In Which I Discover My Welsh Roots

Here’s one of the best benefits of being a blogger I’ve had in a long time. In a post about the Super Bowl yesterday, I mentioned that my paternal grandfather had died in 1989. That prompted longtime JMG reader (and my real life pal) Homer, an avid genealogy hobbyist who lives in Tucson, to do some research on the Jervis side of my family, something we’ve had only scant information about.

And holy cow, what a treasure trove he sent me! Homer discovered that my great-great grandfather (also Joseph Jervis) emigrated from Wales at the age of 21 in 1871 aboard the Cunard steamship Calabria (above). The ship left out of Liverpool and arrived in NYC twelve days later, where the entire family was processed at Castle Clinton, Manhattan’s pre-Ellis Island immigration station and the present location of the ticket booth for excursions to the Statue of Liberty. And here I am 139 years later living just a few miles away on the same little island.

Homer also learned that the Jervis clan were colliers (coal miners) in Wales and immediately went to work at the Lucerne Valley Coal Company in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. They were drawn there, Homer speculates, by correspondence from friends or relatives who promised work. (My mom remembers stories of black lung disease.) The later documentations that Homer uncovered are amazing. I’ve now got a copy of my great-grandfather’s WWI draft card, Pennsylvania census records from the late 1800’s, and Welsh census citations going back several generations earlier.

As virtually all of my father’s side of the family is long deceased, Homer’s sleuthing has filled in some major gaps in what little we’ve known. My mom is already peppering him with information about HER side of the family. (We *think* we’re Irish there, but with these new surprises, who knows?) For now, I’m the fifth-generation American descendant of coal miners out of Bedwellty, Monmouthshire, Wales. Fascinating. Thank you, Homer.