Elizabeth and George Day – welsh great, x3 grandparents
Research Updates for my Welsh ancestors.
I have 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 1800s and to provide the background for stories about these ancestors woven from the facts and history of the times.
Today’s story is about 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 story here.] I shaped her fictional story 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 Treffgarne, a farming village deriving its name from ‘tref’ meaning town, and ‘garne’ meaning rock. The town of the rock.
I think the hillfort on top of Great Treffgarne Rocks 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.
They set farms in Treffgarne 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 could 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 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 survived and married, and their family links have now been discovered and added to my family tree.
They listed George Day 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 1800s, 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 length of the available rope thus sets the cable length walk. They related this 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 for 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. They considered the ropemaker’s a minor industry in the area according to the town history:
The list of occupations given is interesting to read as most of them have now disappeared, thus showing how the character of the town has radically changed during the last hundred years. There were 6 auctioneers and appraisers; 15 blacksmiths; 3 boot and shoemakers; 3 brewers; 23 butchers, 7 of the name of White; 7 butter and cheese makers 7 cabinet 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; 31 fire 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, headteacher) on Dew Street, close to Fountain Row.
The news of the day was available in three local newspapers in circulation: “The Pembrokeshire Herald,” every Friday, “Potter’s Electric News”, “Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph,” every Wednesday.
I discovered one piece of poignant news in the 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.