Sunday, October 20, 2013

Using the Skeletons from My Family History to Plot a Novel [Part Two]

William Harman

William Harman, one of my ancestors,  led an interesting life becoming one of the first pioneer Mormons in Merthyr Tydfil, my home town.

Dan Jones

He emigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah in the United States in 1871 where he took a second wife, Jane Davies, who was also a native of Merthyr Tydfil.  He had emigrated to the crucible of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

[Mormon Church].  Preachers like Dan Jones who made many converts in Merthyr often encouraged people to move to Utah.  The Church was keen to utilise the mining skills of the Welsh Brethren in Salt Lake City.
Jane Davies and children

As this was William's second marriage, I wondered what had become of his first wife?  Who was she and where was she?

By searching at the Mormon Church web site, which is excellent, by the way.  I was able to locate an ancestral file of the Harman family.

It was recorded that William had indeed married twice:

1.  Ann Jones from Cardigan Wales.  The marriage took place in
Merthyr Tydfil on September, 9th 1843.

2.  Jane Davies.  The marriage took place in Salt Lake City Utah on
21st of October, 1876.

So William had married 2 women, 33  years apart. He was 23 years old when he married Ann Jones and 56 when he married Jane.

Was his second marriage as I had suspected a bigamist marriage?  It looks as if he remarried without divorcing his first wife. This was confirmed by Eira Smith a relative from the same Lewis Harman line as myself.

I found this web site which says he came to Utah without his first wife when she refused to join the LDS church.  There's a photograph of him here too:

William's wife, Jane [Note, she is named here as 'Martha Jane']:

On 31st July, 1879, eight years after emigrating, William and Jane had a daughter called Gwendolyn.  See here:

The couple went on to have two other children besides Gwendolyn, Richard and Mary Annie.

Richard Harman

William Harman died of pneumonia on December the 31st 1900 aged 80
in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had come a long way from his native
South Wales, and took, what I think was a brave decision to leave the town of his birth and his family behind.  He put his faith before finance as he could have been very wealthy indeed if he had taken his rich uncle’s request to be his sole heir if he’d given up the Mormon faith but his faith was far more important to him.

Before I started to research my family tree, I had no  idea there
were any Mormon connections, despite there being a church in our
town.  Eira Smith, who is sadly now deceased, told me that a lot of our family are still living
in Salt Lake City and Staten Island, New York.

One thing I have discovered about the Harman family is that they were a hardy bunch.  Many of them lived well into their 80's.  My great grandmother, Mary Harman was 87 years old when she died in 1978.

Useful Links:

1.  How Green Was My Valley? -- The Welsh: Surnames and

Peoples of Utah
By Frederick S. Buchanan

3.  The Contribution of Wales to the United States of America

** Note, the surname Harman is written as Harmon on certain links.  I believe the correct family spelling of the name was Harman.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Using the Skeletons from My Family History to Plot a Novel [Part One]

I never realised when I started out tracing my family tree back in 1998 where it might lead to.  I hardly expected to find branches of my family in the US or that my genealogical research would turn into a fictional historical novel entitled, 'Black Diamonds'.

It all began with a chat to a friend who had started to trace her family tree.  I went along to the local library and met the librarian/historian there, Carolyn Jacob, who when I told her I was tracing the ‘Harman Line’, got very excited and told me there was an elderly lady at the Merthyr branch of the Glamorgan Family History Society, who had been tracing the same line for years.

It turned out after a quick phone call that this lady was belonging to me and we were from the same branch of the tree.  I ended up leaving the library with a photocopy of my family tree the lady had left there [with her permission] and a couple of photo copied chapters of local history books that contained information about my ancestors.  One was a chapter about Mormonism in Merthyr Tydfil and the other, a chapter about a very wealthy and prominent member of the community.

The site of the old Three Salmons Inn
The one in particular which was of interest to me at the time was,  Edmund Harman, who was classed as ‘A Gentleman of the Town, living off his own means’.  He was my 4 X great grandfather's brother who owned many properties in the area, including, The Three Salmons Inn, The Globe Inn, The Cross Keys Inn, The White Hart Inn in Cardiff several properties on Gillar Street,  shares in the Gas Works and the Taff Vale Railway to name but a few.  He regularly went hunting with the gentleman of the Court House which later became part of, The Merthyr Labour Club.

Edmund Harman who drowned in canal
With all my research, information given to me and attendance at various historical lectures, I was able to paint a vivid picture in my mind of what life was like during the 1800s in my home town.
There is a massive connection with my family and Mormonism, though I am not a Mormon myself.  I recently discovered that my 3 x great grandfather, Lewis Harman was excommunicated from the Church due to drunkenness.  This is something that seems to have passed down the line as his son, [also Edmund Harman] fell into the Glamorganshire Canal and drowned after getting drunk.

William Harman Mormon Pioneer
Other skeletons in the family closet have included, the bigamous marriage of William Harman, Lewis’s brother.  He was a pioneer in Merthyr Tydfil preaching about his faith on the streets.  He emigrated to Great Salt Lake, leaving his wife behind in Merthyr, as she refused to convert.  He remarried whilst out there and established a new family.

He was also involved in the building of the beautiful Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake.
Mormon Tabernacle Church
I come from a mining background, both my grandfathers were miners and so were a lot of my ancestors. My novel, ‘Black Diamonds’, contains elements of people living and working in that environment and emigration from Merthyr Tydfil to Utah during the 19th century.

An interesting fact is that rich Edmund Harman offered to leave all his money to his nephew William but William refused saying his Mormon faith was more important than any money! The S.S. Nevada, the ship that William sailed on from Liverpool to New York in 1871 to begin a new life in Utah...

Read part two here: