The Family of
David and Hannah Davies
of Brynmawr, Wales

Genealogy Report: The Descendants of David and Hannah Davies (Adobe pdf file)

Elizabeth Davis, who married John J. Thomas in 1844, was the daughter of David and Hannah Davies of Brynmawr, Wales. Her obituary says that she was born in Brynmawr in 1827. The census returns of 1851 and 1861 indicate that Elizabeth's father was born in Llangeler in Carmarthenshire, while her mother was from the industrial town of Merthyr Tydfil in Glamorganshire. We have a description of the parish of Llangeler from "A Topographical Dictionary of Wales" (S. Lewis, 1844):

"LLANGELER (LLAN-GELER), a parish, in the union of NEWCASTLE-EMLYN, higher division of the hundred of ELVET, county of CARMARTHEN, SOUTH WALES, 5 miles (E. by S.) from Newcastle-Emlyn; containing 1747 inhabitants. . . It comprises by computation 6414 acres, of which nearly 2000 are arable, 3480 pasture, 900 waste, and the remainder woodland; the surface is undulated, and the surrounding scenery pleasantly varied, embracing a portion of the fertile and picturesque Vale of Teivy . . . The church, dedicated to St. Celer, is a plain and neat edifice, in good repair . . . an ancient chapel of ease, dedicated to St. Mary, and thence called "Capel Mair," has been entirely demolished. . . There is a place of worship which is jointly appropriated to Independents and Presbyterians: a day school is maintained by the trustees of Mrs. Bevan's charity; and a Sunday school is supported by voluntary contributions, aided by gratuitous teachers."

Below: The Parish church at Llangeler in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
Photograph copyright 2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas.

Follow this link for additional photographs of the parish church at Llangeler

David's wife Hannah was born in Merthyr Tydfil, and we get a short description of that town from the Data Wales web site: http://www.data-wales.co.uk/index.htm

"Merthyr Tydfil (Tydfil the Martyr) in Glamorgan is named for Tydfil, a Welsh princess said to have been murdered for her Christian beliefs in 480 AD. The town's massive Dowlais Ironworks was founded to exploit the abundant seams of iron ore and in time it became the largest iron producing town in the world. New coal mines were sunk nearby to feed the voracious furnaces and in time produced coal for export . By 1831 the population was 60,000 - more than Cardiff, Swansea and Newport combined. The town was the birthplace of Joseph Parry composer of the haunting Welsh tune Myfanwy and his humble home can be compared with the nearby mock-Gothic Cyfartha Castle built in 1825 for William Crawshay the famous iron master."

Census returns indicate that the first of David and Hannah's ten known children were, like Elizabeth, born in Aberystruth Parish (probably the extreme southern end of Brynmawr), while their remaining children were born in Brynmawr proper. David Davies was an iron ore miner, and was likely among the thousands of his fellow countrymen who flocked to the Ebbw Vale in the early 19th century to take part in the region's booming industrial revolution.

In his book, "The History of Aberystruth, 1779," Edmund Jones describes the parish and surrounding area before the Industrial Revolution took hold of the Ebbw Vale:

"And of the three valleys, the valley of Tileri on the East side of the parish is the most delightful. The trees which are the chief glory of the Earth, especially the beech trees, abounding about rivers great and small, the hedges and lanes make these places exceeding pleasant and the passing by them delightful and affecting; so that well built houses with gardens, trees and wall buildings about them in these warm valleys, with the prospect of the grand high mountains about them would make very delightful habitations."

However, by the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution in the Ebbw Vale was well underway, as hundreds of workers began flocking to the region from other parts of Wales and England. As these new arrivals spilled into the towns making up the parish, much of the peaceful countryside described by Jones vanished forever.

The life of an early 19th-century iron worker in south Wales was a difficult one. We get some sense of what life was like for the typical worker from the essay below (author unknown) concerning the Round Towers complex built by ironmasters Joseph and Crawshay Bailey at Nantyglo.

"The major ironmasters represented a new class in Wales being English, Anglican and businessmen. Formerly the wealthy class in Wales was generally composed of absentee landlords of large estates living a long distance away from their workers and only seen during the hunting, shooting and fishing seasons. Although the ironmasters usually lived in a mansion close to the works, they were never really integrated into the life of the community and friction between master and worker was never far from the surface.

The period 1800-1900 was one of dramatic change in the whole of the South Wales coalfield area. In 1801 the population of the parish of Aberystruth, which includes Nantyglo, was just 805. By 1831 it had reached 5,992, the largest percentage rise in the whole of Britain. With such a dramatic increase in population and following new industrial developments it was inevitable that problems between ironmaster and workers, and often also problems between groups of workers, erupted into violence from time to time.

The working and living conditions of the workers were for much of the time appalling, with the level of wages rising and falling with the fluctuations in the price of iron. Row upon row of worker's houses were built as more employees were needed at the ironworks. The houses were without even the most basis sanitation. The houses were owned by the ironmaster, so if a worker was made redundant for any reason he also lost his home. Most workers therefore did not dare to rebel individually against the ironmaster.

The truck or company shop was another method of control over the workers, and an extra source of income for the ironmaster. Prices were often 20% higher than in local shops and during the frequent cash flow crisis at the works, goods from the company shop were given to the workers in lieu of wages. On payday the shopbooks and furnace books were checked and the balance, if any, was handed to the men. Debts under the system were almost unavoidable, so to maintain the family income lodgers were taken in, children were sent to work at the age of 7 or 8, or a small shop was opened in the house. In 1830, Monmouthshire magistrates were so worried that they petitioned the House of Commons demanding the abolition of company shops because the country's peace was threatened."

Below: a 19th century painting of the iron works at Nantyglo, near Brynmawr. Artist unknown.

Because his children were born in the parish of Aberystruth, we can be fairly certain that David Davies worked at nearby the Nantyglo ironworks. He may have escaped some of the depredations described in the passage above because we know that by the late 1830s he and his family had moved into a house on Glamorgan Street in Brynmawr. As such, the family would have been free from the company store, and would have enjoyed greater stability their new lodgings. It was during this time Brynmawr grew and prospered specifically as a dormitory town for the workers at Nantyglo.

Below: a view of modern Brynmawr with the hills beyond.
Photograph copyright 2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas.

Sometime between 1835 and 1837, the Davies family moved to Glamorgan Street in Brynmawr. In her book, Brynmawr: A Study of a Distressed Area, Allenson & Co., London, 1934, Hilda Jennings provides an in depth examination of Brynmawr's social and economic history. Jennings analyzes the development of the town using a combination of standard texts and personal memories from some of the town's older residents, who at the time were only a generation or two removed from Brynmawr's early 19th-century roots. The book gives readers a good idea of what life must have been like in Brynmawr for the Davies and countless other families employed in the iron and coal industries.

"Brynmawr stands at the extreme northern edge of the South Wales Coalfield on the border of Brecknockshire and Monmouthshire. A few miles to the north lie the fertile valleys of the Usk, while in the more immediate vicinity coal and iron outcrop on the mountain side. Up to 1800 it was practically uninhabited. The great hill fringed on one side by the long line of willows gave it its early name of Waun-y-Helegyn, or the field of the willows, remained for centuries untenanted except by the inhabitants of two or three farm-houses and shepherds' cottages. The turnpike road running from Abergavenny to Merthyr passed through the little village of Clydach two miles away through the turnpike gate up the steep rock to the bleak upland plateau, which is now Brynmawr, and where stage and later a coaching-inn provided a change of horses."

"The new settlement, in which lived some of the workers at the iron works and the men, women and children who were engaged in the extraction of iron-ore, were thus ringed round by a mile or two of uninhabited ground which divided it from the earlier settlements of Clydach, Beaufort and Nantyglo. At first the focus of social interests was in these settlements. A newcomer to Brynmawr in 1820 might have found work locally in the iron-ore gathering grounds, or have walked daily to one of the Iron Works."

"Iron-ore was the first mineral, the value of which was recognized in the district, and the Clydach Valley leading up to Brynmawr is still made beautiful by the thick line of beech trees planted to serve as charcoal for the Iron Works. With the discovery of the use of coal for smelting and its general adoption towards the end of the eighteenth century came the opening out of small coal levels by the ironmasters The coal produced was both used in the iron works and taken on the backs of mules and later by canal for sale as house-coal in Brecon and Abergavenny."

"Many workers at the Clydach, Nantyglo and Beaufort Iron Works made their homes at Brynmawr, but the industry of the town itself was the gathering of the raw materials, iron-ore, blackband and coal. Clydach Dingle on the northern outskirts of the town was the first scene of this industry. Here the earth was "patched," or its surface removed, in order to reach the ironstone strata. Iron-ore and blackband was collected and stacked in great heaps which were burned to remove the grossest impurities before the minerals were sent to the furnaces. Streams were plentiful and sometimes the ironstone was scoured by rushing water."

"At the same time levels were driven into the hillside and the hill gradually became honeycombed with subterranean passages. At first most of the work was above ground, and the little community of workers must have been well inured to the hardships of climate, torrential rains, piercing winds and falls of snow, as well as to the heavy manual labour. From Clydach and Llangattock would come the sound of blasting of limestone, while at night not only the fires of the burning stacks of mineral along the outcrop, but the greater glow from the furnaces would light up the sky."

Below: View of the "The Patches" above the town. Some of Brynmawr's earliest mining activity was concentrated here in the hills behind the town, where the earth was "patched" (the top layer of soil removed), and shafts were dug into the sides of the hills to extract coal and iron ore near the surface. Today this area stands as a stark reminder of Brynmawr's industrial past. Photograph copyright 2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas.

"The first workers at the Iron Works were drawn from the surrounding agricultural districts and were of Welsh nationality. The distress which was present among agricultural labourers in Breconshire and Monmouthshire between 1795 and 1801 made them glad to exchange their average weekly wage of 6s. to 9s. a week for the 2s. 6d. or 3s. a day which they could earn at mining collieries or in line kilns. Something of their mode of life, interests and characteristics is revealed in the accounts of Monmouthshire and Breconshire written by Archdeacon Coxe and Theophilus Jones in the early years of the nineteenth century. A simple diet, to a great extent produced by their own exertions, pride in the appearance of hose and garden, a love of poetry, story and music, and a cheerful sociability, are portrayed by both writers. The Welsh language was predominant and Archdeacon Coxe says that when he visited Blaina, two miles from the site of Brynmawr, the English language was so little known that without assistance the Parish Clerk could scarcely understand or answer his questions intelligibly."

"Unlike the industrial settlements of Nantyglo, Beaufort, Blaenavon, and to a lesser degree Clydach, where the iron works were actually situated, the dormitory town of Brynmawr owed little in the way of building enterprise to the great employers. Individual workers built their own cottages here and there along the tramroads in the very early days, and shortly afterwards tradesmen who, like the workers, were attracted by the central position of the town, began to build courts and rows of houses as a commercial speculation. Later still, thrifty workers, who built their own cottages, invested what was left of their savings in the building of an additional cottage which was inhabited by a married member of their family or let to a fellow worker, and speculative builders put up rows of houses. Thus the tied cottage belonging to the employers has never been a feature of Brynmawr life, and in consequence of this labour has been mobile and workers have been able to move from one colliery to another within traveling distance from Brynmawr in the search for work in bad times."

David and Hannah Davies were the parents of ten children. Although it is likely that most of their children married and started their own families, to date I have identified descendants from daughters Elizabeth and Dinah only. The children of David and Hannah Davies were as follows:

David Davies, born ca. 1822, was David and Hannah's oldest child. He appears with his parents in the 1841 and 1851 census for Brynmawr. Both returns tell us that, like his father, David was an iron miner.

Mary Davies, born ca. 1824, was the eldest daughter. She appears with her parents in the 1841 census but has not been identified in subsequent returns.

Elizabeth Davies, born 1827, appears with her parents in the 1841 census of Brynmawr. In 1844 she married her neighbor, miner John J. Thomas at the parish church in Llanelly. In 1848 Elizabeth left her native Wales and sailed with her husband and family to America (Scranton Pennsylvania). Her life is covered in a later essay.

Thomas Davies, born ca. 1829, appears with his mother and father in the 1841 and 1851 census of Brynmawr. Thomas was also an iron miner.

John Davies, born ca. 1831, appears with his mother and father in the 1841 and 1851 census of Brynmawr. Like his father and brothers, he also worked as an iron miner.

Dinah Davies, born ca. 1833, appears with her parents in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census of Brynmawr. In the early 1850s she married Thomas Price, a coal miner from Glamorgan, and she and her family eventually settled in the community of Clydach Vale. Her life is covered in a later essay

Hannah Davies, born ca. 1835, appears with her parents in the 1841 and 1851 census of Brynmawr. She may be the "Anna Thomas" that was living in Hyde Park/Scranton, Pa. in the 1870 census (explanation below).

James Davies, born ca. 1837, appears with his parents in the 1841 and 1851 census in Brynmawr. In the latter he is listed as a "haulier" in the mines, a typical occupation for a boy before becoming a miner.

Sarah Davies, born ca. 1842. She had at least 8 children by three different husbands, (1) Stephen Williams, (2) Samuel Cartwright, and (3) Francis Brellisford. She spent most of her married life in Stockton and Hartlepool, Durham, England, where she died in 1910. I am currently preparing a short essay on her life (January 2012).

Hoseah Davies, born ca. 1848, was David and Hannah's youngest child. He appears with his parents in the 1851 and 1861 census. The 1861 census lists him as a collier at age 13! By the time of the 1870 census he had emigrated to the U.S. and joined his sister Elizabeth Thomas in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Our first glimpse of the Davies family is from the 1841 census of Brynmawr, as follows:

1841 Census, Glamorgan Street, Brynmawr, Wales

Name Age Occupation Born in Breconshire?
David Davies 35 Miner No
Hannah Davies 35   No
David Davies 20 Miner No
Mary Davies 15   No
Eliza Davies 15   No
Thomas Davies 12   No
John Davies 10   No
Dianah Davies 8   No
Hannah Davies 6   No
James Davies 4   Yes

The returns indicate that the David and his eldest son David were working as miners. Daughter Elizabeth (age 15) makes her first and only census appearance for Wales. Living two blocks away on Somerset Street was the family of John and Mary Thomas, including their 18 year old son John. The 1841 census lists John and his father as colliers and indicates that the entire Thomas family was born in Breconshire. Three years later, on December 28, 1844, the eighteen year old Elizabeth Davies married John J. Thomas at the parish church in Llanelly. The marriage ceremony was witnessed by Elizabeth's father David, and Elizabeth Thomas, who was likely John's younger sister. Both John and Elizabeth signed the marriage register by making their mark (X).

John and Elizabeth's first child, daughter Elizabeth, was born circa 1847. In the spring of 1848 John, his wife Elizabeth, their baby daughter Elizabeth, along with John's mother Mary, his brothers Thomas and Jeremiah, and sister Charlotte, traveled north to Liverpool, England, where they boarded the ship "Ivanhoe" bound for America. John and Elizabeth eventually settled in Hyde Park/Scranton in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, where John resumed his occupation of coal miner. The Davies family remained in Brynmawr. As such, we can imagine that it must have been difficult for Elizabeth to leave her mother and father and brothers and sisters.

Below: 19th century map of central Brynmawr showing the location of Glamorgan Street.

Below: modern view of Glamorgan Street in Brynmawr.
Photograph copyright 2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas.

In 1851 we again see the family of David and Hannah Davies living on Glamorgan Street. By this time David and Hannah's last two children (Sarah and Hoseah) had been born.

Follow this link to view the actual 1851 census.

1851 Census, Glamorgan Street, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales

Street - Place Name & Surname Relation Condition Age Sex Occupation Where Born
Glamorgan Street David Davies Head M 53 M iron miner Llangeler, Carmarthenshire
  Hannah Davies Wife M 50 F   Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire
  David Davies Son U 29 M iron miner Aberystruth, Monmouthshire
  Thomas Davies Son U 22 M iron miner Aberystruth, Monmouthshire
  John Davies Son U 20 M iron miner Aberystruth, Monmouthshire
  Dinah Davies Dau U 18 F   Aberystruth, Monmouthshire
  Hannah Davies Dau U 16 F   Aberystruth, Monmouthshire
  James Davies Son U 13 M haulier Llanelly, Breconshire
  Sarah Davies Dau U 9 F   Llanelly, Breconshire
  Hosea Davies Son U 3 M   Llanelly, Breconshire

The returns indicate that David and his oldest sons were all iron ore miners. Again, living in Brynmawr, it is likely that the Davies family were employed by the iron works at nearby Nantyglo. Today, although those works have been removed, the iron works ruins at Clydach (below) near Brynmawr survive and can be explored. Photograph copyright 2004 by Jeffrey L. Thomas.

By 1861 most of the children of David and Hannah Davies were grown and had started their own families. The census for that year indicates that David and Hannah had moved from Glamorgan Street into a house on nearby Worcester Street.

Follow this link to view the actual 1861 census.

1861 Census, Worcester Street, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales

Street - Place Name & Surname Relation Condition Age Occupation Where Born
Worcester Street David Davies Head M 62 Miner Llangeler, Carmarthenshire
  Hannah Davies Wife M 60   Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorganshire
  Sarah Davies Dau U 18 Servant Brynmawr, Breconshire
  Hoseah Davies Son U 13 Collier Brynmawr, Breconshire
  Dinah Price Dau M 28   Aberystruth, Monmouthshire
  Thomas Price Grandson U 6   Brynmawr, Breconshire
  Mary Price Grandaughter U 4   Brynmawr, Breconshire
  David Price Granson U 9M   Aberaman, Glamorganshire

The returns show that at age 62 David Davies was still working as a miner, while son Hoseah was already working as a collier at age 13. At the time of the census, daughter Dinah was living with her mother and father in Brynmawr, along with her children Thomas, Mary and David. In the mid-1850s Dinah married Thomas Price of Brecon, and the family eventually moved to Aberdare in Glamorganshire, before settling permanently in the town of Clydach Vale in the same county. In the 1861 census we find that Thomas Price, along with his son James (born ca. 1858) were already living in Aberdare, where Thomas was working as a miner. We don't know why Dinah was in Brynmawr, while her husband was in Aberdare. Perhaps she just happened to be visiting her parents on the date that the census was taken, or perhaps she had temporarily returned home to help her aging parents.

Below: Rare 1851 photograph of iron workers employed in the mining of ironstone in Nantyglo, from the book, "Old Brynmawr, Nantyglo and Blaina in Photographs, Trevor Rowson and Edwin Jones, Stewart Williams Publishers, Barry, South Glamorgan, 1980." David Davies worked as an iron miner during this period.
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The Davies family was to undergo a dramatic change in the next decade. As mentioned, Dinah reunited with her husband Thomas Price, and by 1871 the family had moved to the town of Clydach in Glamorganshire where Thomas worked as a coal miner. One possible explanation for move is the fact that the iron and coal industries in the Ebbw Vale began declining in the 1860s as explained by Hilda Jennings:

"Difficulties with regard to the quality and cost of extraction of local ores, together with the gradual superseding of iron by steel, led to a decline in the iron trade which culminated in the closing down of the Clydach and Beaufort Iron Works in 1861, and the sale of the Nantyglo Iron Works by the Baileys in 1870, followed by the end of their activities shortly afterwards. The neighbouring works at Ebbw Vale and Blaenavon were converted into steel works."

"After the Clydach Iron Works were closed down in 1861, the distress of the population, congregated in the district almost entirely owing to the local demand for labour, was very great and was reflected in the increase of persons receiving Poor Law Relief between 1861 and 1871, and in the sudden decrease in population due to migration."

In 1865, David, Hannah, and their youngest son, Hosea, boarded the ship "City of Limerick" in Liverpool and landed in New York on 15 Nov 1865. They appear on page four of the City of Limerick's passenger lists, as follows:

David Davies, 61, Collier
Hannah Davies, 64?, Wife
Hosea Davies, 17, Collier

The 1870 census makes it clear that that David and Hannah were joining their daughter Elizabeth Thomas (and possibly other brothers and sisters) in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The census for that years shows us that Hannah and Hosea were living with the family of a Thomas and Anna Thomas in Scranton's 4th ward (Hyde Park), as follows:

1870 Census, 4th Ward, Scranton, Luzerne Co., Pa.

Name Age Occupation Place of Birth
Thomas, Thomas 40 Laborer in Mines Wales
Thomas, Anna 34 Keeping House Wales
Thomas, Elizabeth 13 at home Wales
Davis, Anna 71 Keeping House Wales
Davis, Hosiah 23 Laborer in Mines Wales

Here we see that 71 year old Hannah is listed as "Anna," and that son Hosea was working as a laborer in the mines. Since there is no sign of David here or anywhere else in Scranton, and since the returns list Hannah as owning a modest amount of personal property, it is likely that David Davies died sometime between late 1865 and when the census was taken in 1870. In addition, given her name and age, it is possible that the Anna Thomas listed here was David and Hannah's daughter Hannah. If this is true, that means that David, Hannah, and at least three of their children (Elizabeth, Hannah and Hosea) all came to Scranton. There is no sign of either Hannah or Hosea in the 1880 census, although by this time Hannah would have been more than 80 years old. If David and Hannah Davies did die in Scranton, they were likely buried in the Washburn Street cemetery in Hyde Park, although I have yet to discover any details regarding their deaths or final resting places. The fate of Hosea Davies is less certain. Did he return to Wales? Was he killed in a mine accident in Scranton? More research is needed to answer these important questions.

The one thing we do know is that late in their lives David and Hannah Davies came to America and lived in Scranton. Again they likely left Brynmawr for the same reason daughter Dinah Price and family moved to Glamorganshire at about the same time, to escape the general economic depression that hit the region when the iron works began closing in the 1860s. Although Scranton also suffered an industrial economic decline following the Civil War, conditions (and wages) were still better than in many similar communities throughout south Wales.

The evidence is clear that David and Hannah Davies were, at the very least, hearty and hard-working individuals. In his mid-60s David was still working as a miner, and we know that Hannah was the mother of at least 10 children, and lived (again, at least), into her early 70s. This in addition to the fact that both were of sturdy enough constitution to make the often-difficult sea journey to America in 1865. Until just recently, I thought that my great-great grandmother Elizabeth Davies Thomas had left her family behind in Wales, however we now know that this was not the case. Her mother and father, and at least one or two of her siblings eventually joined her in Scranton. Three of John and Elizabeth Thomas children were named a David, Hannah, and Hosea, in what was likely a tribute to Elizabeth's family.

Jeffrey L. Thomas
Revised May 2005
jltbalt1@verizon.net

 

Discovering the Origins of the Davies Family in Wales
The next generation: David & Hannah's daughter Elizabeth Thomas of Scranton, Pennsylvania
The next generation: David & Hannah's daughter Dinah Price of Clydach, Glamorgan
A photo essay of Brynmawr and surrounds.
Davies family census returns, 1841-1861
Return to the main page at the Thomas Family Web Site

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e-mail: jltbalt1@verizon.net