Friday, July 27, 2012

The Widow Jane Comes To America: Part I

Jane James Williams was born on 31 July, 1815 in Strata Florida, Cardiganshire, Wales. She was born into a time of severe economic downturn. Families were eligible for relief funds based on how many children they had and so they brought yet more children into the world to beef up the subsistence funds. Not saying that Jane's family did this, just setting the stage for an understanding of the times.

Jane James married Thomas Williams on 29 January, 1841 in the Chapel at Strata Florida in Cardiganshire. Jane and Thomas appear in the 1851 Wales Census in the town of Caron, Cardiganshire: Thomas Williams age 35 working as a miner, his wife Jane age 35, Elizabeth 9, Jane 6, Daniel 2 months, who is to be my GGF. In the 1861 Wales census they are in the same place with more children: Thomas 10, John 7, and William 5. That's all the children they'd have and Thomas would die in 1865.

So there was Jane left with 6 children. The passage to America was not going to be cheap or easy. But what was she to do? Her two oldest children were girls and she could put them out as servants. Coincidentally, the 1851 census also shows on the next page an Eliz. Williams, saying she's 25, working as a servant. The same person? Daniel, the oldest boy, was 16 and could possibly work in the mines if that was allowed... and it night be interesting to do some research Welsh mines of the period.

The Wales census for 1871 reveals that Jane is now widowed and Daniel is working in the mines. They have moved to Breckenshire. Mom thinks they moved to be closer to Jane's relatives and there is a Dianah James also a widow, 31 years old, living next door to Jane... and remember that Jane's maiden name was James. Dianah works as a green grocer. Is she Jane's sister-in-law and the kids Aunt Dianah?

Daniel's sibs are all there in the 1871 census except for Thomas who would be 21 years old. Did he marry? Or did he already immigrate? I need to pursue that lead... but Thomas Williams is a very common Welsh name, so good luck to me.

What would you do? Would you send your oldest boy on ahead? Maybe. Mom found a Daniel Williams with Elizabeth (and Elizabeth was his oldest sister's name) arriving in New York on 2 May, 1873. Or did Thomas go on ahead, or did he stay behind with a wife and work in the coal mines? Is Thomas one of the brothers in that photo that's burning a place in my brain?

You know who is not in the Wales census of any year? David. He was born 22 May 1844 and the oldest boy. Strange. Maybe he's the one missing from the Troy NY photo of Jane and her children?

They all came to America, I know they did because of that photo. But when and who came first? As usual, more question than answers:)

Photo of the day from Wikipedia:

The Abbey at Strata Florida.
The Wikipedia link:

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