Monday, July 13, 2009

chasing ghosts

Trying to find evidence of your ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago, is a bit like chasing ghosts - ghosts in that their spirits have long since left this earth and the tangible proof of their being is more ephemeral than real.

My father, Arthur Harvey Davis was born in Austin, Texas in 1920. His father, of the same name, was born, to my knowledge, on a farm called Langford Downs, just two miles north of Lechlade. The farm is now gone, replaced by a newer house.

There is a picture of this house which I now have, developed by the local chemist in Lechlade who also had the last name of Davis. He died years ago, marrying late in life and without children. Davis, a local historian explained, is a Welch name. There are no other Davises in the town with the exception of one family which is a recent transplant from Wales.

All that I possess connecting me to the farm of Langford Downs and the village of Lechlade is a photograph. It a typical photograph of the period between 1860 and 1890. The date is based on the quality of the photograph, the pose of the two men, and the fact that my great grandfather would have been in his thirties most likely in the 1880's.

The local church in Lechlade dates from the 1200's. Like many churches it was built on an earlier foundation, and there have been over the years additions and changes. When I walked in the church today, a historian, David Ramsely, was acting as custodian. It was he who explained to me the Welch derivation of the name "Davis" (I knew.), the chemist who had the name Davis (I knew that too.), and the fact that Langfor Downs and Lechlade are in two different counties, Oxfordshire and Gloustershire (I didn't know that.).

Langford Downs is not on the map. The post office directed me to the location two miles north of Lechlade and near the smaller village of Filken. The area is a working farm with wheat as the primary product. A larger stone house stands on what was probably the site of the original house. Am ancient and gnarled tree marks the spot, unlike the surrounding area. There are two other houses in the same area, and I suppose that either of them might have been a replacement for the house my great grandfather owned.

The property records, if discoverable, are either in Gloustershire or Oxford. It all depends on the flip of a coin as to where the records were sent.

1 comment:

  1. Art, you need to change the place of Dad's birthplace to El Paso, Texas - not Austin. He was born April 1, 1920. When we were younger, we used to get up on his birthday and play all sorts of April Fools jokes on Dad. We, at least me, were not very imaginative. We did the same tired things year after year. Tied his shoelaces together, replaced his coffee sugar with salt.... I remember Debbie telling me years later the things that Alison did to her. Alison stepped up the level of practical joking in the family but even she did not rise to the level of Robin's mother with her Lottery Winner prank. I also remember how Hannah played a joke on Mary and invited her to school for "Grandmother's Day" Our family has a history of practical joking which seems to have improved with each generation. Even Art was not immune to the practical jokes. I remember Debbie telling me about the Michael J. Foxx meeting and the story you told her about getting arrested for sampling a piece of produce in the grocery store to make sure it was good before you bought it and being confronted by the grocery store. They had to drop the charges when they couldn't produce the evidence (you ate it)! Maybe you should start writing down some of the younger generation stories since we have them fresh in our minds. Then when our children try to tell their families about our family, they will have this to refer them to.