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Life before marriage                                                      Margaret Louisa Jenkins


Rhondda Public Library Digital Archive

The Rhondda Valley Public Library Service has an excellent collection of archival photographs + commentary online


Powys Digital History Project

A Welsh site which has some brief notes with school log book examples.  It’s for schools so is pretty simple.

LINKS

Aberdare, Bridgend, Cardiff 1866-1886

Margaret Louisa Jenkins was born on 9th March 1866, almost mid century, at 50 Cardiff Road, Aberdare.   Aberdare is in the Rhondda Valley in Glamorgan, famous for its coal mines, but her father was not a miner.  At the time of her birth he was a book agent, which I suspect may be a kind of travelling salesman, although I suppose it could also be a bookie.  Whatever it is exactly, and I shall investigate further when I come to write up his story, it was not a highly paid profession.  Margaret was the second last child of a large family.  I have 11 births, though not all survived.


As far as I can gather by looking at maps, their home was actually about midway between Aberdare and the next village, Aberaman, on the main Cardiff Road.  It was not exactly in the country, but not really in the heart of town either.  The photograph at the top of the page is of a busy street in Aberdare, and the picture at top right is of the local church, where she was probably baptised.


In 1871 the family is still at the same address, her father is now a traveller and the last child has been born.  Margaret, herself is at school.  The picture here is of the National School in Cardiff St., Aberdare - more in the centre of Aberdare itself, so whether she went there or not I do not know.  It is likely though.   By the time Margaret was old enough to go to school, free education for the poor was available, indeed compulsory until the age of 14, so it is likely that she had at least the basics of education.  It also seems that the family could not have been really really poor because in 1881, aged 15 she is still living at home, now in Coity, Bridgend, but with no job against her name.  She probably was just helping out her mother.  There is an elderly William Evans living with them, who may be her grandfather, so she maybe helped to look after him.


Nevertheless it is likely that at some point she did go out to work.  The most common occupations would have been servant, dressmaker or laundress, although, of course there were also various factories, particularly in nearby Cardiff.  We do not know, but can guess that whatever she did she did it away from home, because, on Monday, September 13, 1886 in St Andrew’s Church in the Parish of St. John, Cardiff, at the age of 20 she marries James John Dearman a plasterer from Enfield.  

They have the same address - 50 Woodville Road, Cardiff.  Had they been living together, or were they both lodgers at a rooming house?  This was, in a way the only mystery in her life.  But then on a whim I started looking at where her siblings were, and lo and behold in 1891 her brother William was living at the same address.  My imagined story is therefore that Margaret moved to Cardiff for work, and lived with her brother whilst there.  James Dearman was a lodger in the house - William and his wife seem to have been childless and did take in lodgers - and so they met.   It would be nice to think that they were in love, and that they had chosen to marry in September because, “marry in September's shine, your living will be rich and fine",  but suffice to say that their first son, Arthur John was born in the following March.  Doing the sums it would seem that she was pregnant at the time of marriage, though not very.  Far enough down the track to know that she was pregnant however, so this is probably a shotgun wedding.  She was underage, but the marriage is by banns, so presumably permission had been given - and the two witnesses were her brothers William and George.  So was she a woman of easy virtue, or was she a young innocent seduced by the charms of an older man?  Take your pick.  It was the beginning of a long life together whatever the reason the marriage took place.