Taken from Edward and Sarah by Aled Pugh
1754 Sarah Rees born.
1778. Sarah Rees was 24 years old and six months pregnant when she married 30 year old Edward Thomas in her parish church of Talyllyn on 29th August 1778. Illegitimacy and 'late' marriages were not uncommon at that time and Edward and Sarah would not have been regarded as having seriously transgressed the accepted morality of their day. Edward Thomas was from Trawsfynydd and both he and his new bride were illiterate. They settled in Upper Corris in a small cottage -'bwthyn'- called Rhognant where they were to spend their married life together and where their children were born during the latter part of the eighteenth century.
J Arthur Williams, in his history -'Trem yn Ol' [‘A Backward Glance’] - of the Corris area and Talyllyn parish, records the occupancy of Rhognant by Edward Thomas and Sarah Rees. He puts forward a possible derivation for Rhognant as being from 'Rhwng dwy nant', between two streams. Alternatively, he suggests the word may come from 'Rhochi nant' or 'Rhygnu nant' conveying the sound of the streams rippling over the pebbly river bed. Certainly both explanations are apt descriptions of where the old cottage stood in Upper Corris. The original building is gone and other houses, Glan Nant, now occupy the site. But the name Rhognant still exists in that a 'new' house on the other side of the road, facing the original site, has adopted the name of the old cottage. It is known that the occupiers of the original Rhognant were in business selling rock salt in block form; this was their sole merchandise. It is possible that the salt traders were Edward Thomas and Sarah Rees - although on her death certificate Sarah is described as being the widow of Edward Thomas 'farmer'.
Edward and Sarah had at least six children, four sons and two daughters. There are gaps in the Talyllyn Church records during the period from about 1777 to at least 1792. From time to time insertions have been made in the records, usually accompanied by the disclaimer "The above is a mistake committed by Mr. Morgan, the late Curate of Talyllyn"! It may well be therefore that Edward and Sarah had more than six children and would account for the separation of some years between the recorded baptisms of their children.
The surnames of the children of Edward Thomas and Sarah Rees are interesting historically. At that time in Wales a son or daughter might be given the christian name of the father as his/her surname; that is, the tradition of patronymic surnames still prevailed. Thus two of their children were named Thomas Edward and Elinor Edward, not Thomas Thomas/Elinor Thomas. However, the custom of patronymics was coming to an end and the surname of their subsequent three children is that of their father - Thomas. But what of the eldest son David Thomas? This is an example of the Welsh tradition of the eldest son's surname being the grandfather's, and not the father's, christian name. The christian name of Edward Thomas's father must therefore have been Thomas. (Edward Thomas’s wife, who was always known as Sarah Rees and not Sarah Thomas, exemplifies the other Welsh tradition of very often referring to a married woman by her maiden name).
1778. The eldest child David Thomas was baptised at Talyllyn Church on 10th November 1778, three months after the marriage of his parents at the same church.
1781. Elinor Edward was probably the next child, although her baptism has not been recorded. For 'family tree' purposes - see next page - it is assumed here, based on census information, that this occurred in 1781.
1783. Their second son Thomas Edward was baptised at Talyllyn on 27th April 1783.
1786. Elizabeth Thomas, baptised in December 1786
1793. Rees Thomas, baptised in January 1793
1799 Edward Thomas, in March 1799.
1808. Sarah's husband Edward Thomas died at Rhognant on 8th April 1808 aged sixty. Sarah Rees was to survive her husband by forty years. At the beginning of the 19th century, and therefore probably soon after the death of Edward Thomas, Sarah Rees moved from Rhognant to the Old Factory - still in Upper Corris and opposite Dafarnewydd. It has been recorded that for a time she worshipped at Castell "but she was too much of a Wesleyan to stay long and soon afterwards she began to attend Capel Bach", which was very near the Old Factory. A child of Rees Thomas was born at the Old Factory in 1826 but as he had moved elsewhere by the following year it may well be that Rees Thomas and his wife had stayed with Sarah while they looked for a home of their own. The Old Factory was demolished in recent years.
1813 Elinor Edward was to marry a Richard Roberts in November 1813, one of the witnesses to the marriage being her brother David Thomas.
Thomas Edward, a labourer, married Gwen from Llanfihangel y Pennant.
1817 Elizabeth Thomas, the second daughter of Edward Thomas and Sarah Rees, married in 1817, at the age of thirty, to William Charles at Talyllyn Church. Like her parents, Elizabeth could not write. Evidence of the increasing spread of literacy however is that her husband and the two witnesses to the marriage, her eldest brother David and younger brother Rees, were able to sign the marriage entry.
1821 Edward and Sarah's youngest child, baptised in March 1799 and named Edward Thomas after his father. He died at Hafotty, Corris, in November 1821 aged only 22 and is buried in Talyllyn churchyard.
By 1841 census Sarah Rees was living with her eldest son David Thomas at Tynyberth, a small farmhouse in Upper Corris approximately halfway between Penygroes and the Old Factory. 1841 census shows head of Household David Thomas, farmer aged 60, Sarah Rees age 85, David Roberts age 13 male servant, Sara Thomas age 16 female servant.
(A John Edward, wife Ann and children were living in the Old Factory at this time. John Edward may be another son of Edward Thomas but, without additional data, this is no more than speculation). Tynyberth is still in existence and, judging by its appearance, has been little changed over the years other than for a rendering of pebble dash on the external walls.
‘Ty’ is Welsh for ‘house’ and ‘perth’ for ‘grove’ or ‘bush’. Tynyberth – the house in the grove - is attractive and stands in pleasant grounds. It has fine views across the valley. The 'front' door opens directly onto the lounge; the remaining downstairs rooms consist of what would now be called the dining room, kitchen and larder although these words belie their rather primitive state. The stairs are in the lounge and lead to what were once three bedrooms, one of which is now a simple bathroom. All the upstairs door openings are very low by today's standards.
The national census held on 7th June 1841 was the first to record the names and other information of individuals. On that day Sarah was aged 89 and her bachelor son David was 63. With them at Tynyberth was thirteen year old David Roberts from Penygroes, Sarah's grandson and the son of Elinor Edward and Richard Roberts. He helped to run the 84 acre farm. Also there at Tynyberth was sixteen year old Sarah Thomas, Sarah's grand-daughter and daughter of Rees Thomas. On the census return she is described as 'domestic servant' and that she was not born in the county of Merionethshire.
On 17th December 1847, at Tyddyn-y-Carth in Talyllyn, Sarah Rees died aged 93 of "old age and debility". Her youngest surviving son Rees Thomas was with her when she died. On the death certificate she is described as the widow of Edward Thomas, farmer. Sarah Rees and Edward Thomas are buried in Talyllyn churchyard.
The grave inscription reads:
‘Here lieth the body of Edward Thomas late of Rhognant who departed
the 8th Day of April 1808 in the 60th year of his Age’
‘Also lieth the Remains of Sarah wife of Edw’d Thomas who departed
the 17th of Dec’r 1847 in the 93rd year of her Age’
By the time of the 30th March 1851 census, his youngest brother Hugh had replaced David Roberts at Tynyberth. But Sarah Thomas was still there and her youngest sister, sixteen year old Jane, was visiting from Talyllyn. More information was required to be recorded for the 1851 census and Sarah Thomas's birthplace is identified as being Stockport. By 1851 Sarah Thomas was 26 years old. She had therefore been at Tynyberth from childhood to maturity, caring for Sarah Rees during her last years and David Thomas himself was well over seventy by 1851.
Sometime after the 1851 census David Thomas retired from the Tynyberth farm to live in Fron Yw in Dolgellau, where he died on 28th August 1855. Hugh Roberts, who helped him on the farm during the last years, died a year before him on 2nd July 1854.
Edward Thomas and Sarah Rees, Thomas Edward and his wife Gwen, David Thomas and his youngest brother Edward, and the 23 year old Hugh Roberts are all buried in Talyllyn churchyard, in four graves close by each other.
Fron Yw, Dolgellau, was destined to be the last home also of David's brother Rees, wife Elizabeth and their daughter Mary. Sarah Thomas, Rees's eldest daughter, had in the meantime married Evan Roberts, a Presbyterian minister, and they too were to be involved with Fron Yw.