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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #123

Dear Reader,

Always a satisfying moment, I’ve completed the storyboard for Operation Cameo, book six in my (Amazon #1 🙂) Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. Next week, I will start on the first draft. Eve is feisty while her partner Guy is a pacifist. Based on true events.

My direct ancestor Joan, Countess of Kent (29 September 1328 – 7 August 1385) known to history as ‘The Fair Maid of Kent.’ French chronicler Jean Froissart described her as “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving.”

Joan gave birth to my ancestor Thomas Holland and later when married to her third husband Edward Plantagenet ‘the Black Prince’, Richard II.

My direct ancestor Thomas Meade was born c1380 in Wraxall, Somerset. His parents were Thomas Atte Meade and Agnes Wycliff.

Thomas died in 1455 and this extract from his will offers an insight into the times.

“I leave to Philip Meade my son two pipes of woad, two whole woollen cloths, my beat goblet with a cover, made of silver and gilded, and my best brass bowl. I leave to Joan, the wife of Roger Ringeston, my daughter, one pipe of woad and 40s sterling.”

Lots of Quakers on my family tree. Here’s the latest discovery, Joan Ford, daughter of William Ford and Elizabeth Penny, born 11 December 1668 in Curry Mallet, Somerset. Joan was three years older than her husband, John Lowcock, not a big difference, but unusual for the era.

Just discovered that my direct ancestor Sir John Cobham, Third Baron Cobham, paid for the construction of Rochester Bridge (in the background on this painting) across the River Medway. This route, originally established by the Romans, was essential for traffic between London, Dover and mainland Europe.

Painting: Artist unknown, Dutch style, 17th century.

My 19 x great grandmother, Constance of York, Countess of Gloucester, was born in 1374, the only daughter of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and his wife Isabella of Castile. 

In November 1397, Constance married Thomas Despenser, 1st Earl of Gloucester, one of Richard II’s favourites. The couple produced three children: a son, Richard, and two daughters. The first daughter, Elizabeth, died in infancy, while the second daughter, Isabel, was born after her father’s death.

When Henry IV deposed and murdered Richard II, the Crown seized the Despenser lands. In consequence, in December 1399, Thomas Despenser and other nobles hatched a plot known as the Epiphany Rising. Their plan was to assassinate Henry IV and restore Richard, who was alive at this point, to the throne.

According to a French chronicle, Edward, Constance’s brother, betrayed the plot, although English chronicles make no mention of his role. Thomas Despenser evaded immediate capture, but a mob cornered him in Bristol and beheaded him on 13 January 1400.

After Thomas’ death, Constance was granted a life interest in the greater part of the Despenser lands and custody of her son. However, in February 1405, during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion to liberate Wales, Constance instigated a plot to abduct Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, and his brother, Roger, from Windsor Castle. 

Constance’s plan was to deliver the young Earl, who had a claim to the English throne, to his uncle Sir Edmund Mortimer, who was married to Glyndwr’s daughter.

The first part of Constance’s plan went well, only to stumble when Henry’s men captured Edmund and Roger Mortimer as they entered Wales.

With the plot over, Constance implicated her elder brother, Edward – clearly sibling love was not a priority in the House of York – and he was imprisoned for seventeen weeks at Pevensey Castle. Meanwhile, Constance languished in Kenilworth Castle.

With the rebellions quashed, Henry IV released Constance and she became the mistress of Edmund Holland, 4th Earl of Kent. Out of wedlock, they produced my direct ancestor, Eleanor, who married James Tuchet, 5th Baron Audley.

Constance outlived Henry IV and her brother, Edward. She died on 28 November 1416 and was buried in Reading Abbey.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #121

Dear Reader,

I’ve received messages asking me when Operation Cameo, book six in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, will be available. I’m pleased to say that the book will be listed on all major platforms as a pre-order later this month.

The earliest photograph to feature people. The Boulevard du Temple 1838 by Louis Daguerre. Because the exposure lasted for several minutes the moving traffic in the busy street left no trace. Only a shoe polisher and his client remained in place long enough to appear on the printed image. Sam mentions this in my latest Sam Smith mystery, Damaged.

Summer 1915, C Company, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, Number Nine Platoon. This picture includes my 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick. 

On 25 September 1915 the Royal West Surrey Regiment engaged in the Battle of Loos, which resulted in 80% British casualties, including Albert, when the generals gassed their own men.

A State Lottery was recorded in 1569. The tickets were sold at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, pictured c1560.

A poem written in Welsh c1920 about my 2 x great grandfather William Howe. Lines include: ‘He deserves all the praise he receives’. ‘A Christian in his warm home’. ‘William Howe is a godly saint for getting us all to pray again in the chapel with the children’. ‘We will enjoy a big feast at the Sunday School’. ‘We will sing his praises when we meet in heaven’.

My latest article for the Seaside News appears on page 36 of this month’s magazine.

I’ve traced the Bick branch of my family back to the fifteenth century. They settled in Badgeworth, Gloucestershire and lived there for hundreds of years. My branch of the family moved to London in the Victorian era, but you can still find Bicks in numerous numbers in Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately, the records for the Bicks of Badgeworth are not extensive, but I have uncovered a few nuggets of information that add details to my ancestors’ lives.

The surname Bick is of Dutch and German origin. It derives from the Middle Dutch and Middle High German word bicke meaning pickaxe or chisel. The name was associated with stonemasons and people who worked with pickaxes and chisels.

It’s likely that the Bicks arrived in Gloucestershire from the Netherlands or Germany in the early Middle Ages. My branch of the family feature in many land deeds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These deeds indicate that they farmed land as yeomen. However, they were never described as ‘gentlemen’, which suggests that there was no link with the gentry.

Bick sons married the daughters of the following families: Meek, Fawkes, Spring, Blush, Izod and Netherton. Evocative names. These families were also of the yeomen class. The name Fawkes suggests a link to the infamous Guy Fawkes. However, Guy was from York and it is unlikely that my ancestor, Jane Fawkes, was closely related to him.

From the land, my Bick ancestors became innkeepers, running coaching inns. George was a popular name over four successive generations. George ‘the second’ – 22 October 1668 to 3 June 1738 – was an innkeeper in Badgeworth. Some of the Bicks left wills, but they are difficult to read and those that are legible contain only basic details of modest inheritances for sons and daughters.

The Bick ancestor who captured my attention was Thomas Bick, born 1575 in Badgeworth. He died in 1623 of the ‘pest’, also known as the pestilence or plague. The plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which mainly infects rats and other rodents who become the prime reservoir for the bacteria.

Seventeenth century plague doctor with protective mask and clothing.

The Pestilence was a bubonic plague pandemic that occurred in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. The plague created religious, social and economic upheavals with profound effects for the inhabitants of the time. It also drastically altered the course of European history.

Further waves of the plague swept over Europe throughout the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. Certain years were more blighted than others, including 1623 the year that Thomas died. That bout of the pestilence lasted until 1640. It reoccurred again in 1644–54 and 1664–67. 

The 1664 to 1667 episode was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. In 1665-66 it swept through London producing the ‘Great Plague of London’. Then, in September 1666, the ‘Great Fire of London’ destroyed the city. Some people speculated that the fire killed the pestilence, although records suggest that the disease was already on the wane. My London ancestors were caught up in the ‘Great Fire of London’, but more about them in future posts.

London 1665.

As we know to our cost, when we abuse nature and animals we create pandemics. Our ancestors did not have the scientific knowledge to appreciate this, but we do; there is no excuse.

Along with the pestilence, our ancestors died from a range of diseases and illnesses. Here is an example from 1632 with a few definitions.

Cut of the Stone – The surgical removal of a bladder stone

French Pox – Syphilis

Jawfaln – Locked jaw

Impostume – An abscess

King’s Evil – A tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

Livergrown – Liver disease, possibly caused by alcoholism 

Murthered – Murdered

Planet – To be stricken with terror or affected adversely by the supposed influence of a planet

Purples – Purple blotches on the skin caused by broken blood vessels, indicative of an underlying illness, such as scurvy

Rising of the Lights – A condition of the larynx, trachea or lungs

Tissick – A cough

Tympany – Bloating

The saddest entry on this list, and the largest in number, is chrisomes and infants. Chrisomes refers to a baby less than a month old, which indicates that the start could often be the most dangerous period of a person’s life.

Stay safe. Wishing you well.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #114

Dear Reader,

A lovely message from my local library this week. Apparently, my books are ‘proving popular’ with borrowers and the library would like to acquire more copies. We will send them a parcel of my books, free of charge. ‘Libraries gave us power.’ Support your local library!

Eve at #1 and another lovely review. “Great read! Can’t wait to read the next episode! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read about the resistance, spy and wartime.”

Many thanks to everyone who supports my books.

My article about SOE agent Pearl Witherington appears in the August issue of the Seaside News. Pearl is probably my favourite SOE agent, although all were truly remarkable.

A remarkable discovery. A writer in the family. On 24 December 1716 my direct ancestor William Axe, the son of a clergyman, boarded the St George bound for the Cape in Africa. He was one of four writers who joined the crew and the ‘Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa.’ 

The Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa, later known as the Royal African Company, was founded by the British royal family in 1660. It shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other company in the history of the Atlantic Slave Trade. I wonder if William Axe wrote about that. More research required.

In the spring of 1846 my 4 x great grandparents Thomas Thompson Dent Jr and Dorothy Hornsby set sail for New York bound for Canada. They arrived in New York on 24 June 1846 then with their five children, William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Richard and Henry, and baby Dorothy, travelled north where they established a farm in Ontario, Canada. Why did they make such a hazardous journey with the risk of disrupting their stable lives?

As the eldest son of Thomas Thompson Dent Sr, Thomas Jr stood to inherit much of his land – Thomas Sr owned at least four farms in Bowes, Yorkshire, and the surrounding area. Did father and son fall out, or did Thomas Jr reckon that the prospects for his family were better served in Canada? When Thomas Sr died in 1854 he made no mention of Thomas Jr in his will, so the migration to Canada appears to have severed all ties within that branch of my family. That said, passenger lists indicate that Thomas Jr did travel to Britain then back to Canada in 1871. Although travel was slower in the Victorian era our ancestors were often more mobile than we sometimes realise.

In 1846 Thomas and his family made their initial journey by steerage, the cheapest form of maritime travel. Their ship, the Rappahanock, sailed from Liverpool with 453 passengers. Travelling by steerage, one imagines that their journey was a challenging one.

The Pays d’en Haut region of New France, 1755, an area that included most of Ontario.

In the 1840s, Canada was a young developing country. The Canadian government were looking for settlers to farm the land and they made generous offers to entice people to settle. In Britain, orphans were often sent to Canada to work the land. Many of them stayed and you could argue that they faced better prospects in the fields of Canada than in the slums of a city like London.

Between 1815 and 1850, Over 960,000 people arrived in Canada from Britain. The new arrivals included refugees escaping the Great Irish Famine as well as people from Scotland displaced by the Highland Clearances. Infectious diseases killed between 25 and 33 percent of Europeans who immigrated to Canada before 1891.

The 1840s in particular saw heavy waves of immigration into Ontario. During this decade the population of Canada West more than doubled. As a result, for the first time, the English-speaking population of Canada West surpassed the French-speaking population of Canada East, tilting the representative balance of power.

An economic upturn followed in the 1850s, which coincided with an expansion of the railway system across the province. The economic situation improved further with the repeal of the Corn Laws and trade agreements with the United States. As a result, the timber trade, mining and alcohol distilling boomed. Farmers too benefited from this good fortune.

Halton County, Ontario, 1821, home to the Dent family from 1846.

In Ontario, Thomas and Dorothy had two more children: Mary and Robert. In 1851 Thomas and his family were farming in Halton County. All their immediate neighbours – farmers, shoemakers, carpenters and a clergyman – came from either England or Ireland.

Ten years later, in 1861, Thomas and Dorothy were living in a two storey farmhouse built of brick. They were prospering. However, as we have seen, life in Canada could be a struggle with a battle against infectious diseases and within two years two of their daughters, Mary and Dorothy, died.

By 1871 the family had dispersed with sons and daughters marrying. Thomas and Dorothy worked their farm with the assistance of their son, eighteenth year old Robert. Presumably, they hired servants for seasonal tasks. However, at the time of the 1871 census none of those servants lived on the farm.

Thomas died in 1876, aged 69, of typhoid. He was buried in St Stephen’s Anglican Cemetery, Hornby, Halton County, Ontario. 

By 1881 Robert was running the farm. Dorothy was seventy at this point and still going strong. However, she died in 1888 and was buried in the family plot at St Stephen’s Anglican Cemetery, Hornby, Halton County, Ontario. 

As for Thomas and Dorothy’s children: William Dent married Margaret Featherstone. They raised a family and ran a farm in Halton, Ontario. Henry Hornsby Dent married Mary Ann Gilley. He also raised a family and ran a farm in Halton, Ontario. By 1911 he regarded himself as a Canadian. Robert married Augusta Tuck. He also considered himself a Canadian and farmed in Halton, Ontario. For this branch of the family the transfer of allegiance from Yorkshire to Canada was complete.

Of the daughters, only Elizabeth survived into adulthood. On 30 October 1861 in Halton, Ontario she married Henry Gastle, a farmer originally from England. The couple produced eight sons, pictured, c1880.

In all of this, what happened to my 3 x great grandfather Richard Dent? In the 1860s he decided that a farmers life in Canada was not for him and returned to Britain. More about Richard next time.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 31 occasions.

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Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #109

Dear Reader,

Betrayal at #1 in America this week and #4 in the Netherlands.

The ‘Welsh Tree of the Year’ at my local park, Margam.

My article about the amazing Nancy Wake appears in this month’s issue of the Seaside News.

A map of all reported UFO sightings, 1906-2014. (Image: ESRI). Is there anybody out there…

Just discovered that my splendidly named ancestors Zephaniah Thorpe and Mary Discipline emigrated to New York City, arriving on 11 April 1838. Zephaniah was a sculptor specialising in marble. Maybe he worked on the pillars in this picture 🤔

A DNA test I took at Christmas 2020 established a link between a Morgan branch of my family and a Bevan branch. This in turn led to Barbara Aubrey, a gateway ancestor. A gateway ancestor is someone descended from royalty, the aristocracy, or landed gentry. Through Barbara Aubrey, and other gateway ancestors, I have discovered links to many of the noble households in Wales, especially in my home county of Glamorgan.

My direct ancestor, Gwladys ferch Dafydd Gam ‘the star of Abergavenny’ (1378 – 1454), was the daughter of Gwenllian ferch Gwilym and Dafydd ap Llewelyn ap Hywel, otherwise known as Dafydd Gam a man immortalised by William Shakespeare as Fluellen in Henry V.

Fluellen: “If your Majesty is remembered of it, the Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps, which your Majesty knows, to this hour is an honourable badge of the service, and I do believe, your Majesty takes no scorn to wear the leek upon St David’s Day.”

King Henry: “I wear it for a memorable honour; for I am Welsh, you know, good my countryman.”

The Battle of Agincourt, 1415. The Bridgeman Art Library.

Due to her discretion and influence, the poets compared Gwladys to the legendary Queen Marcia who was ‘one of the most illustrious and praiseworthy of women in early British history.’ Indeed, the poets sang Gwladys’ praises. ‘Gwladys the happy and the faultless. Like the sun – the pavilion of light,’ wrote Lewys Glyn Cothi. They also noted her beauty and luxurious dark hair.

Lewys Glyn Cothi (c1420 – 1490) was a prominent 15th century poet who composed numerous poems in Welsh. He was one of the most important representatives of the Beirdd yr Uchelwyr, ‘Poets of the Nobility.’ 

Lewys was a prolific poet, writing many celebratory poems and elegies. He was responsible for compiling much, if not all, of Llyfr Gwyn Hergest, the White Book of Hergest, which disappeared in the 19th century. He also added several poems to Llyfr Coch Hergest, the Red Book of Hergest, which is now in the National Library of Wales.

During Owain Glyndwr’s War of Independence, Gwladys served as Maid of Honour to Mary de Bohun (c1368–1394), wife of Henry IV, and afterwards she served Henry’s second wife, Queen Joan (c1370–1437). On her return to Wales, Gwladys married Sir Roger Vaughan of Bredwardine and from that day on she remained in her homeland.

Raglan Castle. Engraving, 1798.

The battlefield and royal politics proved tragic for Gwladys. At Agincourt, 1415, she lost her father, Dafydd Gam, and her husband, Sir Roger Vaughan. Later, at Easter 1456, her son Watkin was murdered at his home, Bredwardine Castle, while in 1469 two sons, Thomas and Richard (my direct ancestor) died at the Battle of Edgecote. In May 1472 a fourth son, Sir Roger Vaughan, was captured by Jasper Tudor and beheaded at Chepstow.

Gwladys’ second husband, Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan Castle, known as Sir William Herbert, also fought at Agincourt. Due to the colour of his armour, Sir William was nicknamed ‘The Blue Knight of Gwent.’

Gwladys’ first marriage produced five children, three boys and two girls, while her second marriage produced four children, two boys and two girls. All married into Welsh and English noble families: the Stradlings, Wogans, Vaughans, Devereauxs and Audleys. They also established the Herbert line, a branch of my family, one of the most influential families in medieval and post-medieval Wales.

In the Middle Ages, noble women were expected to obey their husbands, guard their virtue, produce offspring, and oversee the smooth running of their household. Good management skills were essential. Moreover, when her husband was away a wife’s role would increase substantially to the extent that she would assume control of her husband’s domain and even bear arms.

As Lady of Raglan Castle, Gwladys entertained her guests. She also assisted the needy and afflicted, and supported Welsh culture, especially the bards and minstrels. In Lewys Glyn Cothi’s elegy, he stated that Gwladys was ‘the strength and support of Gwentland the land of Brychan.’ 

Abergavenny Priory. Artist unknown.

Gwladys died in 1454. Along with her husband, Sir William ap Thomas, she was a great patron of Abergavenny Priory and an alabaster tomb along with effigies of the couple can still be found there.

According to legend, Gwladys was so beloved by her people that 3,000 knights, nobles and weeping peasantry followed her body from Coldbrook House (her son Richard’s manor) to the Herbert Chapel of St. Mary’s Priory Church where she was buried.

Born into privilege, Gwladys used her position to support the poor and vulnerable, and the arts. And for that she earned her people’s eternal love and respect.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #108

Dear Reader,

The munitions factory at Bridgend, 1942, known locally as ‘The Arsenal’. The factory was of huge significance to Britain’s war effort employing 40,000 people.

The chemicals in the munitions turned many of the women’s skin temporarily yellow. When the Americans arrived in 1944 and dated the women they called them their ‘Welsh daffodils’.

‘The Arsenal’ features in my Ann’s War Mystery Series.

Evening at Tenby this week.

I’ve added a Keats branch to my family tree. Thomas Keats Esq built Sulham House, Berkshire (pictured) c1525. His daughter, Alice, married John Wilder and inherited the estate.

The Wilders arrived from Bohemia in the shape of another John, born 1418. John of Bohemia’s son, Nicholas, fought in the Battle of Bosworth alongside Henry Tudor. After his victory, Henry gifted lands to Nicholas Wilder, which secured the family’s fortune.

Researching Burt Lancaster for my writing, seen here as Dr Ernst Janning in the timeless classic Judgement at Nuremberg. Burt Lancaster, “A liberal with balls.” – Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

A Family of Mice

Flash Fiction

Picnic Recipes

Author Features

Travel: Azerbaijan

Independent Bookshops

International Tiger Day

Plus, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

George Wood, my 9 x great grandfather, was born on 12 March 1625 in Bonsall, Derbyshire and baptised on 10 January 1632 while Hannah Quick, my 9 x great grandmother, was born in 1635 in Derbyshire. The couple married in 1658 in Matlock, a fact recorded in the Monyash Ashford Meeting of Quakers.

Quakers, a Protestant group also known as the Religious Society of Friends, established themselves in mid-seventeenth century England. Undoubtedly, the English Civil War had a strong bearing on their creation and beliefs. 

The Quakers based their message on the belief that ‘Christ has come to teach his people himself.’ They stressed the importance of a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and a direct religious belief in the universal priesthood of all believers.

Quakers used thee as an ordinary pronoun. They wore plain dress, were teetotal, refused to swear oaths, refused to participate in wars and opposed slavery. Later, they founded banks and financial institutions, including Friends Provident, Lloyds and Barclays. They also founded three major confectionery makers, Cadbury’s, Fry’s and Roundtree’s.

James Naylor, a prominent Quaker leader, being pilloried and whipped.

A notable difference between Quakerism and Orthodox Protestantism was that many of the early Quaker ministers were women. Quakers were noted for their philanthropic efforts, which included the abolition of slavery, prison reform and social justice.

George’s union with Hannah was his second marriage. Previously, he married Anne who produced three children before her death in 1656. George and Hannah’s marriage also produced three children, including their last born, my 8 x great grandmother Elinor Wood.

The upheaval of the English Civil War left a deep scar on society, which took generations to heal. In some communities Quakers were accepted while in others they were ostracised and persecuted. At the age of 57 and 47 respectively, George and Hannah made the momentous decision to create a new lives for themselves and their children by emigrating to Pennsylvania. They began this hazardous journey on 27 May 1682.

George and Hannah were not a young couple looking to make their mark on the world. Indeed, they were approaching the stage where they could contemplate a quiet life. Yet, they embarked on their Pennsylvanian adventure. This suggests that their commitment to the Quaker cause ran deep and was central to their lives.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and West Jersey, as a young man.

Along with his son-in-law Richard Bonsall, and seven other families – six from Derbyshire – George was a founder member of Darby Township, alongside Darby Creek. The records described George as a yeoman or landowner with 1,000 acres of land to his name. George bought the land from William Penn on 23 March 1682. He also subscribed £50 (approximately £5,725 in today’s money) to the Free Society of Traders. A dam, saw mill and grist mill existed on his portion of the creek, which was obviously a hive of activity.

George was also active within the community, serving on the local Assembly. His fellow settlers elected him to this post in 1683, shortly after his arrival in Pennsylvania. 

Darby Township, Pennsylvania.

Quakers introduced many ideas that later became mainstream in American society, such as democracy in the Pennsylvania legislature, the Bill of Rights, trial by jury, equal rights for men and women, and public education. Furthermore, the Liberty Bell was cast by Quakers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Quaker meetings in Delaware recorded the births, marriages and deaths of the Wood family, including Hannah’s death on 9 March 1687, five years after her arrival, and George’s death on 27 April 1705. George bequeathed his land, buildings, purse, apparel and ‘some books’ to his son, John, while his three daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Elinor received a shilling each.

George and Hannah’s daughter, Elinor, married Evan Bevan, son of John Bevan and Barbara Aubrey, founder members of the Welsh Tract in Pennsylvania. More about the Bevan family and their lives in Pennsylvania in future posts.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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