The name Roderick means “famous ruler” and in Wales is probably derived from the personal name Rhydderch. Cole meanwhile, is an English name which means “Swarthy, coal-black, charcoal” – the coal black bit is highly appropriate!
Mary Evans (nee Roderick) was born on September 19th 1855 at Ty Mawr in the Parish of Llanwynno, Glamorgan, South Wales – this is present day Hopkinstown / Trehopcyn on the outskirts of Pontypridd. Mary was the mother of Emily Maud Moses (nee Evans) and would have been the mother-in-law to Gwilym Thomas Moses had she lived for five more months. Our story starts in the neighbouring county of Monmouthshire, where the Welsh Roderick and English Cole families were both living in the small village of “Flowerdeluce“- this is present day Fleur de Lys near Blackwood, Gwent. We have French Huguenots, fleeing persecution, to blame for this Francais name (Lily flower) in a Welsh mining valley! Apparently, today, when asked where they are from, locals reply “Flower“!
Mary’s English Grandparents were William Cole, a collier, born Clifton, Somerset in 1802, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Maggs) who was born in Radstock, Somerset in 1804. William’s birthplace of Clifton was incorporated into the City of Bristol in the 1830’s, shortly after he had left for South Wales. It is not known if he and Elizabeth had met in Somerset or whether they met and got married in Monmouthshire. Interestingly William’s surname was originally Coles, but it became the singular Cole between 1843-47.The couple had a daughter, Charlotte (our direct ancestor) who was born in Abersychan in June 1830. Abersychan is about 12 miles north of Fleur de Lys. Charlotte had six Monmouthshire born sisters – Mariah 1833/Emma 1837/Elizabeth 1840/twins Esther and Jane I 1843 and Jane II 1847. Jane I died after only 19 days. At least three of the girls would later emigrate to Bevier Missouri USA around 1863-64. Mariah had married John Powell in 1853, Emma married David Griffiths in 1855 and Elizabeth married Lewis Williams in 1858.
Mary’s Welsh Grandparents were Llewelyn Roderick (a haullier) and his wife Ann (nee) Morgan who was born in Bedwas in 1795. They had two sons Thomas (our direct ancestor) born Mynydd Islwyn in 1830, and Daniel born two years later in Bedwas. Sadly Llewelyn Roderick died in 1838, aged just 43, well before the two families were joined together through Holy matrimony. He died at Pen y Quarra Farm, Mynydd Islwyn from dropsy which, despite the comical sounding name, was an unpleasant disease which involved the swelling of soft tissue; nowadays it is called oedema. In 1841, Llewelyn’s widow Ann, was living with her mother and son Thomas at Henevil or Henefail in the hamlet of Clawrplwyf, practically next door to Pen y quarra Farm – these addresses were about 7.5 miles S.W. of the town of Pont y Pwl. Financial and practical necessity meant that young widow Ann would eventually re-marry. In 1847 she wed (somewhat ironically) Thomas Llewelyn, who was 11 years her junior, at Penmaen Independent Chapel where Ann had been Baptized. The marriage certificate tells us that both bride and groom were residing in Fleur de Lys. Thomas Llewelyn became step-dad to Daniel, who was described as a collier when aged just nine!! The Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1842, which forbade children under the age of 10 working underground, came too late for poor Daniel. Later, in 1859, Daniel would leave Fleur de Lys for the U.S. when he was in his mid-twenties. Thomas and Daniel’s mother Ann died in Fleur de Lys in 1860. Going back a generation, Ann’s parents were William and Mary (b.1773) Morgan.
Mary Evans (nee Roderick)’s parents Thomas Roderick and Charlotte Cole were married in the Parish Church of Mynydd Islwyn on August 9th 1851. At the time they were both living in “Flowerdeluce“, and Charlotte would have been four months pregnant. Five months beforehand, in the census of 1851, Thomas was recorded as a 21year old coalminer lodging with the Prosser family. Interestingly, not only were the couple illiterate, but apparently Thomas spoke hardly any English whilst his bride to be, spoke hardly any Cymraeg; so it must have been love at first sight then! As a postscript to that, Charlotte was later described as bi-lingual in her 1891 and subsequent census entry’s. By 1854 the couple and baby daughter (Ann) had moved west to the Parish of Llanwynno, and the 1861 census finds them living on the Rhondda Road, just outside the town of Pontypridd. Rhondda Road was a single row of houses, following the River Rhondda, built on the Ty Mawr Estate to house coalminers and their families after two pits were sunk there in 1850. The pits were the Ty Mawr and Gyfeillion; presumably coalminer Thomas Roderick worked at one of these. Presumably as well, Thomas was joined at the coalface by his father-in-law William Cole, who together with his wife and daughters, had also moved west to the Rhondda Road (No 57). Indeed the census of 1861 tells us that three of his married daughters were living at No.’s 10,66 and 73 Rhondda Road. The Roderick’s became members of the nearby Capel Rhondda; this historic building, built in 1853 and modified in 1861, later was the venue for the first ever performance of “the unofficial Welsh national anthem” – the hymn “Cwm Rhondda/Guide me O thou great redeemer”; sometimes better known as “Bread of Heaven”.
Towards the end of 1862, the growing Roderick family moved about five miles west to the Parish of Llantrisant; settling first at Pleasant View (1871 census) and then Waunlai Cottages (1881 census). Both addresses still exist today – the former off the Penrhiwfer Road, and the latter north of the town of Tonyrefail, Rhondda-Cynon-Taf. Interestingly William Cole and his wife stayed in Hopkinstown, a decision which would later backfire on poor William. With their youngest daughter (Jane) having left home, the 1871 census finds Mr.& Mrs. Cole taking in a lodger – Rees Davies. Jane Cole had married Thomas Davies on July 20th 1867 at the Carmel Baptist Church Pontypridd, when she was 19 years old. By the next census of 1881, William was an 80 year old widower living with a 34 year old widow! (Anne Martin) and her children – sadly for William he was her lodger. This would be William’s last census entry as he died later that year on the 22nd of April from senile decay. His, still illiterate, daughter Charlotte had come over from Tonyrefail to be “Present at death” but, with no family able to support him in his old age, he had to become someone’s lodger and mine coal until the bitter end. This was the downside of him living to a good age; remember there was no old age pension back then, and the workhouse was hardly an attractive option. And, as a consequence of having had no sons, the Cole name now disappears from our story; but I for one, am extremely grateful to William Cole for crossing the River Severn back in the 1820’s and settling in Wales. Incidentally, his wife Elizabeth died in the autumn of 1877 aged 74.
Back to Thomas and Charlotte Roderick, and after arriving in the Parish of Llantrisant, they started attending the fledgling Ainon Baptist Chapel in Tonyrefail. Ainon means spring (as in water), and it had been started in a stable loft in 1860 before a proper Chapel building was opened in 1862. Soon after “amongst brothers and sisters who came to the place were Mr. & Mrs. Roderick from Capel Rhondda“. In the 1881 census Thomas was described as “Coalminer under colliery overman“; however, his daughter Mary’s wedding certificate, the following year, tells us he himself had been promoted to overman. For the last years of his life he was a deputy overseer at the Cilely Colliery which was situated between Edmundstown and Tonyrefail.
Thomas and Charlotte had nine children; – Ann (b. Blackwood, Mynydd Islwyn 5/1/1852), Llewelyn (b. Llanwynno Parish 1854), Mary b.Ty Mawr Llanwynno 19/9/1855, Buddyg (b. Llanwynno Parish 1858), Caswallon (b. Llanwynno Parish 1861), Gwrthefyr (b. Llantrisant Parish 1863), Nefydd (b. Waunlai Nr. Tonyrefail 1866), Eli (b.Llantrisant Parish 1869), and Morfydd (b. Llantrisant Parish 1872). An interesting aspect of this branch of my family is this highly unusual (Ann & Mary excepted!) group of names given to the Roderick children, two of which I had never come across before. What makes the naming of the children even more intriguing, was Charlotte’s English background and Thomas’ illiteracy. There seems to be a theme based around Welsh/Celtic legend/mythology in post-Roman Britain. Thomas’ son Nefydd described his father as “a particularly patriotic Welshman“, and we know he was a keen reader (in Welsh) of ancient British history. So this suggests Thomas did have some sort of education, possibly through the Chapel Sunday school. As well as Ysgol Sul, there was also the Eisteddfodau; one was held annually in Tonyrefail for many years, including one at Ainon in 1863. Presumably Thomas came across the names from these two sources, and used them to express his Welsh-ness. His 2nd son Caswallon’s name, for example, refers to the legendary son of Beli Mawr in The Mabinogion, whilst Morfydd was the daughter of Urien Rheged, a figure of Welsh Arthurian legend. Buddyg meanwhile, is the Welsh form of Boudicca or Boadicea; it certainly made tracking the family in their census entries very easy! Not surprisingly emigration would feature prominently in this generation; Buddyg and Caswallon headed for the US, whilst their brother Eli went to South Africa.
But what of their parents; Thomas Roderick died in Tonyrefail on February 20th 1884 aged just 52. His son Nefydd was present as his father succumbed to hemiplegia. Charlotte Roderick lived for another 40 years, dying on March 14th 1924, aged 94. In her first census entry as a widow, 62 year old Charlotte was “living on her own means” at Chapel Road, Llantrisant with her 19 year old single, dress-maker daughter Morfydd. Charlotte was later affectionately known as Gia, and when she reached the proverbial three score and ten, she informed her children that she would spend her few remaining years “visiting” them in turn. Little did they realise that she would live for another 24 years, and so would end up outliving all bar one of her children who remained in Wales. In the census of 1901 Charlotte was still living with Morfydd, who was now married with two children. John David Morgan (b.Llanharan 1868) was her husband and Ilid (1895) & Carvil (1899) were their offspring – note the unusual Christian names again. The family were living on Llantrisant Road, Tonyrefail. Charlotte’s world was then turned upside down, when Morfydd died on December 4th 1909 from puerperal fever following childbirth. We assume the baby died as well. At the time of the tragedy the family were living at 122 Birchgrove Porth Rhondda with, by then, their four children – Gwyneth and Nefydd having arrived in 1903 and 1905 respectively. With young children to look after, 42 year old insurance superintendent John D. remarried 11 months later on November 11th 1910. Wife number two was 41 year old widow Helen Garland, and happily the couple would go on to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary in 1960. Not so happily Morfydd and John D.’s son Ilid was killed in WWI (1918) whilst serving as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery. He is commemorated on the war memorial in Porth Square Cwm Rhondda.
Charlotte meanwhile, remained in Tonyrefail and become a “boarder” in her late seventies. 91 High Street was her new address, and fellow septuagenarian and widow Eleanor William was her “landlady“. Despite being described as a boarder, Charlotte still had plenty of family living in Tonyrefail to give her help and support. Old age finally caught up with her at 81 Collena Road, Tonyrefail; the informant on the death certificate was James Griffiths, the husband of Charlotte’s Grandaughter Mary b.1874 (Llewelyn’s daughter). There now follows a glowing tribute to Charlotte Roderick, written by the Reverend Thomas Thomas in “Hanes Eglwys Ainon Tonyrefail” or a history of Ainon Church Tonyrefail – “It was not our intention to chronicle anything about someone who is still alive, but this mother in Israel is an exception. She will be 88 years old in June 1917. She is the mother of all of us. And, as the oldest member her special task for many years has been to present every gift of importance on behalf of the Church. She and her husband came here from Capel Rhondda towards the end of 1862. Our old sister is well and active today and particularly cheerful of spirit. Future darkness only occasionally shadows her present, and this undoubtedly contributes to her old age. She has many children, grandchildren and gt. grandchildren, most of them follow her in the Baptist faith. She enjoys the company of the saints everywhere, but she often says “Yn Ainon rwy, yn licio bod“. (In Ainon, I like being) We hope to keep her interesting and amusing company for a long time.” It must have been hard for Charlotte to have been “cheerful of spirit“, as by then she had already seen four of her children die.
Back to her daughter Mary Roderick, and in the census of 1871 she was a “15” year old live-in servant working for the Davies family who farmed at nearby Underhill. Ten years later she was described as a “Dressmaker” (and living back at home) the year before her marriage to James Evans at the Parish Church of Llantrisant on December 17th 1882. They certainly did not rush into it, as they already had a four year old son, Ivor Roderick Evans b. 24/3/1877, who, despite his birth being registered as Ivor Roderick by his Nan Charlotte, lived with the Evans family until the wedding. Interestingly on their wedding certificate, the couple do not give their ages (28&27), but instead are described as “Full age“. Mary and James began married life living at Station Road in Tonyrefail, these houses had unsurprisingly been built by the Ely Valley Railway Co. A decade later they, and their children, would end up living in another new pit village -Ynysybwl; sadly for James only briefly (see the Evans family page). Mary would also later die prematurely, on July 13th 1916, at her second and final home in Ynysybwl – Maes y Dderwen. Her age on her death certificate was given as 56 but, her son John who registered the death, was nearly five years out! – she was actually two months short of her 61st birthday. The cause of death was given as “Influenza+diarrhoea and exhaustion“; coincidently or not, her youngest son Thomas James Evans had been killed in WW1 just five months previously, I would suggest a “Broken heart” would have been a major contribution to her demise. Mary’s youngest daughter, Emily Maud, would later name her youngest child, Trefor Rodric Moses, as a nod to the Roderick side of her family- albeit with a less Anglicised spelling.
Mary’s two sisters, who did not emigrate, also came nowhere near to emulating their mother’s longevity;- Ann died on May 3rd 1910 aged 57, whilst poor Morfydd died, as mentioned before, in 1909, aged just 37. Ann had married John Thomas in 1869, when she was barely 18 years old. She had claimed on the marriage certificate, at the Calvary Chapel (Trefforest?), that she was of “full age“- i.e. over 21. Her husband John was born in Peterson, Glamorgan in 1844, making him eight years older than Ann; although later, in the census of 1901, his birth year had shifted to 1850. Ann became a mam in her teens, and the Rhondda based couple had five children, who’s names had a familiar ring about them – Mary Ann 1871/ Thomas 1876/ Nefydd 1878/ Emily 1880-1963/ and Morfydd 1882. The Thomas family’s census entry of 1901 throws up two points of interest – firstly daughter Emily was described as a “student at university” (highly unusual for a female back then), whilst her father was described as a “Tea dealer, retailer” – presumably on an enforced sabbatical from the coal mines. Emily would go on to marry Philip Morris from Cardiff in 1902; they had three sons. Ann Thomas (nee Roderick) died at the family home 26 Arthur Street Williamstown from cardiac valvular disease.
Their brother Gwrthefyr did considerably better, possibly because of a change of career. From an early age he enjoyed working on the farms in the Tonyrefail area and his first record of employment was as a farm labourer at Rhiwinder Farm. He married Eliza Lewis in 1883 and they lived in Tonyrefail where Gwrthefyr worked as a collier. He then managed to get the tenancy of a farm owned by the Treferig Estate in the Parish of Penderyn (then in Breconshire). These early years of farming were apparently very hard, with Gwrthefyr and his family having to make many sacrifices. They moved to Bryncarnau, Llwydcoed Nr. Aberdare where a new landlord added to their difficulties by putting up the rent whenever Gwrthefyr improved the land. He had to give up farming for a few years, and together with his eldest son, worked as a haulier at Abernant Colliery, whilst Eliza kept a shop. Then, in 1910, they were fortunate to obtain the tenancy of Berthlwyd Farm Nr. Hirwaun. There the family prospered. Gwrthefyr and Eliza both died at Berthlwyd in 1947. His brother’s Llewelyn and Nefydd remained in Tonyrefail, where the latter died aged just 38; his eulogy was published in “Yr Athraw” (The teacher) in Hydref/October 1904. Nefydd was also the treasurer of the local Eisteddfod. Like Gwrthefyr, Llewelyn also tried his hand at farming and was a tenant of Tyn y Coed for a number of years. He died in 1921 aged 67. Llewelyn had seven children including a son William 1881-1944 and a daughter Ellen. Ellen’s life was blighted by tragedy – she lost two children as infants, and in 1903 her husband David Evans was killed in an accident at Cilely Colliery.
As mentioned before, another brother, and middle child, Caswallon emigrated to the U.S.; he left in 1879, whilst still a teenager. He first stayed at a lodging house in Youngstown, Ohio with his Uncle Daniel Roderick. He remained in Youngstown until 1884 when he moved to Laurence, Stark Co. Ohio; 1900 found him in Massilon, Ohio and then in 1920 his final move was to Akron, Summit Co. Ohio. In-between, in 1905, we know he came back for one last visit to the land of his fathers. In 1883 he had married Susan Rowlands (28/11/1863-Feb.1943), they had six children. Caswallon died in 1937. His sister Buddyg also emigrated to the U.S.; she married William Thomas.
Some of the Roderick family who remained in Tonyrefail are commemorated on a memorial erected in Tynybryn Parc in the centre of the town. The memorial was put up in response to the unceremonious demolition (2011) of headstones in the nearby graveyard of the former Ainon Baptist Chapel which sadly had been demolished in 1992. Ten Roderick’s, who had been buried at Ainon, are listed in three separate groups on the memorial erected in 2012 with the help of the Glamorgan Family History Society.
- Danny (son of Nefydd, infant death)/ Elizabeth 1953 (wife of Nefydd)/Nefydd 1904 (son of Thomas & Charlotte).
- Nefydd 1905-1959 grandson of Llewelyn/ Elizabeth Ann 1881-1968 Llewelyn’s daughter-in-law.
- Daniel 1895 (Llewelyn’s son, infant death)/ Daniel Thomas 1897 (Llewelyn’s son, infant death)/ Jennet 1857-1923, Llewelyn’s wife/ Llewelyn 1921 (son of Thomas & Charlotte)/ Lottie 1906.
Thanks to the descendants of Gwrthefyr Roderick for their help in researching this branch.