Gabriel Howells

In talking to my aunt in hopes of finding an original copy of the Jones family tree, she came across this paper, which I'd never heard of before. I couldn't resist typing it up this week. This is the side of the family tree I haven't really sorted out in my head yet.

The Welsh were constantly finding ways of getting back at the English for the oppression of being under their thumb—including using patronymics to confuse them.

I really don't have a lot of this tree—pretty much non-existent more than three or four generations back. I need to figure out what I know and what I still don't on this side.

So far as I can see, there's no credit on this, nor did my aunt know where it came from. It's possible it was written by my grandmother's brother Ivor, or her sister's husband Burt, or their uncle Ted. We just don't know for sure. There is a decided religious slant to the entire thing. As well as being very patriarchal. Almost no mention is made of the women of the family, and certainly nothing before my grandmother's great-grandmother, though the stories go back much further.

Gabriel Howells

Born August 1, 1849
Died December 9, 1934

Gabriel Howells was the eldest son of Hywel and Catherine Gabriel, who lived at Llanfilan-gel-y-Pennant near Cadair Idris, a mountain in Merionethshire, North Wales, meaning "Idris' Chair." He was probably born there, as it is known that by 1856 his parents had moved to Ty-Cerrig, a small farm near the beach at Llangelynin, a district between Towyn and Llwynril, two seaside villages in Merionethshire. His father, Hywel Gabriel, was of a well-known family of weavers that settled early at Llanfihangel-y-Pennant. He was noted for his skillful and artistic weaving, and his work was much sought for by the gentries of the Manor homes of Merioneth for cloths and damask quilts. He farmed Ty-Cerric, but kept one building at the end of the house to do his weaving in. Later the family moved to another small farm in the neighborhood, and it was here that he died at the early age of fourty-nine, in 1871, at Castell Back, Rhoslefain.

His mother, Catherine Gabriel, was also of a well-known family, from the district of Dolgellau. She was a grand-daughter of Lewys Edwart, "The Quaker." He was well-known for his graciousness and kindness, and also for his pre Christian conduct and strong principles. He loved, in his spare time, to write poetry. There are many verses of his to be found today. He was a well-known carpenter, and some of his credible works are seen today in the neighborhood. As a Christian he belonged to a small flock of Quakers that flourished in the district at that time. He also preached, or gave advice, for the Quakers. It is said that he was the last to work in this capacity for the Quakers in the parish of Dolgellau. He was also a renowned stone mason. His chief fete was in the building of a certain part of Barmouth Harbour—the part that is called "Brother Isle." It was also his work in widening the bridge over the Winon River at Bontnewydd three miles from Dolgellau. He had eight children. His son Evan helped him with his work. He was with his duties at Hengae, Aberllyfenni—dozens of miles from home, when he slipped down a ladder while he carried a heavy stone, and wad (sic) badly hurt. It was intended to take him home, but his condition deteriorated so much that they turned into a farmhouse, Hafod-y-Merich, where he died about 1815. He was buried near his home at Tyddyn-y-Garreg. As it is the Quakers' custom not to put a gravestone, there is nothing to show the exact spot, but legend says it was by the gateway that leads to the cemetery.

His son, Evan Lewis, was born at Rhiwspardyn, Dolgellau, in the year 1788. His father gave him the best education he could afford. We heave of him in Aberystwuth in 1807, where he started a school at Little Darkgate Street, and was there until 1820. While he stayed at Aberystwyth, he started preaching with the Free Weasleyians. He was called by the well-known church of Cilgwyn, near Llangybi, to administer one of the oldest Independent Churches in the south. He was ordained pastor there in 1829. Among others that officiated at the ceremony was Prof. David Lewis Jones, Carmarthen College. He was pastor of the chirch at Cilgwyn for fourty-four years. Apart from being a pastor, he kept a school at Llangybi, and taught there. He also worked hard with the Sundqy School, and did all in his ability to encourage education. He preached freely in Welsh and English, and traveled far and wide through Cardiganshire to encourage the warmth of the Gospel of His Kingdom. Every time he visited Aberystwyth, the church would be overflowing. He started a book on "Arithmetic Made Easier," but only one edition was published. He was not an Unitarian, though he occasionally preached in the Unitarian pulpits. The congregation at Cilgwyn were a mixture of Independence and Armenians at first, but eventually they belonged to the Free Wesleyian Church. He was a bosom friend of Black Daniel of Cardigan, and Davies of Howel Castle. His services for religion and education were acknowledged by the Government. He was granted Five Pounds yearly by the Lord Chancelor, and another Five Pounds yearly by the Independent Fund through the Rev. David Lloyd, Carmarthen. He died July 28, 1864, seventy-eight years old, and was buried at Ystrad Cemetery, Cardigan, having been a good and faithful worker.

A grandson of Lewys Edwart was Lewis Jones, brother of Catherine Gabriel, but known in her own locality all her married life as "Catti Jones." Both were born at Caerberllan Mill, which lies between Abergynolwyn and Llanfihangel-y-Pennant. Lewis was born in 1812, and Catti in 1825.. He went to Bala to be apprenticed as a book binder, but soon after settling in Bala, he started to preach when he was only nineteen. He went to Wrexham for his education to the Rev. John Hughes. He was ordained to the ministry at Bala C. M. Association in 1838. He wrote many articles to the "Essayist" in the years 1845-1851. He published some books, one being the "Memoirs of Rev. Richard Jones, Bala;" and a catechism of "The Last Hours of Jesus Christ." He had hoped that the catechism would serve as a study for membership of the Fellowship. It went through many editions. The "Essayist" commended it favourable, and praised the high standard of Welsh used in it. Among other praise-worthy comments were by Dr. Lewis Edwards, Bala; Mr. Parry, Bala; and the Rev. Edward Morgan. For years he lived in the house belonging to Llwyn Einion Chapel, but moved later when his health deteriorated, to Bala. The roots of Independence had gone deep to his body and character. He had arranged that he should be buried in Llidiardan Cemetery, by the foot of Arenig Mountain, that he could rest in peace in the neighborhood of Chapel and Independent Cemetery. He was a keen thinker and was a man of strong principles and convictions. He and Dr. Lewis Edwards, Bala, had been very friendly all their lives, and were drawn closer together as time went on. This is what Dr. Lewis Edwards said of him after he passed away: "He wrote some articles to the 'Essayist' and among them was 'Christ's body, the Home of Godliness,' which, as I am told, was such a blessing to Mr. Parry of Chester that it killed his prejudice towards the magazine forever. Among other works he wrote were a number of articles to the 'Pennyworth,' known as 'The Letters of an Old Mountaineer,' and it is a pity that these and other articles could not be published in a book." Dr Edwards also praised him as a suitable man to lead at Church Festivals. He could lead the saint along happy paths to the spiritual and everlasting home. He also had a strong grasp of the teachings of theology. He leaned more towards the New Theology than Dr. Lewis Edwards. The Doctor stuck to the old teachings, but Lewis Jones studied the more modern teachings of his generation. Dr. Edwards always encouraged anyone that wished to learn Modern Theology to study the writings of Lewis Jones. He died young in 1854 of T.B. He is buried at Llidiardan. Though his life was short, he used it to the full, and worked hard.

A grandson of Lewis Edward was Rev. Lewis Jones, Bala, being a brother of Catherine Gabriel, mother of Gabriel Howells. As was then a custom in Wales to name the eldest son the surname first, so he was the same name as his grandfather, Gabriel Howel, a bellringer at Llanfihange-y-Pennat, who died in 1852, aged fifty-eight. His (Gabriel Howell's) parents belonged to the Independent Church in Wales, and used to worship at Nazareth when there was a service there. Otherwise they would woalk together to Llanegryn, a distance of four miles. There was a family of six sons and two daughters: Gabriel, Lewis, Evan, Edward, Howel, Hugh, Catherine and Gwen. Lewis and Edward sought their fortunes in Patagonia and Canada, but Edward returned home to his widowed mother to farm Castellmawr, where she had moved to the largest farm in the district, with two other sons, Howel and Hugh. Edward remained at Castellmawer for the rest of his life. Howel and Hugh having married and sought farms elsewhere. Edward's family still remains in the old home. Catherine died young, having gone to the English town of Birmingham to seek employment. She died sixteen years of age. Gwen married young, to a farmer, and had a son and daughter.

Gabriel was apprenticed to a stone mason, and some good work of his is today a testimony of his thoroughness in the neighborhood. He married Selina Roberts of Dyffryn Ardudwy, and settled down there. Unfortunately he lost two of his eldest children at Dyffryn. One was two years nine months, and the other was seven months old, having had whooping cough, and both were buried the same day. It was a terrible blow, but the family grew, three more children following. The work was scarce around Dyffryn, so having a young family to feed, he moved to South Wales, where many North Wales families moved to get a living at the coal mines. He build stone arches in the coal mines. Probably they are there today. He settled down at Penrhiwceiber and had three more children. Meantime his brother, Lewis, had settled down in Canada and as coal mining was not very healthy work, he urged his brother Gabriel to join him in Canada. Eventually he sailed with his young family (Selina, Winnie, Hugh, Elizabeth, Catherine and Edward) in March 1892, and arrived to join his brother in farming at Millbrook, Manitoba.

The farming did not get on very well, so he resorted to his old job of stone mason, and eventually found a home for his family at Winnipeg in 1893, and found plenty of work there in the summer months. Later he did contracting. But the winter is so long at Winnipeg that he decided in 1906 to go to Vancouver, as some of his children had gone there and had praised the better climate of British Columbia.

So here he and his wife lived as a king and queen among their family, loved and adored by their children and grandchildren, to a ripe age. His wife predeceased him in March, 1933, at eighty-seven years of age. There was not much left for him afterwards, so he followed her in December, 1934, aged eight-five years.

Those of his children still living are Selina, aged 82; Elizabeth, 76; Edward, 70. Winnie passed on in 1955, aged 75; Hugh in 1942 at 59 and Catherine in 1937 at 49. Selina married Thomas Cockrill in 1899, and they had four daughters and two sons. Winnie married James Kaye in 1911, and they had two daughters and one son; widowed, she married Rich Curtiss about 1944. Hugh married Mary Tait in 1906, and they had one daughter. Elizabeth [ed. Eliza was actually her given name; we believe she just preferred Elizabeth to her own] married Daniel Thomas Jones in 1911, and they have three daughters and one son. Catherine married Robert W. Williams in 1918, and they had three sons and one daughter. Edward married Esther Henderson in 1919, and they have two sons and one daughter.


A cousin of Catherine Gabriel [nee Jones] was Mary Jones, whose efforts resulted in the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society. She was born in 1784 at Llanfihangel-y-Pennat. At sixteen, after having saved diligently for six years, she set out on a twenty-five mile journey from her home to Bala, which was the nearest place where a Bible could be purchased. She left home at daybreak and arrived at her destination at dusk, having walked all that way bare-foot, so as not to wear out her only pair of shoes (which had to be made-to-order in those days). At first she was told no Bible was available, but her disappointment and grief were so apparent that Mr. Charles could not deny her, and managed to obtain one for her. Her story is well-known throughout the Christian world, and a monument is erected to her memory in North Wales.


April, 1961.

Gabriel and Selina Howells's 50th Wedding Anniversary with all their children and grandchildren
1921, Vancouver, BC
Back: L-R: Jim Kay, Selina Cockrill (nee Howells), Esther Howells (nee Henderson), Ted Howells (behind Esther's shoulder), Mary Ellen Cockrill (behind and between Ted and Violet), Violet Cockrill, Winnie Kaye (nee Howells) (behind and between Violet and Cassie), Cassie Cockrill, Selina Cockrill (nee Howells) (behind and between Cassie and Eliza), Eliza Jones (nee Howells), Thomas Cockrill (behind Eliza and Catherine), Catherine Williams (nee Howells), Daniel Jones (behind Catherine)
Middle: L-R: Tommie Cockrill, Earl Howells (on Gabriel's lap), Gabriel Howells, Ivor Jones (on Selina's lap), Selina Howells (nee Roberts), Eddie Cockrill, Alan Williams
Front: L-R: Marguerite Kay, Merle Jones, Gwen Kay, Edwina Jones, Marjorie Jones


Hilary Jones March 11, 2016 at 4:35 PM  

Hello I read your post with great interest as my paternal grandmother was Jane Gabriel b1899 - her father Hugh Gabriel born in Twyn Merioneth - Hugh moved to Tan-y-grisau Blaenau Ffestiniog wife Katherine Jones, 8 children Evan, Owen'No', Blodwyn, Annie, Howell, Caradoc, Jane'Sian', Kate
(Hugh's grandson, my dad's uncle was named John 'Ewart' perhaps after his ancestors?)
do you have any info on my Hugh Gabriel, or any info to connect him to the other Gabriels in Towyn area?
Thanks for your time
Hilary Jones, Tasmania

Elf Flame March 11, 2016 at 8:07 PM  


I don't have an absolute connection for you, but it is likely that your Hugh and my Gabriel Howells (born Gabriel Howel to a Howell Gabral) were at the very least cousins. The only one I have marked as being born in Towyn in my family tree was an Evan Howel, born in 1827, and Gabriel Howells, born in 1849. Gabriel's children would have been about your grandmother's age or thereabouts, but I have no absolute information on Evan's line. my great-great grandfather Gabriel did have a brother named Hugh, but I'm fairly certain of the children I have listed for him, and none of them were a Jane. It is possible I am missing a sibling, but my great-grandmother was very close with her cousins as well as her siblings, and I don't recall seeing a Jane mentioned for that line.

I do know the family reused a lot of names, and that Hugh is definitely one of those names. As is Evan, Edward, Lewis, and Gwen. I think we're likely connected, given the number of names that match in our lines, but likely it was a different sibling than Howell Gabriel you are likely descended from.

My line, going back from Gabriel is:
Gabriel Howells M Selina Roberts 1874
His parents were Howell Gabriel and Catherine Jones, married 1849
His parents were Gabriel Howel and Gwen Evan, married sometime around 1822 or so.
His parents were Howell Gabral and Lowry Richard, married sometime around 1792 or so.

Howell and Lowry had 7 children:
Jane (b 1792)
Gabriel (b 1794)
Richard (b 1796)
Evan (b 1798)
Elizabeth (b 1800)
Ann (b 1802)
John (b 1805)

Gabriel Howel and Gwen Evan I have four children for:
Howel (b 1822)
Lowry (b 1830, named for her grandmother, I assume)
Evan (b 1827
Laura (b 1830 - might be twin or the same as Lowry above)

If I were to guess, you might be descended from Gabriel's son Evan, or if not him, perhaps his brothers Richard, Evan, or John.

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About this blog

This blog is maintained by two sisters who have had a life long interest in geneology.
Mika writes here mostly about our family (Hansen, Hillinger, Bordewick, Park, etc), and her search for more information.
Shannon mostly uses this space as a place to make the many stories written about and by her husband's family (Holly, Walker, Walpole, etc) available to the rest of the family, present and future.

Our blog is named Oh Spusch! mostly because Shannon is bad at naming things. The first post I put up includes a story about the time Walker's great grandfather took his whole family out to see a play and the littlest kept saying "Oh! Spusch!" No one ever figured out what she meant by that.