Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Irish Roots: Thomas Jones and Mary Harty

St John the Baptist Church, Cobh (Queenstown) Via: Cobh Heritage Centre

During the last year, I obtained my certificate of entry on the Foreign Births Register, so I'll be celebrating (using the term loosely under the current pandemic) St Patrick's Day for the first time as an Irish Citizen. Growing up, I knew my grandmother had lived in Ireland, but her father had always claimed to be Welsh (nope, English) and we had no idea where she was born until I began this research. Having now obtained her Irish birth certificate, I was able to apply, but we still thought that my family had just been immigrants in Ireland. 

Nobody in the family in living memory had even considered the possibility of a bona-fide Irish Catholic ancestor. Plenty would have rejected the idea.

Having contacted Cobh Parish Office, they were able to tell me that my 2x great-grandparents, Thomas Jones and Mary Harty had married, on 7 January 1844, at St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Cobh (Queenstown). St John the Baptist was the Catholic Church for Cobh from 1810 to 1868, when it was demolished to make way for the bigger St Colman's Cathedral

Thomas Jones, we can be fairly confident was born in 1817 - he gives the same information on the census and his naval record at least. On the 1851 census in England, Thomas is listed as having been born in Swansea, Glamorganshire, but looking for a Jones there redefines the meaning of looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, so I see no way of discovering who his parents were.

Mary Harty, according to what records there are for her, must have been born around 1821. Although she married in Cobh, I see no reason to assume that she was from there originally. My late cousin in Ireland had said that Mary later went "up country" to where her people were from, so perhaps she may have come to Cobh for work and met Thomas there. What we do know from that 1851 English census is that Mary was born in Ireland and, later from the 1901 Irish census, that she spoke both Irish and English. But I've found no records that tell me where her exact place of birth nor original parish was though. 

The 1844 parish marriage record is very scant in detail and does not include the names of the bride and groom's parents and there wasn't civil registration in Ireland at that date, so there aren't the usual hints to follow.

The only other clue is that Mary had a younger sister, Ellen Harty (b. 1825), who was visiting them in Sutton Bridge, England in 1851, but who was also one of the sponsors at Nicholas Jones' baptism, in Rath, Ireland in 1853.

Thomas and Mary had six children in all: 

  1. Mary Ann Jones, born in Ireland in 1844
  2. Rees Jones, born 25 May 1849 in Long Sutton, Lincolnshire
  3. David Jones, born 10 Jul 1850 in Long Sutton, Lincolnshire
  4. Anna Jones, bap 4 Oct 1851 at Sacred Heart Church, Rath
  5. Nicholas Jones, born 10 May, bap 17 May 1853 at Sacred Heart, Rath
  6. Thomas Jones, bap 17 Sep 1854 at Sacred Heart, Rath
Rath and The Islands Parish is the Catholic Community of Baltimore, Sherkin Island and Cape Clear Island and surrounding areas. This explains why my late cousin drew a complete blank when she'd gone down to Baltimore to try to find records of the family: she'd only been looking in the Church of Ireland.

Nobody in the family ever spoke of Mary Ann, Rees, nor Thomas Jr. David was the one who did things that one would associate with the role of eldest son. Of those children, the only mention I've seen for Mary Ann is on the English 1851 census. One month before they moved back to Ireland, both Rees and David were baptised, on 1 May 1851at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Kings Lynn, Norfolk. That's the last record I have for Rees. David was my great-grandfather. Anna still lived with her mother in 1901 and later became David's housekeeper. She never married and died on 8 Mar 1934. Nicholas was my cousin's grandfather. The baptism is the first time I heard of son Thomas. 

The only other record I've found [so far] for Thomas Jones Jnr is when he was enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class on 14 Apr 1871. On it, there's a reference provided by a John Lombard, which states, "Thomas Jones is a Protestant Parishioner of Queenstown, and son of a Naval Pensioner. He is a steady, well conducted lad." Emphasising Protestant for what purpose? 

Also attached to the record is a Declaration Before a Magistrate in Thomas Jones (the father's) own handwriting - I recognise his signature - stating that, "I hereby certify that my son Thomas Jones was born in Baltimore, Cork on May 25th, 1855." Not when he was baptised in 1854, he wasn't! Clearly the date wasn't a mistake and can only have been a deliberate falsification, because later on the form, it states that, "Boys for the Navy must be over 15 and not above 16½ years of age ..."  He was 17. The most curious part of this record however, is that his service record is blank. He's not even assigned to a training ship: it's like he didn't even turn up. And then he just disappears.

Thomas Jones' Naval and Coastguard Career: 
Born in the reign of George III near the end of The Regency, Thomas Jones lived through the reigns of George IVWilliam IV and much of Queen VictoriaHe served in the First Opium War and the Crimean War; emigrated TO Ireland during the Great Famine and lived through four Cholera pandemics

Thomas Jones died, aged 56, on 8 Jan 1873, at Castle Oliver, from Morbus Cordis (unspecified heart disease) 4 years certified (which ties in with his date of retirement) - presumably in the surrounding village, rather than Kim and Kanye's honeymoon castle itself. Could that be the "up country" area Mary had originally come from? Can't think of another reason for them to be in Limerick.

Section S of the Clonmel Old Church Cemetery (Cobh), Cork

Thomas Jones was buried, on 10 Jan 1873, in the Clonmel Old Church Cemetery (Cobh), Cork in section S, row 9, position 76. The inscription on his grave reads, 
Erected by David Jones In memory of his beloved father Thos. Jones Who died Jan. 8th 1873 aged 56 years”.
In 1901, Mary Jones, widow, was living with her daughter, Annie (who claimed to be 30, but was 50) at The Glen, Passage West (Monkstown, Cork). Mary Jones (81), Widow of Thomas Jones a Coastguard Pensioner, died of senile decay on 14 Aug 1903 at The Rock, Queenstown, Cork. 

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