The Jenkins Men and their Watch

My maternal grandfather William Tyger Jenkins passed on to me an old pocket watch on December 19, 1997.  His uncle William Thomas Jenkins Jr. gave him the watch.  William Jr. received the watch from his father William Thomas Jenkins Sr. (my great-great-grandfather).

“Pap,” my grandfather, also passed on to me information about our ancestors that day.  He told me that William Sr. came to America from Wales at the age of 7 (around 1860).  His father had been a coal miner in a town in southern Wales called Pendargen.  He, along with his father, worked as a coal miner in Ohio.  He later moved to Pennsylvania, where he died in Dunlo in 1925.

I tried repeatedly to locate Pendargen.  I thought I might’ve been on to something when I asked a Welsh friend from Aberystwyth who thought it sounded familiar.  Perhaps, he thought, Pendargen was the old Welsh name of a town that now has an Anglicized name.   Finally, while research the Jenkins line, I came across references to the town name of Pendarren in Glamorgan County, which was in southern Wales. This town appears to be the same as the current Penydarren in Merthyr Tydfil County, but in the now “preserved” or “ceremonial” county of Mid Glamorgan. Pendarren/Penydarren sounds very much like Pendargen. Penydarren was an important industrial center in Wales and has rich coal field, which matches the story that William Thomas Jenkins Sr.’s father was a coal miner.

The 1870 census for Trumbull County, Ohio indicates that William, at the age of 17, lived with his parents, whose names my grandfather did not know. His father was also named William and his mother was named Ann, so William Sr., the first owner of the watch, was in fact William II, son of William Jenkins I. Both William II and his father worked as coal miners in Ohio.

Census records give competing dates for William II’s immigration to the United States. All indicate that William and his parents were form Wales. The 1890 census for Jefferson County, Pennsylvania states that William arrived in the United States about 1870 at about the age of 16. However, the 1910 census for Cambria County, Pennsylvania states that he arrived in about 1860 at about the age of 7. I believe the later to be correct. The 1870 census states that William’s father was a citizen of the United States. If they had in fact arrived around 1870, soon before that census was taken, it would be unlikely, perhaps even impossible, that he was already a citizen. Consequently, the 1860 arrival date, the date given by my grandfather, is much more likely.  So William II arrived as a child with his parents.

At some unknown date, he bought a heavy, well-made Waltham watch that he passed on to his son, who passed it on to his nephew, my beloved “Pap,” who then passed it on to me.  I couldn’t have been prouder that day.  I miss my grandfather.  He always had my brother and me laughing.  Even his war stories were funny.  My favorite: He, William or Will, was going ashore at Normandy in 1944.  An NCO shouted out, “Fire at will!”  Pap said, “Why!?  What did I do?”

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