This page should be read in conjunction with my pages on Abbeyshrule, County Longford, Ireland. Those pages include a cover page on Abbeyshrule, the account of my 1987 trip that I wrote soon after it, a more lightweight account of the joys of dealing with octogenarians in Abbeyshrule called Touring with Tom, and a page of information about Mill Lane, where our Joneses apparently lived.
I must emphasize that there is no positive, primary-source evidence proving beyond doubt the parentage of John Jones (1828-1914); what there is is considerable circumstantial evidence that his father was David Jones, from Wales, and some indication that his mother, who was Irish, may have been named Catherine. Before going into the evidence which does exist, it is perhaps worth summarizing what seems to be the likely course of events, keeping in mind that this is a reconstruction based in part on inference from scanty evidence:
David Jones in Abbeyshrule: A Reconstruction
We know this much for certain: John Jones was born in August 1828 in the village of Abbeyshrule in County Longford, Ireland, son of a Welsh father and an Irish mother; John Jones regularly told the US census that fact. How did a Welshman end up in a small village in Ireland?
What follows is a tentative reconstruction based on limited evidence which will be presented below. Some of it is guesswork, but it is educated guessing.
In the early 19th century, before the Great Famine, when Ireland was much more populous than it was to become after the mass migrations, Ireland was a net importer of labor. During the canal-building era of the early 1800s, before the invention of the railroad, first the Grand Canal and then the Royal Canal were built, linking the coast with the Shannon. Many of the workers imported to build the canals were English or Welsh. In 1817, the Royal Canal reached the small Longford village of Abbeyshrule, for that is the date of the Whitworth Aqueduct which carries the canal over the River Inny just north of the village. The most likely explanation for a Welshman arriving in Abbeyshrule in that era is that he was working on the canal. John Jones was born in 1828, giving time for his father to have come while the canal was building, settled down, and married. It is possible that like others who lived in Mill Lane of Abbeyshrule, he worked at some point in the Coates Flour Mill at the end of Mill Lane, which helped many residents survive the famine years of the 1840s.
Though there are no surviving census records for the period, the nearest thing available, Griffith's Primary Valuation, was taken in the Abbeyshrule area in 1854. At that time, the only Jones in Abbeyshrule, in fact the only Jones in the whole southern part of County Longford, is David Jones, who was renting a cabin from the Royal Canal Company along the canal in the village of Abbeyshrule, in what was called Mill Lane. David Jones is a quintessentially Welsh name, and he is the only Jones heading a household in the area (only heads of households are listed); the fact that he rented from the canal company adds to the likelihood that he came with the building of the canal. While that does not prove that David Jones was the father of John Jones, there are no other candidates, and John Jones named one of his three sons Richard David Jones, and the name appears elsewhere in the family.
The great famine of 1847 and following transformed Ireland. While I have no specific figures for Abbeyshrule, County Longford went from a population of over 115,000 in 1841 to 82,000 in 1851, 71,000 in 1861, and so on through the century; in 1991 Longford had only 30,000 people. Abbeyshrule appears to have been similarly affected. But the one other valuation I know of, in 1861, while showing a decline in population from that of 1854, still shows precisely one Jones: Catherine Jones, in one of the cabins of Mill Lane, probably the same one. But Catherine Jones, whoever she may be, now owns the cabin rather than renting it from the Canal Company. This document can currently be found online at http://www.rootsweb.com/~irllog/vdru.htm. There is no proof that Catherine Jones of 1861 is related to David Jones of 1854, but they are the only Joneses in Abbeyshrule, and they are in the same row of cabins each time. While she could be a daughter of David Jones, it seems likelier that she was his widow. By 1861, our John Jones had already left for America.
The name Jones did not disappear immediately from Abbeyshrule, however. Late in the 19th or early in the 20th century there was another David Jones, who may have married a Kitty Burrows; the latter certainly was still alive in the early 20th century, and so we are not speaking of the same generation as the above David and Catherine. Perhaps the later David Jones is a son of the earlier, a son who stayed in Ireland. He may have been a blacksmith, and if so he lived at one time in Mill Lane, the same place as the earlier Joneses. Their relationship is speculation, and information on this later David Jones is purely oral, from interviewing old men in the village in 1987, but they agreed that these were the only Joneses in Abbeyshrule, and the only Catholic Joneses they'd ever heard of in the area, though there were some Protestant Joneses in other towns.
That is the outline. The documentation for this reconstruction, with footnotes and illustrations, follows.
David Jones and Abbeyshrule
To see the entire page of this volume, click here
There is rather scanty evidence available for Abbeyshrule in the years before the famine. The Irish census and most other public records were destroyed when the Four Courts building in Dublin was destroyed in the Irish civil war in 1922 (the defenders actually used public records like sandbags to fill the windows), so it can be frustrating finding records.
The Catholic parish that included Abbeyshrule at the time of John Jones' birth was the parish of Taghshinny, Taghshinod, and Abbeyshrule, and its earliest records are from 1835. I have looked at the microfilm copy of this record book, which is in Latin, and convinced myself there were no early Jones references; in any event, John Jones' birth occurred seven years before the record-keeping started. Admittedly, my Latin is rusty.
The substitute for the missing Irish census is Griffith's Primary Valuation and some subsequent valuations of land. This survey listed all heads of household, whether they owned or rented, as of the time the valuation was made; in the case of County Longford, this was 1854. The entry above shows the only Jones to be found in Abbeyshrule or anywhere near it, David Jones, who was renting a house from the Royal Canal Company. The property consisted of a house -- these were mostly turf cabins, I understand -- and a valuation of five shillings. Note that the Village of Abbeyshrule appears under the townland of Drumanure within the parish of Abbeyshrule, not the townland of Abbeyshrule. The townlands were something like townships and were subsidiary divisions of the civil parish. The civil parish was the Church of Ireland (that is, Established Anglican Church) parish, and the Roman Catholic parishes did not usually coincide.
The local historian, Charlie McGoey, informed me in 1987 that the houses listed rented from the Canal Company were in Mill Lane, which later had a reputation as a hangout for tinkers and gypsies, but was not so run-down in the mid-19th century. The photo, from a 20th century book, shows two ruined cabins in Mill Lane. Nothing stands there today. For more on the history of Mill Lane, see my page on it.
I have since located one other clue to the early Joneses in Abbeyshrule. An 1861 follow-up evaluation listed fewer cabins in the Village of Abbeyshrule than the one seven years earlier, but still listed only one person named Jones, this one listed as Cathe. Jones, presumably Catherine. It is again a House, and this time is listed as being held freely; that is, she appears to own it, but the ownership of the other houses in the same street also appears to have changed. In all probability the Canal Company had sold off the lots in some way. As noted, this document can be found at http://www.rootsweb.com/~irllog/vdru.htm.
The local historian, Charlie McGoey, suggested in correspondance to
"I am glad to relate that in the name indexes there is one family ONLY of the name JONES in the entire area of South County Longford. The head of this household was one DAVID JONES living at the time of the famine in Mill Lane in the village of Abbeyshrule. This man in all probability was your great great grandfather. He held a tenancy in a mud cabin together in the same area of Mill Lane with twenty like cabins from the Royal Canal Company. It is highly likely that these people were originally employed by the Canal Company during the construction of this waterway in 1819 and were migrant families there when the canal was completed in 1827. It is not beyond conjecture that your ancestors were of Welsh origin who migrated into Abbeyshrule where they escaped the worst ravages of the famine by working for the large flour mill of the family of Coates situated at the end of Mill Lane (Ref Lewis Topographical Dictionary 1852)."
During my visit to Abbeyshrule in 1987, when I met with several octogenarian informants, (follow the links for fuller details and my notes), I also discussed the presence of Joneses in Abbeyshrule later. The pastor had written me as long ago as 1968 that there had once been a Kitty Burrows who was married to a Jones, but that there were no Joneses in Abbeyshrule any longer and no Catholic Joneses in this part of Longford.
Tom, my main guide, and Pearse or Pierce Butler, another old resident, told me that while there were Joneses at Taghshinny, they were all Protestants, and quite clearly in an Irish context that was the end of that discussion. But there had been a Jones or Joneses in Abbeyshrule: there had been a David Jones who was a blacksmith and lived "in the houses down by the canal", and either the same man or another David Jones who owned for farms named "David Jones' gardens" which were in bogland outside of the village. I was shown the probable site of David Jones' gardens. There had been a fire there when the farmhouse burned, and the old men remembered the fire. When would that have been, then? Well, they could not agree on how long ago it was, and soon we were talking about the Black and Tans and the British as if the Tans had ridden through town the day before. I concluded that they could be talking about almost any time from 1910 to the 1930s.
One of the informants did remember that Kitty Burrows used to give him candy, and that she was either married to a Jones, or she was a Jones who married a Burrows. They seemed to think she was associated with either David Jones the blacksmith or David Jones of the Gardens, and weren't sure these weren't the same man.
All I could really conclude from all this was that another David Jones
(recent enough to be remembered by octogenarians in 1987) had lived in
the area, and that the blacksmith may have lived in a cabin by the canal,
as the David and Catherine Jones of a much earlier era did. In short, there
are some hints of a connection, and it is interesting that the only Joneses
remembered in Abbeyshrule or showing up in the records were named David.