Amongst our ancestors was a Jones family that lived in a tiny Welsh village called Llanwnog (or Llanwnnog) in the 1800s.
Some years ago, family historian, Jim Jones, examined microfilms of Llanwnog parish records and found out that:
-- our ancestors, John Jones and Anne Davies, had been married in St Gwynogs Church, Llanwnog on 25 April 1818; and
-- their son, John Jones, was baptised in St Gwynogs Church, Llanwnog in 1823 and migrated to Australia in 1852.
So in 2012 we drove up through the lush green valleys of central Wales to visit Llanwnog and research the family's history.
Llanwnog village in central Wales
We found the beautiful stone church of St Gwynogs, set behind a pair of huge old yew trees. The church was built as early as the 13th century then rebuilt in 1862. It contained a wonderfully carved rood screen from the 15th or 16th century. It was exciting to see the medieval font where our ancestor, John, would have been baptised. The churchyard contained many grey slate headstones, most with quite legible inscriptions.
An Intriguing Grave
In the churchyard we found the grave of a John and Anne Jones who would have been born at about the same time as our ancestors. It had two individual pointed headstones, mounted so close together that they touched each other, side by side. The inscription read:
In memory of John Jones of Penyrallt. Died 6 June 1870. Aged 79.
Could this be the grave of our ancestors?
Unfortunately Jones is by far the most common surname in Wales. In the early 1800s, 14% of the Welsh population had the Jones surname. A search of Llanwnog baptism records (indexed on the Familysearch.org website) reveals that in the 21 years after John and Anne were married (1818 - 1839), there were at least 28 different Jones families in the congregation at Llanwnog!
Not surprisingly, there were many Jones graves in the Llanwnog churchyard. However, the book of Parish of Llanwnog Memorial Inscriptions (Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society 1995) revealed that, of all the surviving graves in the churchyard, the details on this grave were the closest match to those of our ancestors.
The inscription included the words, 'John Jones of Penyrallt'. Where is Penyrallt we wondered. Was it the name of the town where he was born?
In a search of the internet, we were unable to find any localities by that name close to Llanwnog. However, local people explained to us that Penyrallt was actually the name of an old farm, set high on a hill just 1 km from the village of Llanwnog. Jan and Mike kindly showed us where the property was on an old map. Penyrallt means 'top of the woodlands' in Welsh and can be spelled in various ways: eg Penyrallt; Penrallt; Penrhallt; Pen-'r-allt.
Since there were so many Jones families in the village, the locals used to give people nicknames referring to the farms or houses where they lived. For instance a 'John Jones' who lived at Penrallt would typically be called 'John Penrallt' instead.
The Francis family kindly showed us a book called Llanwnog Census 1841 - 1891 compiled by Lena Wainwright. The old UK census records in this book showed that a John and Anne Jones and their family lived on the Penrallt farm from 1841 to 1871. David Peate of the Montgomeryshire Genealogical Society later kindly also sent us a full transcript of these census records.
We were fascinated to find that the details of the family shown in these census records matched those of the three people buried the double grave in the churchyard:
-- John Jones lived at Penrallt, then died between the 1861 and 1871 censuses. The headstone says John Jones of Penyrallt died in 1870.
-- Anne Jones was listed as a widow in the 1871 census, then was no longer listed in 1881. The headstone says she died in 1875.
-- Anne Jones was living with her 17 year old grand-daughter, Anne, in the 1871 census. This grand-daughter would have turned 21 in 1875. The headstone lists an Anne, grand-daughter of Anne Jones, who died in 1875 aged 21.
So the John and Anne Jones who had lived on the Penrallt farm above Llanwnog were buried in the double grave we had found in the churchyard.
The Penrallt Farm
In the Newtown Library we found an old 1884 parish map that showed a plan of 'Pen-'r-allt' farm, including the location of the old farmhouse. It was a 10 acre farm divided into two large sections.
Local identity, Evan Jones, kindly drove us up the rough, steep track leading to the Penrallt farm. He told us what life would have been like on this farm and explained how the farmhouse was constructed. The old stone farmhouse was now in ruins but the sections of wall remaining revealed the skill with which it was built. It was a 12 m x 6 m building with two main rooms. The walls were about 50 cm thick and built from hundreds of dry stone pieces, neatly squared off to give smooth exterior surfaces to the walls. There was a massive stone fireplace at one end with a bread oven.
It once had a slate roof and there used to be a stone flagged porch along the front of the house. The whole house was cut deeply into the hillside to give the house insulation and protection from the wind. The family raised sheep and grew vegetables on the farm. Long hawthorn hedges once edged the lush grassy fields. And out to the west were stunning panoramic views across the surrounding valleys and mountains.
We had learned so much about the John and Anne Jones who had lived at Penrallt and who were buried in the double grave in the churchyard. However, there were so many Jones families in Llanwnog. Had we found the right family?
The Missing Piece of the Puzzle
One of the family trees on Ancestry website includes our John Jones ancestor who migrated to Australia. It says that John had an elder brother called Thomas. The owner of this tree kindly helped us contact David Jones, a fifth generation descendant of Thomas, who was still living in UK.
Following our visit to Llanwnog, we paid a visit to David and were delighted to discover that he had some family archives that provided the missing piece of the puzzle! In the attic of his old family home, David had found three old letters that had been written by our ancestor, John Jones! Our ancestor in Australia had written these letters to David's ancestors in Wales in 1883-1898.
One of these letters mentioned a niece called Annie Murry. David pointed out that Ann Murry was one of the family members listed in the 1851 census record for Penrallt. She was the grand-daughter of John and Anne Jones of Penrallt.
So this old letter showed that our ancestor, John Jones, did indeed belong to the Jones family that lived at Penrallt: John's old letter from Australia mentioned his niece by name who was part of the Penrallt Jones household in 1851.
The old letters that had survived so long amongst David's family papers proved that we had successfully located both the farm and the graves of our Jones ancestors. John and Anne Jones had lived for at least 30 years in the small stone cottage on the 10 acre farm called Penrallt on the steep hillside above Llanwnog. After long lives of 79 to 81 years, they had died and were buried together in the double grave in the picturesque churchyard at St Gwynogs Church, Llanwnog.
David Jones had also examined the parish registers for Llanwnog and drawn up a dossier on the family's children from 1818 to 1839. And a final gem: David had a wonderful studio photograph of John and Anne Jones (shown on right), which he had found in an old family album. This splendid old couple from Penrallt were both David's and our great-great-great-grandparents!
Visiting David Jones was an exciting way to conclude our Llanwnog research. It was the first time in 160 years that the two sides of the family had been reunited since1852 when John Jones had said goodbye to his brother, Thomas, and sailed off to a new life in Australia.
The following information is based on baptism and census records examined by Jim Jones, David Jones and David Peate, and also accessed personally through the Ancestry and Family Search websites.
Further details of this family tree can be found
Married Anne Davies on 25 April 1818 in Llanwnog, Wales.
Children of John Jones and Anne Davies
Anne Jones - baptised 4 Nov 1818
The Penrallt farm was roughly halfway between Clatter and Llanwnog, on the Clatter side of a very high hill between the two villages. The baptism records for 1818 to 1823 describe the family's abode as 'Clatter'. However, it is possible that the family may have already lived at Penrallt at that time and the curate may have simply described their abode as Clatter because their farm was on the Clatter side of the hill.
Married Elizabeth Griffiths.
Children of Thomas Jones and Elizabeth Griffiths
George Jones - b 1847
First marriage: married Mary Evans in Wales.
Second marriage: married Emma Mitchell in 1858 in Sandhurst, Victoria.
John Jones and family migrated to Australia in 1852.
Children of John Jones and Mary Evans
John Jones - b 1850
Children of John Jones and Emma Mitchell
David Henry Jones - b 1860
Three of the grandsons of John Jones and Mary Evans paid the supreme sacrifice in World War 1:
-- Sydney Victor Jones died at Gallipoli on 10 June 1915, aged 18
-- Norman Percy Jones died in the Somme on 23 October 1916, aged 29
-- Wilfred Raymond Jones died at Messines in France on 10 June 1917, aged 21