52ancestors-week29Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, who blogs at No Story Too Small, has set a challenge to write about one ancestor each week. I’ve decided to take up that challenge to wake up my (somewhat) languishing blog, but to honor my ancestors. I plan to post every week on Sunday, and I encourage others to join the challenge with me.


Blaina, Monmouthshire, 1820

Blaina, Monmouthshire, 1820

Some of my most challenging family research has been in my Jones line from Wales. The surnames of Jones, Thomas, and Williams are very common, and as Wikipedia states, “Welsh communities are full of families bearing the same surnames, but who are completely unrelated; it cannot be assumed that two people named Jones, even in the same village, must be related.”

Finding a Jones family in the census, when everyone named their children similarly, was especially difficult. My great-grandmother Jemima Ann Jones wasn’t always listed with her full name. Once she was Ann, once Jemima Ann, once Emma(!), and in one census, she was merely “A”. I can’t find her at all in the 1891 census.

Jemima Ann was born to John Jones, a coal miner, and Eliza Veal in Abertillery, Monmouthshire, Wales (now the county of Gwent) in January of 1870. It was the year that the Education Act would set up schools for the “lower classes” of children in Wales, and sadly, instruction was given in English only, not Welsh.

When Jemima was 21, she married my grandfather, William Frank Mason, in Aberystruth, at St. Michaels Church. They had 5 children; although 2 girls died in 1898 and 1899, one a newborn and the other barely 1 year old.

St. Michael's Church, Abertillery

St. Michaels Church, Abertillery

I had the good fortune to connect with a distant cousin who was related to Jemima’s brother, and he lives in Abertillery. We found each other online nearly 10 years ago and still keep in touch through emails and Facebook. We have put our heads together many times, teasing out bits and pieces of information about our Joneses. Hi, “cuz”!

Jemima died in 1921 when she was only 51. Ten years before, at the time of the 1911 census, she was living at 94 Oak Street in Abertillery with her husband and 3 sons. My cousin told me only last week that he realized Jemima’s address at the time of her death was a workhouse—Ty Bryn. And I realized I’d never sent for a copy of her death certificate.

We wonder how she ended up in the workhouse!