My second-great-grandfather, Griffith Richard Jones, is my nearest immigrant ancestor. He came to the United States from Wales in 1911 with his cousin. My great-grandmother told stories of her father singing in Welsh as he went about his chores on his farm in Oregon. She said when he was young, he’d look west on the shores of Wales and imagine America (though he’d had to look through Ireland first) and think, “One day, I’m going to go.” I don’t know exactly what drew him to America, but I can guess that it might have been to escape the family business of slate quarrying.
My Welsh ancestry is only 1/16 of my heritage, but I’ve always been drawn to it maybe because it was what I told people I was when they asked me “what are you?” in relation to my ethnicity. Having dark hair, dark eyes, and olive skin makes you a bit of a chameleon. Most of the time, the questioners were confused when I told them I was part Welsh, so I’d refer them to the looks of Catherine Zeta-Jones.
I didn’t grow up with any Welsh traditions, but I’ve been celebrating St. David’s Day for a few years with my family. St. David’s Day is like the St. Patrick’s Day for Wales, and it happens on March 1 every year. To celebrate it Welsh-style, I make a big pot of Cawl and serve up Welsh cakes for dessert. I also grow daffodils that are in bloom every St. David’s Day.
I haven’t been taught first-hand how to celebrate St. David’s Day, but I hope that by doing so, my children will feel more connection with their ancestors from the beautiful country of Wales.