The key to discovering the origins of the Thomas family in Wales, was locating John J. Thomas and his family in the 1841 census of Britain (October of 2003). By the time the next British census was taken in 1851, the Thomas family had left Wales, immigrated to America, and settled in Hyde Park (Scranton), Pennsylvania. John J. Thomas, his wife Elizabeth and their children begin appearing in U.S. census returns in 1850, and the family has been identified in all subsequent returns up to 1930, the last census year currently available to the public.
Below you will find my short commentary on each census return from 1841 to 1930, along with a linked image of the actual return being discussed. I have also attempted to track the children of John J. and Elizabeth Thomas as they married and started their own families, although these census images are not included here.
1841 Census, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales - Thomas family
My great-great grandfather John J. Thomas was born May 8, 1823 in Brynmawr (Brin-mua-er), Llanelly Parish, Breconshire, south Wales. He was one of five known children of John and Mary Thomas of Brynmawr. In English, Brynmawr translates into "big hill," an appropriate name for a town that rises some 1,200 feet above sea level. John J. Thomas was born at a time when Brynmawr was just a small collection of farms and cottages, however, during his childhood, he and his family witnessed a population explosion, as the iron and coal industries transformed the region into an industrial giant.
Our first glimpse of the Thomas family is provided by the 1841 census of Britain, which tells us that John and his family were living on Somerset Street in Brynmawr. The returns indicate that the Thomas family was living in a single family home, that John Thomas Sr. and his son John were working as (coal) miners (colliers), and that all members of the family were born in Breconshire. As colliers, it is likely that John and his father were mining coal for use by the numerous iron furnaces in the region. The total population of Brynmawr in 1841 was 2,603. Of that number, only 1,054 persons (40%) were identified as being born in Breconshire, while 60% of the town's inhabitants were listed as being born outside the county or outside of England. The returns show that most of the male workers of Brynmawr were employed by the coal mining industry, 384 individuals in all, including 233 miners and mine laborers, and 151 colliers. The iron industry was next with a total of 80 workers.
1841 Census, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales - Davies family
David and Hannah Davies and their family lived two blocks from Somerset Street on Glamorgan Street. David was a miner and he and Hannah were the parents of eight children, including fifteen year old daughter Elizabeth. Three years later, on December 28, 1844, the eighteen year old Elizabeth married John J. Thomas at the parish church in Llanelly. Their marriage ceremony was witnessed by Elizabeth's father David Davies, and Elizabeth Thomas, who was likely John's younger sister. Both John and Elizabeth signed the marriage register by making their mark (X).
The 1841 census is the first and last time we see the complete family of John and Mary Thomas. Before the next British census was taken in 1851, John Sr. had died, and his wife and children had immigrated to America.
1841 Census, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales - Thomas & Davies
This page provides a table of all those individuals with the surnames Thomas and Davies in the 1841 Census for Brynmawr, Llanelly Parish, Breconshire, Wales. The names have been taken from the recently released CD ROM version of the 1841 Census of Breconshire. Names, ages, occupations and places of residences that are not clear in the census are accompanied by a question mark or series of question marks.
1850 Census, Providence Township, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania
The returns list John Thomas, age 27 born in Wales, wife Elizabeth, age 24 born in Wales, daughter Elizabeth, age 5 born in Wales, daughter (H)annan, age 1, the first family member born in Pennsylvania, and son John, age 1/12, the first of John & Elizabeth's sons to be born in America. John is listed simply as miner and is not shown owning any real estate. It would be several decades before census returns listed streets and house numbers, so it's difficult to tell exactly where the family lived in 1850.
The 1850 census was the first U.S. census to list all family members rather than simply heads of households, making it the first set of returns that are truly useful for genealogists. The 1850 census supplies the names, ages, and places of birth for each member of the household, the value of any real estate owned, and weather the person attended school during the year and could read and write.
1851 Census, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales - Davies family
Although Elizabeth Davies Thomas departed for America in 1848, the 1851 census of Britain indicates that her parents David and Hannah Davies remained in Brynmawr. As was the case ten years earlier, the returns list the Davies family as living on Glamorgan street. In the 1851 returns we learn that David Davies was born in the parish of Llangeler in Carmarthen, while his wife Hannah was born in the industrial city of Merthyr Tydfil, and, that by 1851 the last of the Davies children had been born, Sarah and Hosea. Although the census lists most the Davies children as being born in the Parish of Aberystruth, Monmouthshire, there was a small section of Brynmawr (most of which was part of Llanelly Parish in Breconshire), that was included in Aberystruth. Therefore, the children listed as being born in Aberystruth may have actually been born in Brynmawr. The returns also show that David and three of his grown sons were working as iron miners, probably in the mines directly behind the town, while 13 year old son James was working as a "haulier," the equivalent of a mule driver in the mines.
1860 Census, Hyde Park Borough, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania
By 1860 the boroughs of Hyde Park and Scranton had been formed from parts of Providence Township in Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania. The family of John J. and Elizabeth Thomas had been in America for a little over a decade and had made steady progress in raising their family in America and establishing themselves in the mining community of Hyde Park. By this time the Thomas family had grown to seven children, although daughter Mary (b.1858), would apparently die before the next census on 1870.
The returns of 1860 again list John Thomas as a miner, this time owning real estate valued at $350.00 and personal property valued at $100.00. This piece of information tell us that John J. Thomas was making progress in his adopted country, and had managed to purchase a home within 10 years of his arrival. Again, although we know that the Thomas family home was in Hyde Park, the returns do not provide an exact address. Living with the family is an Elizabeth Roberts, age 26, who was probably either a servant, a relative, or both. The returns of 1860 demonstrate that the Thomas family had made a decent start in America, however during the decade of the 1860s the family's situation would improve even more dramatically.
A careful observer will also notice that living just a few households away is the family of William C. and Mary Williams, including their daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth Williams would eventually marry George Hares, and their daughter Mary Jane would marry William H. Thomas, John and Elizabeth's son born in 1864, and my great-grandfather.
1861 Census, Brynmawr, Breconshire, Wales - Davies family
By 1861 the family of David and Hannah Davies had moved from Glamorgan Street to Worcester Street in Brynmawr. The returns indicate that David was still working as a miner at 63 years of age, and that his son Hoseah was already working as a collier (miner) at age thirteen. In 1861 the Davies family also included daughters Sarah and Dinah, along with Dinah's three children, the youngest of whom was born in Glamorganshire. At this time the identity of Dinah's husband is not known. So far I have been unable to identify David and Hannah Davies in the returns of 1871, and it is therefore probable that they both died before then.
1870 Census, 4th Ward, Scranton (Hyde Park) Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania
In 1864 John J. Thomas purchased a home on Hyde Park Avenue from Thomas Eynon, one of Hyde Park's most influential and famous residents, the same Thomas Eynon who stood as a witness for John's naturalization proceedings in 1854. The following year in 1865 John purchased three cemetery plots in the Washburn Street cemetery from the Hyde Park Cemetery Company, and in 1867-68 he is listed in the city directory for Scranton as a miner, living on Hyde Park Avenue. The census returns for 1870 reflect some of this prosperity.
Although the Thomas family was still living in the Welsh section of Hyde Park, the borough had been incorporated by Scranton when Scranton borough was incorporated into a city in 1866. Therefore the returns of 1870 show the Thomas family living in the 4th Ward, City of Scranton, Post Office, Hyde Park.
By 1870 daughters Elizabeth and Hannah are no longer living with their parents. The fate of Elizabeth is unknown, although it is likely that she was already married and living with her husband, or that she died sometime between 1860 and 1870. Since there is no family tradition concerning Elizabeth, I tend to believe the latter. Hannah Thomas had married Tunis Thomas, an iron worker and Civil War veteran, and was already busy raising her own family nearby. Sons Hosie, William (my great grandfather), and Frank Thomas make their first appearance in the returns, as does an Emma Thomas, possibly another daughter who died young.
John J. Thomas is again shown as a coal miner, this time owning real estate valued at $2,500.00 and personal property valued at $800.00, The rise in real estate value from 1860 reflects the aforementioned purchase of the house on Hyde Park Avenue. Oldest son John (age 21) as also listed as a miner, and sons Thomas (age 16) and Jeremiah (14) are listed as "mule drivers" in the mines, a common occupation for boys not yet old enough to be full fledged miners. Interestingly son David, (age 18), is shown at school. This is curious because in those days any formal education was usually completed before a child reached his or her teens, at which point most boys went to work in some capacity in the mines.
1880 Census, 2nd Ward, Scranton, Lackawanna Co., Pennsylvania
John J. Thomas died on February 10, 1875, at 53 years of age. Even with the rigors associated with the coal mining industry, John's death at a relatively early age has to be considered premature, and at this point his cause of death is not known. He was buried at the Washburn Street Cemetery in one of the plots he purchased in 1865.
In 1879/80 the widowed Elizabeth Thomas remarried John E. Jones, himself a recent widower, and Elizabeth's underage children became part of the Jones household. The 1880 census shows us that the Jones family lived in the 2nd ward of Scranton rather than the 4th (Hyde Park). In the census John E. Jones is listed as the head of the family, Elizabeth is listed as his wife, and her children, Hosie Thomas, Frank Thomas, and Dannie Thomas, are listed as John's stepsons. The census also tells us that John occupation was "Saloon Keeper".
We have no additional details concerning the marriage of Elizabeth Thomas and John E. Jones, however Elizabeth apparently survived her second husband, because sometime after 1885 she remarried her third husband, Isaac Morgans, a Welsh miner from Hyde Park. Isaac was also a widower, whose first wife Letia died in 1885. Nothing is known of this marriage. This time, however, Elizabeth would not survive her husband. In January 1896 Elizabeth Morgans contracted hepatitis and died on July 21st at her home on 508 North Hyde Park Avenue.
1900 Census, 4th Ward, Scranton (Hyde Park) Lackawanna Co., Pennsylvania
By 1900 the children of John J. Thomas and his wife Elizabeth were busy raising their families in Hyde Park. My great grandfather William Henry Thomas married Mary Jane Hares in 1886, and they raised a large family in Hyde Park. The census of 1900 shows that they were renting a house at 530 Evans Court, which is just off North Hyde Park Avenue. William is 35 years old, his occupation given as "Stove Mounter". These were undoubtedly the years William was employed by the Scranton Stove Company, using the skills he learned as an apprentice in his youth (see the 1880 census). Mary Jane is shown as the mother of 6 children, 5 of whom are still living. Family tradition says that the 6th child was a daughter named Stella who was likely born between Chester (1890) and Hannah (1896). Eldest son George (age 13), like his father is listed as a stove mounter, while daughter Elizabeth (age 11) and son Chester (age 10) are listed as "at school". Hannah (age 3) and Blanche (age 1) round out the Thomas family. There is little else of note in the returns other than this being the first census appearance of William and family. (The census of 1890, which would have been the family's first, was destroyed by fire.)
Living nearby in Hyde Park are William's bothers John, David, Hosie and Frank Thomas. John J. Thomas (age 49), the eldest brother, is listed living with his wife, 5 of his children and his son-in-law. The returns show that John owned a house on North Main Avenue. His occupation is given as "Hotel Keeper". His wife Mary is shown as being born in Wales, her date of immigration to America given as 1861. Daughter Elizabeth and her husband Benjamin Evans are present, the latter's occupation given as "day laborer", and son Bert (age 20) is listed as a "Bartender".
Nearby is the large family of William's brother David O. Thomas (age 48), his wife Jennie (age 47) and their 8 children. David is shown as a "day laborer", son William (age 22) as a "upholsterer", daughter Mildred (age 18) as a "clerk", daughter Maud (age 16) as a "seamstress", and son Chester (age 14) as a "errand boy". Although David O. Thomas is listed as a coal miner in previous returns, it appears that no one on the family was working in the mines in 1900. As was the case with many families, most children went to work upon leaving school.
Frank Thomas is shown living with his brother Hosie's family on Decker Court along with Hosie's wife Elizabeth and their children Bertha, Daniel and Henry. Tragically both Daniel and Henry would lose their lives in mining accidents sometime after 1910. Hosie (age 39) is listed as a "coal mine laborer" while brother Frank (age 29) is listed as a "day laborer".
1910 Census, 4th Ward, Scranton (Hyde Park) Lackawanna Co., Pennsylvania
By 1910 William H. Thomas and his family had moved from their home on Evans Court to a duplex at 538 N. Hyde Park Ave owned by his wife's mother Elizabeth Morley. The other side of the duplex, (540), was occupied by Elizabeth, (age 60), her son Daniel, and daughters Minnie, Catherine, her husband John MacWilliams, and their sons Wainwright (Dutch) and Alvin.
By this time all of William and Mary Jane's children had been born and all of them were living with their mother and father with the exception of eldest son George W. Thomas who was already on his own. The 1910 census marks the first appearance for three Thomas children, including my grandfather Willard Thomas, born in 1902. William's occupation is listed as "Engineer / Stationary" and the only other person working is son Chester (age 19) listed as a laborer in the coal mines. Next door Daniel Morley (age 24) is also listed as a laborer in the mines (which was not the same thing as a miner).
The 1910 census shows that son George Thomas, his wife Catherine, and their children Howard and George were living in Scranton's 13th ward on Larch St.(?) with Catherine's parents Howard and Ida Campbell, their daughter Grace, her husband Eugene Baker, and their baby daughter Grace. George is a milk truck driver for the local dairy, the same job he held when he died in 1934.
Back in Hyde Park in the 4th Ward we find William's brother Frank (age 46) living on North Main Ave listed as a "City Laborer", and brother Hosie (age 49) still living on Decker Court and still working as a coal miner, as was his son Harry. Tragically both Harry and his brother Daniel would be killed in mining accidents before the end of the decade. By 1910 Hosie had been living on the same street in Hyde Park for 50 years. We will visit Hosie again in the 1930 census.
1920 Census, 4th Ward, Scranton (Hyde Park) Lackawanna Co., Pennsylvania
The census of 1920 is packed full of information about the Thomas family. The returns list William Thomas as the head of the household, age 43. This is incorrect because William was born in 1864, which makes him 55 in 1920. William's occupation is listed as "Stationary Engineer - Storage House." His wife Mary Jane is listed as 53 years old (which is correct). Next is George, (age 35), Elizabeth, (age 32), Chester, (age 30), Hannah, (age 24), Blanche, (age 21), Grace, (age 19), Willard, (age 17), and Jack, (age 15). George's occupation is listed as "Foreman - Boiler Company," while Chester is listed as "Cook - Restaurant". Family tradition tells us that Chester was a cook in the U.S. Navy during World War I, so the 1920 census finally confirms his occupation. Blanche is shown as a "Clerk - Correspondence School," Grace as a "Binder- Book Company," and Willard as a "Clerk" working for the Correspondence School (ICS). Next door Catherine MacWilliams is also listed as a "Binder" for the Correspondence School.
Living just a couple of houses away at 530 North Hyde park Avenue, we find William's brother Hosie Thomas and his wife Elizabeth. Hoise's sons Harry and Daniel, who were living with their mother and father in the census of 1910, were tragically killed in a mining accident before 1920. This must have been doubly hard on Hosie, who had also seen his younger brother Daniel killed in the mines in the late 19th century. No doubt Hosie's son Daniel was named after his father's brother, which makes his death in the mines all the more ironic and tragic.
This would be the last census return for Chester Thomas. He died of tuberculosis in a local sanitarium in 1927 and was the first family member buried in the Thomas family plot at the North Chinchilla cemetery. This would also be the last return for the Thomas family in Hyde Park, the place William H. Thomas had called home since his birth in 1864, and the place the Thomas family had called home since 1850. Although our next ancestor, Willard Thomas, would remain in Hyde Park, by 1930 William and Mary Jane and most of the family had relocated to nearby Green Ridge.
1930 Census, 13th Ward, Scranton, (Green Ridge) Lackawanna Co., Pennsylvania
By 1930 William and Mary Jane Thomas had moved from Hyde Park to the community of Green Ridge, and it is here we find the family in the 1930 Census. The returns show that the family was living on Monsey Avenue, and included members William, (age 63), Mary J., (age 62), daughter Grace, (age 25), and son John (Jack - age 23) and his wife Helen. William's occupation is listed as "Engineer - Stove Works," an indication that he may have still been working for the Scranton Stove Company. Daughter Grace's occupation is listed as "Mailing Room - Correspondence School," while Jack's occupation is given as "Salesman - Roofing Mfg." The returns show that William owned his home which was assigned a value of $8,000.00. This would be the last set of returns in which Mary Jane Hares Thomas would appear. Six years later she and her husband would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, however Mary Jane would die the following year in 1937.
Living next to William and Mary Jane on New York Street, was the family of their daughter Hannah and her husband David Richards. The family included David, Hannah, and their sons William T., and John H. (Jack). Dave Richard's occupation is listed as "Pressman - Correspondence School". (By now you should have surmised that the Thomas family was well aquatinted with the ICS.)
Living just a few houses away from William and Mary Jane on Monsey Avenue, is their eldest son George Thomas and his large family, including his wife Catherine, and children Howard, George Jr., Catherine, Dorothy, Ruth, Emma, and George Jr's wife Ameda and their son George. George Sr.'s occupation is listed as "Dairyman - Milk Dairy." This too would be George's final census appearance, as he would die in 1934.
In 1926 William and Mary Jane's son Willard Thomas married Dorothy Boorem, and their son Lee was born in 1929. The 1930 census shows that Willard, Dorothy and Lee were living on Dartmouth Street in the Hyde Park section of Scranton. The returns list Willard, (age 27), Dorothy, (age 23), Lee, (age 7/12), and show that the family was renting part of a house owned by John Roberts. Willard's occupation is listed as "Printer - Correspondence School." Willard and Dorothy had met several years earlier when they were both working for the ICS, the International Correspondence School in Scranton.
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Text and photographs copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey L. Thomas, with all rights reserved