Times Leader Arts & Entertainment

Trip to Wales goes through our Valley

May 3, 1998

Times Leader Staff Writer

Two years from now, if all goes well, a bus full of American descendants of an immigrant couple named Jervis will wind its way through the countryside of Wales.

The itinerary: visiting the old homelands of Thomas and Anne Burton Jervis, who emigrated to Wilkes-Barre from a little Welsh mining town in the 19th century.

"One of the most exciting things in the world is to make this connection," said Carol Lewark, of Fort Wayne, Ind., family genealogist for the Jervis/Burton families and organizer of the trip. Her original plans were to take her children and grandchildren to the old world towns where their ancestors lived, but she is eager to hear from her "lost" Wyoming Valley cousins as well and invite them to come along.

Through the words of her late mother and grandmother, Lewark had long been proud of her Welsh heritage, and she had done some genealogy. Then in 1997 she and her husband Paul took a 10-day trip to Wales. Instead of giving her all the answers, the visit simply whetted her appetite for more knowledge of her family.

"I returned home to America knowing that I had also left my home in Wales," she said. "I longed to know what my great-grandmother and grandfather looked like, and who they were."

Back in Fort Wayne, she decided to rummage once more through an old trunk of her grandmother's that a cousin had given her years earlier.

With more deeply understanding eyes, now she looked at family heirlooms and also began to wonder about the faraway community in the Northeastern Pennsylvania mountains that so many ancestors had called home.

There was a photo of great-grandparents Thomas and Anne, who eventually left the coal mines of Wilkes-Barre for a farm in Ohio, taking daughter Sarah (who would become Lewark's grandmother) and son John with them. After Thomas' death, Anne would move back to the Wyoming Valley, to live among the five grown children who had remained behind. There was also a Wilkes-Barre newspaper photo and clipping, from the mid-1930s, showing great-uncle Joseph Jervis of Plains Township, who at 84 had just won the "oldest man on the grounds" prize in a Welsh Day celebration at Fernbrook Park.

From the mists of time, Lewark's ancestors began to emerge. "It was just like a revelation to be able to put a face on a name," she said. Lewark redoubled her efforts, collecting from Wales information on her mother's Burton family back to 1792, and making good progress on her father's Jervis line as well.

But she is eager to connect up with her Northeastern Pennsylvania cousins as well. They would be descendants of great-aunts and great-uncles Anne Jenkins, Mary Jones, Margaret Morris, Richard Jervis and Joseph Jervis, all long deceased.

"I hope to find those lost relatives in Pennsylvania, to see if there are perhaps two, four or even six who would like to return with us to see and touch the place from where our people came," she said.

Lewark plans a trip that will include visits to Llanbrynmair, where the Jervis and Burton families originated; Darowen Parish, where Thomas and Anne married; Machynlleth, where the family lived; and Tredegar, where Thomas and the sons worked in the coal mines and where several of the children were born.

Some of the other stops will be made at St. David's, home of the great cathedral named for the patron saint of Wales; Ruthin, site of Ruthin Castle; and Snowdonia Nell Park, in the mountains.

The trip is planned for May of 2000. Cousins who would like more information about the trip may contact Carol Lewark at The Arc of Northeast Indiana, 2542 Thompson Ave., Fort Wayne, Ind. 46807. The phone number is (219) 456-4534.

News notes:

  • Would you believe the National Archives is running out of space -- computer space, at least, according to its director.

    Archivist John W. Carlin told a congressional committee last month that his agency needs a 12 percent increase in its budget. Much of the storage problem, he said, stems from a huge increase in computer files government offices are sending to the archives.

  • Yet another historic American battlefield is threatened by prospective development.

    Patrick McGuigan, the borough manager of Malvern, Pa., must raise $2.5 million over the next 18 months to buy the Paoli battlefield, where British and American troops clashed in 1777.

    "After that," the Associated Press reported, "the private school that now owns the 40-acre tract of woods and farmland 20 miles west of Philadelphia will open the bidding to developers."

  • Remember, this column is now accessible through your computer at www.leader.net. Then click on "Arts and Entertainment."

  • Have you solved some tough genealogical problems in your research? Do you have some tips you'd like to share with others? Would you like to report a success story? Drop me a line here at the paper. I'll get in touch with you and help you bring the benefits of your experience to others.

    © 1998 The Times Leader