When I was younger my dad often mentioned how carpentry ran in his family. You’d never have guessed it from his efforts at assembling flat pack furniture, although I was told that two of the bookcases, as well as the cutlery box and a storage chest had been his work.
His father and grandfather had both been carpenters, and he still used a number of the tools which had been passed down. Early on in my research, when I was struggling to trace his grandfather’s marriage registration and queried whether his memory was correct, he delved into his tool-box and brought out a chisel engraved with the initials TJ (for Tom Jones), corroborating what he’d thought. Not that it was a great help when I eventually worked out that Tom Jones had actually been born ‘David Thomas Jones’!
In all their cases, though, carpentry had been only a hobby. Dad started his career as a surveyor before moving to teaching, while his grandfather, along with several other members of the family, had worked at the iron foundry in Ystradgynlais, South Wales.
I had thought little more of it until I traced that line a couple of generations further back and found that in 1851 Tom Jones’ grandfather (my 3x great grandfather), also called Thomas Jones, was living in Penboyr, Carmarthenshire, and was recorded as a ‘carpenter and farmer’. Neither Dad nor I were aware that he’d been carrying on a family tradition which had lasted for more than a century and a half.
On the other side of Dad’s family a similar story emerged; he told me that his maternal grandfather, Thomas Hughes, had built the house in Ystradgynlais where the family had lived for many years. Again this wasn’t his day job, as he was in fact a coal miner, and building was his recreation. Again I delved a little further back to his great grandfather (my 4x great grandfather), also called Thomas Hughes, and this time I found that his occupation was recorded as ‘mason’.
So in each case it would seem that the family craft was passed on to the next generation even when there was no longer a living to be made from it.
© Michael 2009