinson.
It took me a quite a long time to figure out where it originally came from but, as is often the case, it must have been a memorable sermon:
Genesis, Chapter 14, Verse 1: "And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations. That these made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar."
Personally I'm glad that they didn't choose "Chedorlaomer" but that was left to be somebody else's favourite ancestor (along with Amraphel !) from Tidal and Mary Parsons in the late 18th century.
This intriguing given name has now cropped up 4 times in my direct ancestors, with a few more on the side branches, and is a sure fire way of locating relatives !
My search has also produced some unsolved puzzles.
The trail of my mother's paternal side fizzles out in less than 200 years. Where did the Daw(e)(s) come from ? Last heard of when baptising their son Joseph at Curdworth parish in Warwickshire in 1814 but where were Samuel & Jane before that ? Nothing. Zilch. No lead, no clue, no pointer.
I was told of a picture hanging above my great grandparent's mantelpiece in Colley Gate. The story was that it was of a bridge in Glasgow. Surely not. What would they know of Glasgow !! However it turns out that her mother and father, a chain maker, although born in Cradley / Dudley Wood and marrying in Netherton also baptised a son in Lanarkshire. A few years later the family (without father) is back in the Black Country. Why did they make the trek up to Scotland ? At that time, between 1864 and 1887, it would have been a very long journey and not to be undertaken lightly. Was there better work at the Clyde shipyards or was he involved with the building of that bridge ? Why did the family return ? Was there an accident at his work ?
A mystery still to be unravelled, but a few less knots as of 2005. I now have John in the 1871 census in Glasgow, whilst his wife, Lydia, has not yet been found but even more odd is that John then got married to Ann Shuell in Glasgow in 1877. It is by "Warrant of Sherriff Substitute of Lanarkshire" but he still seems to be married to Lydia at the time ! In the 1881 census, Lydia is on her own in Kingswinford and John is on his own in Glasgow. It is not until after John's death in Glasgow that Lydia describes herself as widow, or anything other than married. As usual; some doors closed, more opened.
As for my name, well I'm beginning to think that it is not Welsh at all ! The Griffiths line seem to have been miners for quite a few generations, so there is possibly a clue there, but they have lived in the Black Country since at least 1713. Most information has been gleaned from the parish register of St. Giles church at Rowley Regis and, so far, there is not a hint of Cambrian heritage. Unfortunately the search has now become bogged down in the 1730's because I have found that there is actually a choice of two families and nothing which seems to weight the balance in the favour of one or the other. More work needed, obviously.
It has turned up something interesting though. You know these charts you can buy which purport to tell you where your surname came from ? Don't believe them. In one of my 'Griffiths' families the name has been spelt "Griffiss", "Griffies" and "Griffis" whilst very clearly referring to the same person. It ends (starts ?) with him being baptised as "Griffis" but then his son in my line is baptised as "Griffies" so what is my name exactly and how can I be sold the history when it started as something different ? (Oh, yes. The last time I checked they all have other charts for the other names as well)
But enough of my waffle.
Have a look at the tree and see who you can connect with.