Jones family of Masterton – journeys

This past weekend I went to a family reunion of the Jones family (my mother’s surname) – it was the 175th anniversary of their arrival in New Zealand aboard the ship ‘London’ – leaving England on 1 January 1842 and arriving in Wellington on 1 May 1842 – with no stops along the way. Perhaps I should have called this post ‘keeping up with the Joneses’!

I have already written something about this family here. And about my mother who grew up on the Jones family farm in Masterton and helped with the family milk delivery business at times.

Apart from meeting up with first, second and third cousins – most of the latter two groups I hadn’t met before – I also found interesting photos and memorabilia. This, for example, in an album belonging to one of my cousins, Keith Jones, (with a detail)

And this photo of my aunt Mavis’s wedding with my mother (on the right) as her bridesmaid. My mother wore a “green georgette frock, close fitting, with godets of frills”. (‘Wedding’, Horowhenua Chronicle, 1 April 1936). A godet is “a triangular piece of material inserted in a dress, shirt, or glove to make it flared or for ornamentation.”

Mavis wedding mum bridesmaid

The first day of the reunion was celebrated in Wellington and we had nine display booths – one for the parents Henry and Mary (my great-great-grandparents) and one for each of their eight children who survived to adulthood and had children (three died young and without having children). About half of the attendees were descendants of the youngest child Edward (including me). Perhaps because Edward was the one who stayed on the family farm and later as did his son Norman?

A couple of the booths: Henry & Mary and Edward:

The second day was in Masterton – we unveiled the restored headstone of Henry and Mary (restored by a Givealittle fundraising campaign). Carole and Joe Percy had also arranged this Jones sign – for some reason many other early settler families had signs but not the Joneses.

I also visited St James church where the former Kuripuni Methodist Church building was moved to and saw the font that was donated by Jones descendants in 1956 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of setting up the Methodist Sunday School – in the Joneses house! Unfortunately the brass plaque was stolen along with other brass and copper from the church.

The former Masterton Wesleyan Church has been moved to form part of Aratoi Museum and they ‘inherited’ a Jones plaque, which they had on display in the foyer of the museum on Sunday. It says: “Sacred to the memory of Henry Jones. A pioneer of Methodism in the Wairarapa. Founder of the first Sunday School in Masterton 1856. A local preacher for 40 years and a trustee of this church. Born Oct 1 1811 – Died Oct 29 1902. Also of Mary Jones his beloved wife. Born Sep 6 1814 – Died May 14 1895.”


One of the highlights was being able to visit the former Jones farmhouse thanks to the generosity of the current owners.

Compare with a few earlier photos of the house or farm:

Of course, there were many photos taken on that veranda on Sunday!

So why have I called this post ‘journeys’? Henry and Mary Jones made at least three major journeys in their lifetimes – although Henry also used to travel around the Wairarapa preaching. Their first journey (which nothing has been written about as far as I know) was from their Northamptonshire village of Preston Capes to the ship in 1841; their second journey was the four-month voyage to New Zealand. We know a reasonable amount about that as Jenny Robin Jones has written a book about it and she gave us a talk at the reunion (No Simple Passage: The Voyage of the ‘London’) and the third was their four-day journey from the Hutt to the Wairarapa in 1856.

However, there is also my research ‘journey’. It is said that people are more likely to get interested in family history in later life; however I did most of my research when I was younger and in pre-Internet days! In my first year at Victoria University in Wellington as part of an anthropology paper one of the assignments was to compile a family tree – I thought “that will be easy, I’ll ask my mother”. I still have the ‘kinship chart’ that I compiled to accompany my essay.

Kinship chart for Anth paper 1977

One useful source of information for the Joneses was a family bible that listed Henry and Mary’s dates and also their children’s birth dates. Also, my mother showed me where some of the early Jones graves were and I was able to find out from Births, Deaths and Marriages some more details, for example, confirming that Maria Collett (buried near Henry and Mary) was their oldest daughter Maria (nee Jones).

Other discoveries were more serendipitous. My mother probably alerted me to the letter to the editor of the Wairarapa Times Age in March 1980 called “House history”, signed “N C M”. I knew this must be a relative and so I wrote to the newspaper and got her name and address – this was well before the Privacy Act! Thus ensued a long correspondence with Nola Manning, a child of William Deadman (Elizabeth Jones’s son) and Mabel Shute (Charlotte Jones’s daughter) – so both her grandmothers were Joneses. I don’t remember how I contacted other descendants – closer ones my mother would have known; perhaps others by just writing to people with relevant surnames in the phone book and probably some through the NZ Genealogy Society magazines.


There were of course many hours spent at the Turnbull Library; some at National Archives and many, many at the genealogy library of the Mormon Church in Hataitai, Wellington looking at microfiche and microfilm. This was before the National Library set up its excellent genealogy resource section. I produced a booklet in the early 1980s and did the calligraphy cover.


It is that booklet and an update I did in the early 1990s that for some years occasionally found its way to someone who got in touch with me. In 2003 I did a creative writing course and wrote a poem that was published in Memories magazine and in 2011 a Jones descendant saw the magazine (and poem) in an op. shop and tracked me down! More recently, I’ve had contacts through posts appearing on my website, although none relating to the Jones family.  So, it has been a long journey – although more in time than in place. However in the 1990s I visited the villages where Henry and Mary came from in Northamptonshire, but as expected found no traces of the Joneses, who were farm labourers.

Photo of building with sign “Village Farm, Preston Capes” – perhaps Henry worked here? Preston Capes (middle) and Steeple Aston (bottom). Mary Willett (wife of Henry) was born in Steeple Aston.DSC02100.JPG



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