Wednesday, March 12, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 2)

Wales. Picture from Helen Rigby.

His parents were David Thomas (1781) and Sarah Nathan (1784-1856). [1] A biography [2] by an unknown author from the files of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in Salt Lake City, Utah states: “David Thomas [father of David Nathan Thomas] was a weaver by trade.” Since Carmarthenshire was the center of the Welsh Woolen Trade which was very different from the Cotton Weaving Trade, David Thomas (senior) was probably a skilled craftsman who worked in a small factory. 
Up to about 1850, the word 'factory' in Carmarthenshire simply meant a building where carding or spinning machines were driven by water power. Weaving was still done by the hand loom. The 1831 census states that in Carmarthenshire there were 260 male weavers of over twenty years of age, 'engaged in weaving woolen yarns produced by domestic industry’; no more than 14 were found in any one place. [3]
Various dates are listed as David Nathan Thomas’ birth date. His gravestone in St. Johns, Arizona lists August 22, 1819, as his birth date; but the LDS New FamilySearch database lists August 22, 1820, as his birth date. It seems that whenever he was asked to give his birth date, he gave 1820 as the year. For example, when he emigrated he listed his birth year as 1820; on the 1880 census he listed his birth year as 1820, and in his patriarchal blessing his birth year is 1820. He was christened in 1821 in Langadog, Carmarthenshire by Joshua Davies, curate of Llangadock (sic). The microfilmed Bishop’s Transcript record lists: “Feb 18, 1821, David, son of David & Sarah Thomas of Aberdire [sic].” [4]

Little is known about his early years in Wales. According to the DUP biography his father and mother had four children, but only three, Mary, (1813), John (1818) and David (Nathan) (1820) are listed in the LDS Ancestral File data base. David Thomas (senior) and Sarah Nathan’s marriage in 1800 has not yet been documented. It is believed that their son John died of small-pox at the age of twenty. David’s father and mother did not join the LDS church or “Mormons” as most people called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is said his mother was very bitter toward the church and had nothing to do with her son after he joined the Mormons. [5]

David married Mary Howells who was born about 1824. [6]  Little else is known of her life and family. She is sealed to a David Howells and Mrs. Howells as her parents. A note on the back of a family group sheet says that Mary Howells was given away because of a large family and that she had a sister, Elizabeth or Betty Howells. [7] She married David Thomas November 5, 1842, at Caepantywyll, Glamorgan which was part of the Merthyr Tydfil area in the Rhondda Valley. Caepantywyll was an area of worker’s housing for the Cyfarthfa Ironworks.
The Rammel Inquiry of 1849 described Caepantywyll and complains ‘that there are a great number of houses but no one proper road. ‘It was all fields before the houses were built’, there are different types of houses, but none of the meanest sort’ and it was never a ‘slum-district’. However, this district declined in the second half of the century, gradually the people moved away, the houses were left empty and later demolished. [8]
Much of the decline was due to the fact that the Cyfarthfa Ironworks eventually shut down as the industry converted to steel. It closed forever in 1919. It may have been at the Cyfarthfa ironworks that David Nathan learned the trade of a blacksmith. He was often referred to as an “apprenticed blacksmith” so he learned the craft by working alongside a skilled blacksmith rather than learning by necessity as did many in the Utah pioneer communities of the nineteenth century.

David and Mary had four children: Margaret was born May 7, 1845, at Ystrad Village, Ystradgynlais in the counties of Brecon & Glamorgan. Ystradgynlais is a town on the River Tawe, and the town grew around the iron-making, coal-mining and watch-making industries. The town of Ystradgynlais was divided into six areas and Ystrad Village was one of those areas, again an area of workers housing. [9] Margaret told her granddaughter that “she grew up in the mining camps of South Wales”. Isaac was born July 19, 1850, at Abergwawr, Aberdare, in the counties of Glamorgan and Brecon; Sarah Ann was born October 3, 1853, at Cwmaman, Aberdare in the counties of Glamorgan and Brecon. Mary Hannah was born December 1, 1856, at Cwmaman, Glamorganshire, Wales. [10] Aberdare in 1801 was a small parish of only 1,486 people, but with the building of several large ironworks, the population increased tenfold during the first half of the 19th century. [11]  Abergwawr and Cwmaman were housing areas within Aberdare.

To be continued...


[1] Family group record for David Nathan Thomas at, also family group record prepared by Helen Price Rigby in RootsMagic. See Appendix #1 for this and other family group records.

[2] “Biography of David Nathan Thomas” on file at the International Headquarters of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in Salt Lake City, Utah. There is no author information or when it was written.

[3] Lloyd, Sir John E., (Ed.). A History of Carmarthenshire, 2 vols., Cardiff, London Carmarthenshire Society, 1935, 1939. With the kind permission of the publishers sundry extracts from this book have been extracted by Gareth Hicks. “The Woollen(sp) Industry,” by AB Jones & BL Davies,

[4] Church in Wales. Parish Church of Llangadog (Carmarthenshire), Bishops Transcripts, Microfilm 105170 in LDS Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[5] DUP, Biography of David Nathan Thomas.

[6] Certified marriage certificate in the possession of Ann Marie Bridges whose parents obtained it while they were serving a mission in Wales. Date obtained was 8 May 1969. Helen Rigby has photocopy obtained 2007.

[7] Note and family group sheet for David Thomas and Mary Howells, from Betty Jean Despain Aagard, Ft. Green, Utah in February, 2007. Betty is now (2011) deceased. Betty was great-great granddaughter of David Thomas through his daughter, Margaret. [see appendix #1]

[8] “Caepantywyl,”

[9] “Ystradgynlais,”

[10]  http://www.familysearch, Ancestral File, accessed January, 2011. Also, copies of birth certificates [appendix #1] for Margaret, Isaac and Sarah Ann, obtained from Ann Marie Bridges, Monroe, Utah. has three other children listed—David and William are born in Swansea and William is born same year as Isaac, David born 1856 is born same year as Mary Hannah and in a different city.  These are probably not children of our ancestors, David Thomas and Mary Howells.

[11] “Aberdare History,” The National Gazetteer of Wales.

Rigby, Helen. "A History of David Nathan Thomas and his wives, Mary, Adeline & Frances." Utah: n.p., 2011.

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