No 75: Using postcards to trace family history

By Hywel Roberts on Feb 27, 12 09:45 PM

Over the past year I've shown a number of postcards sent to my mother by her Uncle Tom during the war and during his time in the POW camp. These postcards have been essential in enabling me to obtain an outline of his experiences during the Great War.

At the beginning of the 19th century it was a requirement that only an address could be put on one side of a postcard with the message being written on the other side but in 1902 the rules changes so that messages could be written on the same side as the address. This led to the development of the picture postcard and the start of the golden age of the postcard. By 1909 800 million postcards had been sent in Britain. My grandmother, and then my mother, started keeping the postcards and thankfully the collection has survived and my sister has spent much time cataloguing them. These postcards, together with family photos, have been an enormous help in building up a picture of my ancestor's lives and I take Uncle Tom before and after the Great War as an example.

Ysgol Nos Penmachno.jpeg.He was born in August 1886 and is recorded as a scholar in the 1891 census. The first photo of him is in a photo taken outside the Penmachno National School during the 1890s. My mother said it was an evening school and my grandfather and his three brothers are all in the photos. My grandfather, Robert Cadwalader, is the first on the left in the back row, his eldest brother William John is the fourth along and his younger brother, Owen, in at the other end of the back row. Tom, the youngest brother, is the third from the right in the second row. There was 11 years between the eldest brother and Tom, so William and Robert at least were of working age at the time of the photo. My great grandfather had clearly encouraged his sons to pursue education.

Derbyneb beic.jpegIn the 1901 census Tom is living in the family home at Talywaen, Penmachno, and described as an Apprentice Tailor. He went to Oswestry for his first job. My grandfather had hardly been out of Penmachno and the neighbouring areas but I remember my mother telling me that he'd gone on his bike to take Tom to Oswestry. It seems difficult to imagine them cycling along the A5 all that way with the bikes that were available at that time. However I know that he had a bike as I have the receipt for a new bike that he purchased on 26 October 1899. He needed the bike to take him to work at the quarry. It cost £5-13-2 from the Acme Wheeleries, Leeds, and this seems to be expensive compared to a quarryman's weekly wage at that time.

Oswestry School.jpgA number of postcards between November 1904 and December 1905 confirm that he was working in Oswestry but there is no clue to the name of his employer. A card from Oswestry, showing Oswestry School, dated January 1905 indicates that he was looking for a change. He writes in Welsh to say that he has changed lodgings and that he has placed an advertisement in the "Tailor and Cutter". I assume that this meant that he had put an advert in the trade journal to say that he was looking for a new position. You will note that he has addressed this card to his father at the Bugail Slate Quarry. His father a widower since 1896 would have been staying at the barracks at the quarry during the week and this would have been the best address to which to send any correspondence.Oswestry back.jpeg.

Gwynedd Family History Society,
Meetings for the next four weeks are:

Caernarfon, 29 March (In Welsh, last Thursday of each month) 7.00pm at the Library, Lôn Pafiliwn:
Dennis Roberts: "Hedd Wyn, Hywel Dda, Cunedda Wledig a Chwstennin"

Bangor, 6 March (In English, first Tuesday of each month) 7.00pm at the Quakers Meeting Hall, Dean Street:
Hayden Burns "Researching House History"

Conwy, 12 March (In English, second Monday of each month) 7.00pm at Capel Ebenezer, Abergele Road, Old Colwyn:
Stephan ab Owain: "Family History in Stone"

Pwllheli, 16 March (In Welsh, third Friday of each month) 7.00pm at Capel Seion, Lon Dywod:
Shirley Ellis: "Perthyn"

Dolgellau, 8 March (In Welsh, second Thursday of each month) 7.00pm at the Royal Ship Hotel:
Awel Jones: "Ddoe yn ôl"

Llangefni, 15 March October (In English, third Thursday of each month) 7.00pm at Capel Smyrna, Ffordd Glanhwfa:
Melvyn Griffiths: "A Policeman's lot, a few gruesome cases"

Clwyd Family History Society,
The meetings are held on the second Saturday of each month (except August) at 2.00 pm at locations that rotate within the former county of Clwyd.

Saturday 10 March: 2.00 pm at St. David's Church Hall, St. David's Lane, MOLD, CH7 1LH
Michael Crumplin: "GUTHRIE'S WAR" (A surgeon who went with Wellington's Army)


Hywel Roberts

Hywel Roberts - is known to many readers of the Caernarfon and Denbigh Herald as a member of Caernarfon Town Council and as chairman of the Caernarfon Civic Society. He is also company secretary of Segontium Cyf, the voluntary organisation that runs Segontium Roman Fort Museum.

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