This page provides brief details of the lives of some of our ancestors in the direct line to today's Fosters. To the right of the simplified family tree is a timeline of events that occurred during their lifetimes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THOMAS FOSTER born c1790

Little is currently known about Thomas except that he was born around 1790, is an iron-miner, and during the 1840s is living with his wife and family in Briant's Field, an area close to the centre of Merthyr Tydfil. He has at least four sons; William, born in 1819, Lewis born in 1820, Evan born in 1821, and Gabriel born in 1829. He and his wife also have at least one daughter, Rachael, born in 1816.

Lewis, our direct antecedent, is the first to get married - in March, 1840 - followed by Rachel in June of the same year, William in 1843, Evan in 1845, and Gabriel in 1855. Altogether they present Thomas and his wife with eleven grandchildren and at least eleven great-grandchildren - however there are very probably more as yet untraced.

The descendants of the grand-children of Rachel, William, Evan, and Gabriel are doubtless numerous and to be found throughout Wales and the rest of the world - however our interest lies with Lewis, as he is next in the line of our direct ancestors.

 

LEWIS FOSTER born 1820

On the 28th of March, 1840, Lewis leaves the family's neat, slate-roofed, terraced cottage in Briant's Field to get married to Harriet Thomas at St. Tydfil's church. Harriet's brother Richard signs the register.

Lewis and Harriet set up home almost next door to Harriet's family, at number 12, Cwmglo, a small cluster of houses near Heolgerrig, a suburb about a mile to the west of Briant's Field on the other side of the Taff river. Close by is a famous early non-conformist Chapel - also called Cwmglo (pronounced coom-glo) - that was built in 1690, and used by worshippers not affiliated to the established church. The area to the immediate south of their house is associated with the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, with pits, tramways and ventilation shafts throughout, and is today designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a nationally important industrial landscape.

Lewis and Harriet's home in Cwmglo would have looked very similar to this standard row of the period, which is preserved nearby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1840 their first child Margaret is born, followed by Thomas in 1842, Ann in 1844, Mary in 1847, and Catherine in 1849.

Relatives are never far away, and staying with the family on the night of the 1851 Census is Lewis' sister, Rachael, and her 2 children - Thomas and Dinah.

In the Spring of 1851, another son, Joseph is born - and the following year the family move to Abercarn, some 20 miles to the South-east, in the Ebbw (pronounced Ebbo) Valley. Abercarn is the location of the huge Prince of Wales colliery, and it is doubtless here that Lewis will now work. The area is likely to have been recommended to Lewis by his brother Evan who moved here two years previously. Living standards are quite high in Abercarn, with good quality housing, schools, a library, and sickness benefits for the miners. They stay for a good number of years, during which time two further children, Benjamin in 1853, and Celia in 1859 are born. As a matter of interest, the area was owned by a man named Benjamin Hall, after whom Big Ben (the bell in the famous clock tower beside the Houses of Parliament) was named.

The Ebbw Valley near Abercarn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At some time during the 1860s the family leave the Ebbw Valley behind them to seek work elsewhere, and by 1871 are living in Craig Rhymney, a hamlet on the main road winding down through the Rhymney Valley.

By 1881, they have moved a few hundred yards up the valley to the hamlet of Troedrhiwfuwch, and are living at 23, High Street. Benjamin is now the only child remaining at home with Lewis and Harriet, but they are surrounded by their grown up children's families:

Next door, at number 24, is daughter Mary with her husband Eginton Jones and 4 children (the only son being called Lewis Foster Jones - a nice tribute).

At number 18, is son Joseph and daughter-in-law Catherine, with their 3 children.

A mile or so further up the valley, in Pontlottyn, lives son Thomas with wife Elizabeth, and their 2 children - while at number 2, Reform Street, also Pontlottyn, lives daughter Catherine with her husband James.

In 1888, Lewis dies in Troedrhiwfuwch, and Harriet moves a few doors along, to number 26, to live with daughter Celia, and son-in-law David Davies, who have recently moved into the village.

When, after a few years, Celia and her growing family leave Troedrhiwfuwch for Pontlottyn, Harriet does not go with them, but goes instead to Bedwellty to live with daughter Catherine and her family.

Harriet dies in Bedwelly in 1907.

(Note: Troedyrhiwfuwch was subsequently declared unsafe due to landslip, and was abandoned. There are separate pages on this site devoted to the village.)

 

 

 

THOMAS FOSTER born 1842

Thomas is the eldest son of Lewis and Harriet, and so his early life closely parallels that of his Father with regard to work and location. He is born at No. 12, Cwmglo, and in around 1853 moves with the family to Abercarn where, at the age of 9, he is employed as a coal-miner. When the family leaves Abercarn and moves to Craig Rhymney in the Rhymney Vally, he of course goes with them.

Thomas leaves the family home on the 1st of February, 1876, to marry Elizabeth Jones. They set up home at 4, Greenfield Terrace, Pontlottyn, as noted above. Two years later, their first child is born, a daughter, and she is named Harriet, after Thomas' Mother. They add to the family with a son, William, named for Elizabeth's Father, in 1881 - followed by Lewis (1885), David (1887), Elizabeth (1889), and then, in 1891, Thomas, who is to be the subject of the next section.

1888 is a sad year for them, for as well as losing Thomas' Father, they have another tragedy when their first-born, Harriet, dies of a childhood illness, aged 10.

Thomas and Elizabeth move home in the mid-1890s, but only to another house in the same road, number 35. There in December, 1897, is born a further daughter, Myfanwy.

Elizabeth Foster c1898

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Thomas' death in the first decade of the twentieth century, Elizabeth moves with sons David and Thomas, and daughter Myfanwy, to 36 Edmund Street, Pontlottyn. David and Thomas are by now coalminers, whilst sons Lewis and William, and daughter Lizzie, have married and moved away with their families to live in New Road, Deri, in the adjacent Darran Valley - the men working in the nearby mines.

It must be said that Thomas and Elizabeth led rugged and relatively uneventful lives - Thomas in the hard and dangerous occupation of coal-miner from the tender age of 9, and Elizabeth bringing up 7 children in an era when childhood illnesses were rife, and often fatal. One blessing was that work for Thomas appears to have been readily available in their chosen area, and they did not have to up sticks periodically and move around the country, as Thomas' parents had been obliged to do.

 

THOMAS FOSTER born 1891

Thomas is born on the 15th of December, 1891, at 4, Greenfield, Pontlottyn, as noted above. He attends Pontlottyn School until the age of 14, when, in common with the majority of his schoolmates, he enters the mining industry.

In 1911, Thomas is a Hewer, i.e. working at the coal-face, almost certainly at the Rhymney Merthyr Colliery (also known as Tynewydd), a few minutes walk from the family's new home in Edmund Street. It is likely that he remains in this occupation for several years - at least until after the First World War - until his fine singing voice takes him out of the Valleys and on to a career in the entertainment industry.

This is very much in the pre-television age, of course, and the favourite forms of entertainment are Films, Radio, and Variety. When today people go to see a well-known singer, or perhaps a comedian performing live stand-up, the featured artist will generally be supported by acts of a similar nature - other comics or musicians. Variety, on the other hand was, as the name implies, a much more varied evening. There might be musical acts, a couple of comedians, dancers and so on, all one after the other to give a good mix of entertainment. Variety was extremely popular, with a great deal of work available for a talented singer - and it is this world that Thomas now enters.

Thomas (seated) and partner

Along with musician friends, he forms various combos, including the Royal Dominion Singers, and The Orpheus Quartette, and later he and a partner team up as a duo. They appear in a number of shows, and during one of these engagements he meets a young lady called Pearl from a London theatrical family. They eventually marry, and in the fullness of time - 1927 in fact - have a son who they name Ivor. He is followed in 1930 by Michael, and in 1933 by Jill.

During the last few years a persistent chest infection has hampered Thomas' singing career, and in 1936 he and Pearl open a small hotel in Clacton-on-Sea to provide accommodation for show-business visitors to the resort. On the outbreak of the Second World War Clacton is considered a possible invasion point from across the Channel, and the town is cleared of all civilians. The family return to London, and Thomas tries to enlist, despite being 48 years of age. His chest infection, however, prevents this and he instead does war work with an engineering company in Colindale, a suburb of London to which the family have relocated, and where their son Ray is born in 1943. Later they move to nearby Golders Green, and live at 2a Prince's Parade. Thomas still sees his show-business friends when they visit the Golders Green Hippodrome, and often delights his children by taking them backstage.

 

Golders Green Hippodrome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1947, Thomas receives news that his brother-in-law Ned (Edward, husband of Elizabeth) is very ill in Pontypridd, back in Wales. Thomas hurries there to assist in any way he can, but while there falls ill himself, fails rapidly, and dies of Pneumonia a few days later on the 7th of September.

Pearl continues to bring up their children on her own, and lives to be 103. On her death in 2006 many descendants of the above line are in families across Wales, England and Canada.