Great grandmother Emma’s father was Richard Jones, farmer, who, according to the Family Bible, was born on 7 October 1817. The 1871 census gives Richard’s birthplace as “Habervesp”, Montgomery; this must be Aberhafesp, a small village about halfway between Newtown and Caersws in modern-day Powys.
This would require a journey beyond Offa’s Dyke to a land of strange names, lush fields, woods, marsh and moor, of switchback, claustrophobic lanes, and scattered homesteads and chapels. This is a place where two languages live side-by-side, where the place names are given in English and Welsh, sometimes when the two are the same. These place names, as in all Gaelic strongholds, have meaning, often based on the characteristics of place, or of its heroic figures or famous events. For hikers these landscape clues can tell much more about the terrain than even the best maps convey.
Aberhafesp, for example, is from “mouth of the hafesp” a brook that drains into the River Severn, whose waters feed the Bristol Channel.
Images of the parish records are available via Findmypast (with links from Familysearch) from at least 1814 onwards, so, at first sight this looked easy, despite the frequency of Jones. However, I could find no baptism to fit Richard’s age and father.
Next I turned to the census. In 1841, on facing pages, at “Aberhafesp Berriew” were two households whose head was Samuel Jones: one a mason of 60 years, the other Ag. Lab., 55. The mason lived at Glan Rud (there is a Glanrhyd on modern maps, about a half mile north of Aberhafesp), and the other Samuel at Nant-yr-Ych. As I understand it Nant-yr-Ych translates to “stream of the ox”. This is not shown on the modern 1:50,000 Ordnance Survey series, but 1884 survey shows it as a valley about two miles north west of Aberhafesp. The only clue as to which was which was that if Richard’s father was a farmer in 1850, he would be unlikely to be a mason in 1841.
But more was to come. Among the Aberhafesp parish records was the burial of Samuel Jones on 30 Nov 1860, aged 79, which tied in with the mason. Moreover, his abode was Glan Rud!
So, the Ag Lab Samuel was the man I sought. I was then able to find him and his wife Jane at Nant-yr-Ych in the 1851 census. This confirmed his birth about 1783 at Aberhafesp and hers about 1789 at Llanwnog, about three miles west of Aberhafesp along the B4568, and not two miles from Nant-yr-Ych.
I had wondered why Samuel had been introduced into the family when my grandfather, Emma’s son, was born in the late nineteenth century. I now presume that it was after Emma’s grandfather.
Who was Samuel’s wife Jane? Again, the parish records confused me. Samuel the mason also had a wife named Jane and, fittingly, there were two weddings: 1805 Jane Jones and 1810 Jane Brees, both of the parish. There was nothing to separate them.
There were two baptisms of interest at Llanwnog in 1790: Jane Brees and Jane Hughs Jones, but which one married which Samuel?
The final twist was that Samuel the mason had a visitor on census night 1851, or at least his wife Jane did: one Mary Breeze, 15, born Llanwnog. I’ve encountered this sort of thing before and it seems young Mary was visiting with grandma.
On that basis, the balance of probability is that Richard’s mother was Jane Hughs Jones baptised at Llangwnog on 18 Apr 1790. Almost certainly her father was named Hughs or Hughes or Huws, but, for whatever reason, had not married Sarah.
The last question here is: why have I not been able to find baptisms online for anyone else in this family? It is unlikely that they were not baptised, so I can only assume that they favoured one of the non-conformist chapels in the area, and that the records are not yet available online.