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My great-grandfather Thomas (Tom) Jones 1870 - 1946 lived in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales for most of his life. His occupations were variously recorded as:

  • Haulier (1891 census, age 21)
  • Coal Miner (Marriage certificate, 1893, aged 23)
  • Sewing Machine Agent (1901 census, aged 30)
  • Traveller for Singers Sewing Machines (Birth certificate of his son, 1905, aged circa 34)
  • Coal Miner (1911 census, aged circa 41)
  • Coal Miner (Marriage certificate of his son, 1924, aged circa 54)
  • Rockman O.A.P. (1939 Identity Card Register, aged circa 69)
  • Car Works Labourer retired (Death certificate, 1946)
  • Motor Works Labourer (Death certificate of his widow, 1951)

My mother told the story that he has been forced out of the mines to become a travelling salesman because of his Trade Union activities. Given the sequence of occupations above, this must have happened some time after 1893 and before 1901.

How can I learn more about Trade Union activities in the South Wales coalfield in the 1890s and early 1900s, and possibly find some reference to my great-grandfather (although with a name like Thomas Jones, it will be hard to be certain even if I do find a reference).

Edit: It would also be interesting to understand why he might have been able to return to the mines by 1911.

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Changed tag "1900s" to 20th-century. Will open a meta meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1339/… –  GeneJ Nov 22 '12 at 13:12
    
Have you checked the British Newspaper Archive for stories about the Strike? You might get a lucky dip. britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk or at Find My Past. If you sign up directly, they give 15 free credits for a new registration. I have found references to people in my database that way (sadly on the other side of the labor dispute). –  Jan Murphy Dec 1 '13 at 18:00
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1 Answer

The time period would suggest that Tom's career change was associated with the Strike of 1898. This involved a lockout of the miners that lasted six months.

My hypothesis would be that as a young married man (without children?) your ancestor would have been low on the priority list for support and might well have been driven to leave the industry to seek work elsewhere.

If that was the case and his supposed TU activities were a later embroidery on a sad story, then there is no difficulty explaining his later return.

The industrial organisation that arose out of the strike was the South Wales Miners' Federation. See Arnot, R. Page. South Wales Miners – Glowr De Cymru – a history of the South Wales Miners Federation, vol.1, 1894-1914. (Cymric Federation Press, 1967).

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