52 Ancestors – Harry Griffiths

This year I have decided to take part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 ancestors which is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. To find out more about it: https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/52-ancestors-in-52-weeks/

Week one’s theme is Foundations. About 23 years ago I began my family history journey by looking in a tin that had belonged to my maternal grandfather Edward James Griffiths. It had sat in the garage for a number of years and no-one was sure what was in there. What I found were some birth, marriage and death certificates and other pieces of information that would enable me to start my family tree. Although I knew that my Mum’s family were from Hereford, I didn’t know much more and so every step was a revelation. So, let me introduce my great grandfather Harry Griffiths:

Harry was the son of John Griffiths, a shoemaker, and his wife Mary Ann (nee Baker) and was born in Bush Bank, Herefordshire on 15th October 1877, only about 5 miles from where I live now. By the time he was 13 years old, Harry was an apprentice carpenter and living in Gomond street in the middle of Hereford. For most of his life he would would either be a carpenter or a workman. The 1901 census saw him living in Ledbury road, Hereford and was still a carpenter.

This was all interesting but what came next was a bit of a surprise. In his marriage to my great grandmother in 1917, he was listed as a bachelor but in fact he had been married before with two children! The 1911 census saw him living with his first wife (Fanny Elizabeth Newman) and her family in Leominster, Herefordshire. two children were registered to the couple, Ethel May born 1913 and William Henry born 1915. I searched thoroughly for the death of Fanny but there was no sign – could Harry be a bigamist?

This case taught me not to make assumptions. I had wrongly though that divorce was out of the question as they were relatively poor, however they were divorced in 1916 using a poor person’s divorce. Harry divorced Fanny on the grounds of her adultery with a Thomas Broome in Tenbury amongst other places. He also said that the two children were not his. Perhaps this is why he said he was a bachelor in his subsequent marriage. the divorce papers ( which I obtained from the National Archives) also filled in another blank. Although I knew he had been in World War One, there was no sign of him n the military records. However, his divorce papers stated that In 1916 he was living at 12 Ann street Abercynon but serving in F company of 21st Welsh Regiment, stationed at Kinmel Park St Asaph.

Harry Grifiiths married my great grandmother Elizabeth Davies on 5 December 1917 in All Saints, Hereford. My granddad didn’t have much good to say about his father but they lived for a time in Coningsby street Hereford followed by a house on the newly built College Estate. 1939 saw him working at the Royal Ordinance factory art Rotherwas as a shell filler and at wife’s death in 1942, Harry is listed as a munitions worker and shell filler living at 20 College Green Hereford.

Later in life, Harry had lost his legs and my Mum remembers asking him why he couldn’t skip like her! he also used to call her Bless and Kip. He seems to have lived with my Mum and her family for a while and died in Bromyard Hospital on 29th December 1955 of Myocardial degeneration, broncho pneumonia and Arterio Sclerosis. He is buried in an unmarked grave in St Martin’s, Hereford.

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