Surname Saturday 2.0: The Howells/Gabriel/Howels

The Howells Family

Of my Welsh family lineage, the Howells are the best tracked. My mother's maternal grandmother came to Canada when she was still young, but she and her family never lost touch with those branches who remained behind in Wales.

My knowledge of this line starts in Northern Wales with a man called Gabriel Howel. He was born in the late 1700s, and by family lore did some business as a weaver as well as farming. Apparently this was a common talent in this branch of the family. His son married the granddaughter of one of the major Welsh Quakers of their day, and their eldest son was my great-great grandfather, Gabriel Howells.

Though I can only speculate at this stage, I believe that this line may have descended from Huguenots who had escaped France's purge of their religion. I had not known anything about this part of the family line until my aunt mentioned it to me one day on a drive to visit my grandmother. After returning home, I looked up the possible lines, and searched for "Welsh Huguenots" and discovered a mention of a group of Huguenots who settled in northern Wales and became quite well-known in those parts for their weaving abilities. Between the connection of weaving in the Howells line, and Gabriel's name, which is decidedly French and was passed down through several generations, I believe this may well be that line.

Welsh genealogy is an odd beast. I'm used to family surnames that generally remain intact over countless generations, as well as the Scandinavian Patronymic system. But not all Patronymic systems are the same. In Wales, the practice has changed a few times due to laws created by the English to try and "get those damned Welsh in line." At least, that's my belief. But for some families, at least, there is one consistency: instead of the children all taking on a version of their father's name as their surname, only the firstborn son does. Or, at least, that's the way it works in this branch of my family tree.

Unfortunately, aside from the Howells, I have little else to go on. This is the only one I have full information on more than three generations. But those generations are very telling. My progenitor, Gabriel Howel (sometimes Howell) had at least two sons. The elder, my ancestor, was named at birth Howel (or Hywel) Gabriel. His firstborn, my great-great grandfather, was in turn named Gabriel Howells (with the S at the end to denote "son of"). I'm not sure if his son would have eventually gone by Howell Gabriels or something else, because he died as an infant, and they never named any of their other children that way.

So as you can see, it makes looking up records quite confusing. In some records, the children are listed with their parents' surname. In others with the one they would use as an adult. So it makes it very difficult to find the appropriate records.

Still, I'm muddling my way through it. After all, I managed to find the original Gabriel Howel's wife and a second son who was apparently named for her side of the family—Evan. I'd love to find more, though. And I do keep trying.

The Howells line is as follows, for those interested:

* My earliest known ancestor in this line was Gabriel Howel, farmer and weaver in northern Wales, born between 1794 and 1796. He married Gwen Evan sometime before 1822, and the couple had at least two sons (and likely several more children) in Merionethshire in northern Wales.

* The two children I have are Howell Gabriel, born 1822 in Dogelly, and Evan Howel, born 1827 in Towyn.

* Howell married Catherine "Catti" Jones sometime before 1849, and the two had at least 8 children.
> Gabriel Howells, born 1849, married Selina Roberts. Their descendants will follow in the next point.
> Howel Gabriel, born after 1852, married Margaret Owen, and they had at least one daughter, Gwen, born 1892. It is possible his wife's name may also have been Lillian, or that Lillian may have been her first or middle name, though I am uncertain of this at this time.
> Catherine Gabriel, born sometime after 1854, who died in her teens.
> Evan Gabriel, born about 1855.
> Edward Gabriel, born about 1857, married Catherine Thomas.
> Lewis Gabriel, born 1859, who moved to Canada, settling there on a farm in Manitoba or possibly Seskachewan. He married (not sure if they married in Canada or Wales) Sarah (I have no last name), and they had three children: Winnie, Howell, and Ap Cell.
> Hugh Gabriel, born about 1864, married Catherine Norris, and I believe they had four children: Mary Catherine, Hugh, Drynwen, and Celt. I know Celt married a woman named Joan, but have no other information on this line.
> Gwen Gabriel, born about 1870, married Griffith Roberts, and they had at least two children, a girl named Cattie (possibly Catherine?), and a boy whose name I do not know.

* Gabriel and Selina had 8 children. Ellen Catherine and Howell Gabriel Howells both died in a whooping cough epidemic within days of each other in 1877. The others all lived to adulthood.
> Selina Jane, born 1878, married Thomas Cockrill, and the two had six children together: Selina, Mary Ellen, Catherine Elizabeth, Violet, Tom, and Edward. I know that there are descendants of this line, or at least that there were marriages for three of the four girls, but I know nothing more than their husbands' surnames. Selina died in 1965.
> Gwen Mary, known in adulthood as Winnie, born 1880, married James Kay, and they had three children: Gwen, Marguerite, and Hugh Ross. Gwen and Marguerite married, and I know that Marguerite had grandchildren, though I am uncertain if there have been more descendants in this line. In 1944, Winnie married again, this time to a Rich Curtiss. Winnie died in 1956.
> Hugh Cadvan, born 1883, married May Tait, and the couple had one daughter, Ethel. I believe she was the last in this line. I do know that uncle Hugh served in the RAF during World War I, but know nothing of his record. Hugh died in 1942.
> Eliza Anne, known to everyone as Bess, was born 1885, married my great-grandfather, Daniel Thomas Jones in 1911. They had three daughters and one son, who will follow below. She died in 1980.
> Catherine, born 1887, married Robert Thomas Williams, and they had four children. I am uncertain at this time if they have further descendants. Catherine died in 1937.
> Edward Gabriel, known as Ted, was born 1891. He married Esther Vanadestine Henderson, and they had three children: Earl, Margery, and Bill. I do not know if there are other descendants in this line. Ted died in 1981.

* Eliza and Daniel had four children:
> Marjorie Grace Jones, born 1912, married Herbert "Bert" Robinson, and the two had three daughters and have a flock of descendants today spread around the Northwest and throughout the US and Canada. Their first great-great grandchild was born this year.
> Edwina Hanna Jones, born 1913, married Kenneth Merilees, helping to raise his two sons and had a third with him. Their boys have four children between them, and three grandchildren.
> Merle Tydfil Jones, born 1915, married George Bordewick. My grandparents had four children, two grandchildren, and their second great-grandchild was born last year, who my grandmother got to see several times before her death this year.
> Ivor Howell Jones, born 1920, married Marjorie Carnahan, and they had two children, who have four children and seven grandchildren between them. After his first wife's death, he married Mary Nixon. He died in 2005.

What I don't know:

* How many generations the Gabriel/Howells clan was in Wales before my ancestor Gabriel Howel.

* How many children Gabriel and Gwen had . I would love to learn more about their family in general.

* What boat the Howells emigrated to Canada on. I know they lived with Lewis's family on their farm for a time before moving to Winnapeg, but beyond my grandmother's stories and assorted Census forms, I know little more about this part of my ancestor's lives.

* When the various Howells children moved to Vancouver, and when Gabriel and Selina moved there. I do know they lived there for some amount of time before their 50th anniversary, which was celebrated by the entire clan in Vancouver BC.

Other information about this branch of the family:
Brick Wall Posts -
Brick Wall Update
Brick Wall Update
Brick Wall Update 2012
Old Surname Posts
Where We're From Posts
Where We're From – Canada
Where We're From – Wales
Where We're From – The Unknown
Other -
Four Generations
Gabriel Howells
Testimonial to the Howells
Women's History Month – Week 2
My Nain – Eliza Anne Howells
Saturday Night Genealogical Fun


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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.