Today is my grandfather's funeral. He suffered from Alzheimer's for a few years and passed away just before the New Year. I thought that it would be a fitting tribute to dedicate this post to him by looking at the beginnings of my family tree (as far back as I can go). Also check out my brother's photographic tribute to him.
|Spanish, Romany and Welsh flags|
Spanish rootsThe deepest roots that I've been able to find about my lineage start in Spain, and I was surprised to learn that my surname had been changed to Gibbs from Lovell at some point in the 18-19th Century. Originally, my family were part of the Lovell tribe of Romany Gypsies who travelled around Spain. During the early 1700s my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Daniel Lovell, arrived in Cornwall with his family. They made a living as knife grinders and peddlars, and eventually travelled towards South Wales from Rutland in Central England (where my great-great-great-great-grandfather, William Lovell, was born).
The Beginnings of WelshnessMy first Welsh ancestor (technically) was my great-great-great-grandfather Aladdin Lovell, born in Hereford in 1832. He was an umbrella maker and a knife grinder like his father before him. It was around this time that Aladdin changed his surname from Lovell to Gibbs, which was a common practice amongst gypsies in order to avoid racial persecution. He passed the skill of knife grinding to his son, also called Aladdin, who was born in Blackwood in the 1850s. This Aladdin (let's call him Aladdin Jr.) married a girl from West Wales, Elizabeth Hughes, the daughter of a coal miner (you can't get much more Welsh than that).
Closer to homeSometime between 1850 and 1880, Aladdin and Elizabeth moved to Merthyr Tydfil. There, my great-grandfather, Joseph Gibbs was born. He carried on the Hughes' family occupation as a coal miner, where his brother (another Aladdin) stuck to his Romany roots and became a harp player, which won him first prize in the Eisteddfod.
|My great-grandfather, Joseph Gibbs, with his dog|
Joseph married a local girl, Rhoda Pearcey, in 1916, when Britain was in the grip of World War I. As a coal miner, Joseph wasn't conscripted as his job was essential for the war effort. Rhoda was a factory worker; another essential occupation.
My grandfather was born in 1924 and served in the RAF in World War II as a flight mechanic.
|My grandfather in his RAF uniform|
He married my grandmother in 1951, and my father was born 4 years later. Fast forward 31 years and I enter the stage. But you already know enough about me :)
So there we have it. As much as I profess to be Welshy McWelsh (or Welshy ap Welsh if you're a stickler for accurate Celtic naming systems) I'm actually a half Romany with an adopted surname, a genetic talent for umbrella making (which has yet to manifest) and an inkling for harp playing (something I really want to take up).
Where do you consider your roots to be?