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Jane Catherine Roberts is my 2nd g-grandmother. My paternal grandmother, Nana Hall’s, maternal grandmother.
Photographer Hastings, of the Tremont Street Studio, was succeeded in 1896. The photo was likely taken between Jane’s Boston arrival (between Sept 1883 and Oct 1885) and 1895. Perhaps in 1886 when she married.
Jane’s story begins in the village of Llanfairfechan, Caernarvonshire, Wales…..
John Bartholomew, Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887) describes Llanfairfechan (Click to hear pronunciation) as a “small town and par[ish] with r[ailwa]y sta., Carnarvonshire, 7¾ miles SW. of Conway, 4255 ac. land and 2266 water, is a pleasant watering-place at the foot of Penmaenmawr Mountain, occupies a wooded and well-sheltered situation, and commands a charming seaward view”.
Rolling hills and mountains are covered in summer with glorious purple heather and the yellow flowers of the gorse bushes. The Penmaenmawr granite quarry (once a major employer) is towards the east; the Garreg Farwt (Big Rock) stands 1150 feet high, and looks over the village. Although a beautiful place, the roads leading to Llanfair back in the day were riddled with thieves and dangerous for travelers. The winters are long and harsh; other seasons bring frequent rain. Fall was spent collecting wood and peat for the fire. There was beer making and Sunday cock fights in the sandpits. Most families owned a few farm animals.
Jane’s Paternal Grandparents
On 11 Feb 1826 Jane’s paternal grandparents, William Roberts, of a Llanfairfechan home called Caehaidd (meaning barley field or field of barley), and Mary Lloyd married.
Their son (Jane Catherine’s father) Robert Robert’s was baptized 30 August 1929; daughter Grace was baptized 19 May 1833.
In 1841 Jane’s eleven year old father, Robert, was enumerated at Caehaidd with his father (a farmer), mother and eight year old sister Grace.
On the Llanfairfechan Tithe Apportionment of 1847 a property named Caehaidd was a smallholding of about 17 Acres of arable land (land plowed or tilled regularly, generally under a system of crop rotation) owned by Henry Ellis and occupied by William Roberts and payable to the rector was £4.16 shillings (I think this was per annum) the rector in those days was also a rate and rent collector. By 1851 a 22 year old Robert was still residing in Caehaidd with his parents, sister Grace’s whereabouts are unknown.
In 2012 the property was sold. The real estate description reads: “The property occupies an elevated position with fine views of the open countryside, open sea, Ynys Môn, Puffin Island and The Great Orme. An inspection of the site is essential in order to appreciate the location and views. The boundary plan can be found on the rear page and the upland grazing area is set over 9 paddocks with stone boundary walls and a wooded area. A stream runs to the west side of the land. The access lane is worn, eroded and only suitable for four wheel drive vehicles at present”.
Go along the A55 West bound carriageway and exit at the second exit for Llanfairfechan, junction 14. Take the next right hand turn and before passing back over the A55, take a left turn into Gwyllt Road. Follow this road around to the left and continue up the hill to Gwyllt Cottages. Take the next right and come back on yourself.
Rough mountain road up to Cahaidd in ditch on the right (facing) is a small stream where the family carried water from (photo 2013).
Cahaidd ruins with the mountain Garrag Fawr (Large Rock ) behind it (photo 2013).
A close up of Caehaidd ruins (photos 2015).
William, Mary and son Robert are buried in the church yard cemetery of Santes Mair (Saint Mary) Parish Church (closed now and is privately owned).
William died an accidental death, falling over the rock, at Garth Point, in the darkness.
In memory of Mary wife of William Roberts Cae Haidd who died January 15th 1854 aged 62. Also the above W. Roberts died January 7th 1855 aged 58. Also their son Robert Roberts who died February 4th 1888 aged 58.
Jane’s Maternal Grandparents
On 18 April 1821 Jane’s maternal grandparents, David Roberts (born Gyffyn, North Wales) and Anne Roberts married. They resided in a home called Llwynysgolog in Llanfairfechan.
Photos of Llwynysgolog 2013 (area where the old stable stood)
They had four known children: Mary, Anne, Jane [Jane’s mother] & William.
Jane’s mom Jane’s baptism 17 June 1832.
David, a farmer, died at age 47 and was buried on 22 May 1834. He named all four of his young children in his will [subject of a future post].
His widow Anne married second David Evans on 9 May 1835. They had at least two children: Martha b. 1836 and Catherine b. 1841.
The family was enumerated in 1841 and 1851 at Llwynysgolog. Jane’s mother Jane was only included with the family in 1851 (age 18), her whereabouts in 1841 are unknown. Jane’s mother Jane lost her two sisters in 1843. Seventeen year old Anne was buried in March and nineteen year old Mary in April.
In 1851 there were 809 people living in 182 dwellings in Llaifairfechan (up from 470 residents in 1801).
Jane’s grandmother, Anne, died 4 Jan 1861.
Jane’s step-grandfather, James Evans moved in with her family at Caehaidd, where he died, at age 75, in May 1867 when Jane was about age 5.
Llanfairfechan in the mid 1850s was small, poor and insignificant. The early nineteenth century tourist guide books described the mountains of Penmaenmawr and Aber with its water falls and its historical association with the medieval welsh princes at length. People living in Llanfairfechan never dreamt that soon great changes would be taking place in their parish.
Llanfairfechan was to be almost completely transformed. Between 1851 and 1861, the population in Llanfairfechan grew by almost 400 to 1,199 villagers. The building of the railway in 1845 made the town more accessible, although it didn’t stop at Llanfairfechan at first, but at neighboring Aber. In Aug 1856, one of the biggest Llanfairfechan landlords, the Bulkeleys, sold parts of the Baron Hill Estates, land they had held for over two and a half centuries. This allowed a number of ordinary locals to buy their own property and build bigger and impressive granite homes and cottages, replacing the whitewashed cottages that had stood for many years.
In 1857, John Platt turned his attention to North Wales and decided upon making Llanfairfechan his country seat. John Platt, a wealthy man, purchased the partially built and derelict mansion of Bryn-y-Neuadd and the 150 acres of land belonging to it. Soon things began to hum. In 1860 Platt demanded the building of a railway station for Llanfairfechan on his land so that he could travel to London conveniently. He then built Station Road on his land, and Richard Luck built Village Road. Until then, the main thoroughfare was a lane between The Village Inn and The Castle public houses. New shops were constructed and the economy prospered, with the tiny village becoming a popular tourist resort.
During this period of growth, Robert Roberts, son of William Roberts of Caehaidd and Mary Lloyd (deceased) and Jane Roberts, daughter of David Roberts (deceased) and Anne Roberts of Llwynysgolog married on Saturday, 3 June 1854. Robert was a Quarryman. The quarry was run by “The Penmaenmawr & Welsh Granite Co.” The granite was lowered from the quarry by self-acting inclines to the 3 ft (914 mm) gauge tramway which ran to jetties, from where the setts were loaded into ships. The standard gauge Chester to Holyhead railway reached Penmaenmawr in 1848, after which the majority of the quarry output was sent by rail. The couple lived at Caehaidd and had four known children. Robert became a farmer of 20-30 acres (which he rented). My ancestor, Jane Catherine was the third known child. Siblings included Maryanne, Grace and Margaret “Maggie”. Jane’s baptism record has not been located but the records of her siblings along with census records places her birth about 1862/3.
The newspapers give us a small glimpse of their lives:
In 1865, one of Roberts’ employees was stabbed.
In 1867, a “wild woman” was captured near the family home.
In 1868, Robert Roberts won 1st place at the Llanfairfechan horticultural show for his “dish of honey in a comb not less than 6 pounds”.
In 1869, his honey took 2nd place.
In 1878 a man was charged poaching on the property, note that the property was still owned by Ellis and Jane’s brother-in-law, a gamekeeper from England named Edmund Warrener was involved.
By 1881, Jane’s sister Grace had married Edmund Warrener and had a daughter Jane.
In 1881, there is a Jane C. Roberts working as a servant in Lancashire, England on 1 Stockton Range for the family of George F. Freeman (a Metal Merchant employing 17 men 2 boys). She was born in Llanfairfechan and is of the right age, it is possible that this is our Jane, as she is not found in Wales [note that Jane Roberts is a common name].
In August 1886, Caehaidd was up for auction. The land was described as 18 acres of fertile arable [fit for cultivation] and grazing land with house and outbuildings. It is most charming, being well sheltered and commanding magnificent views of the surrounding scenery.
On 8 Feb 1888, Jane’s father Robert, age 58, died. His obituary lists him as a farmer and for many years the director of the Llanfairfechan waterworks. His funeral “was the largest ever seen” in the parish; he was buried with his parents in the church yard cemetery of Santes Mair (Saint Mary) Parish Church [photo above].
Click to read more of the Llanfairfechan waterworks (column 1 & 2). Sometime between Sept 1883 and Oct 1885 Jane’s sister Grace and her husband Edmund with their children moved to Boston, Massachusetts [based on their children’s birth dates/places, Grace’s obituary and their son Robert’s Naturalization]. Edmund became a Mason and in 1886 they resided at 6 Wilbur Ct., East Boston, Massachusetts [Jane’s future husband Edwin Lansil, left East Boston for Dorchester in 1882; it is unknown how they met]. Our Jane Catherine and her sister Margaret joined them. Ship records have not been located, it is unknown if they traveled together. One of Edmund/Grace’s sons naturalized but does not know his date of arrival or the vessel name.
A pregnant Jane married Edwin Lansil, 25 years her senior, in 1886, which kept her in Boston.
Her two sisters moved to the Chicago area before 1889. There, Margaret married John Williams. Grace died during childbirth in 1897 and Margaret helped to raise some of her children. More on what is known of Grace’s family: https://passagetothepast.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/a-movie-star-in-the-family/).
Jane’s single sister, Mary Ann, remained in Llainfairfechan with her mother Jane. In 1891, the Llanfairfechan census listed Cahaidd as “vacant”. Jane and Mary Ann had moved to the Village where Jane was a lodging house keeper at Min y Don and Mary Ann a dressmaker.
A blog post detailing Edwin’s life gives additional family details: Click for Edwin Lansil. In summary, Jane went on to have five children – Frances Mae “Fanny”, b. 1887; Edith Bernice, b. 1888; Florence Paine, b. 1890; Edwin Roberts, b. 1894 and Doris, b. 1899. Only Fanny, Edith and Doris lived to adulthood.
Jane was admitted to the Boston Insane Hospital July 26, 1897 (a few years before the birth of Doris) and discharged 22 February 1898. he length of stay is unknown. She was likely depressed and suicidal.
Jane’s husband, Edwin, died 11 Jul 1904 (after being admitted to the Boston Insane Hospital on 20 Nov 1903, through probate court, according to the asylum intake records) leaving her with children aged 17, 16 and 5.
Soon after her placement of Edwin in the insane asylum, advertisements appeared – “rooms for rent”, perhaps run by Jane Catherine who was likely in need of some form of income. The home was described as “a three-apartment frame house, stable and 4,800 square feet of land” the rental as “4 large, nicely furnished rooms, with or without stable, high land, good location, large yard, with fruit trees, near electric and steam cars, rent reasonable”
In May 1905, a widowed Jane Catherine (Roberts) Lansil returned to Wales to accompany her mother, now with defective vision and a corneal ulcer, on the SS Saxonia sailing from Liverpool and arriving in Boston 9 May (her mother claimed to have been in Boston previously in 1894 and 1897 – 1897 was the year her daughter Grace died and also when Jane Catherine was first admitted to the insane asylum). Jane (Roberts) Roberts is listed as a widow and mother of two children – her daughter, Mary Ann’s, death record has not been located, but she is presumed deceased (indexes do list a Mary Ann Roberts of the correct age, who died in Conway, 7¾ miles from Llanfairfechan, in April -June 1905).
On 23 March 1907, a 44 year old Jane Catherine (Roberts) Lansil, was committed to the Boston Insane Hospital, through probate court (according to the asylum intake records), where she presumably resided until her death 30 May 1932. The 1932 Annual Report of the hospital claims only nine patients (5%) who had been in residence for greater than 10 years.
Application for the Commitment for the Insane:
23 March 1907
White female, age 44, born Wales, occupation: housework
She had one previous attack, the present attack began 2 weeks ago.
She was at the Boston Ins. Hospital July 26, 1897 [does not specify if this is an admittance or discharge date].
The present attack was gradual; her bodily condition is fair. It is unknown if she has had previous physical injuries. The patient is “cleanly in dress and personal habits”. She is depressed, deluded, possibly suicidal. There is no prior known family history of insanity. Her liquor, tobacco and opium habits are “good”.
Nearest relative: Daughter, Mrs. Edward J. Thompson, Hiawatha Road, Mattapan
Medical Certificate of Insanity:
23 March 1907
The patient said: “I feel alright. I feel as well as I ever did. I thought people had been stealing from me. To-day is Wednesday. I don’t play cards – no need of it. I don’t want you to feel my pulse! I ____ there is no need of ____” [couldn’t read a few words].
The patient: Sat in chair; resisted being examined, hesitated in answering questions, and some questions would not answer at all.
Her appearance and manner was: dull and confused. Untidy in appearance. Appears just as she did when insane before.
Other facts: She was insane and a patient at Boston Insane Hospital in 1897. Since last August she has imagined people stealing from her. She was depressed and irritable. Has become worse the past few days. Is dull, confused, talks out of the window to people on the street. Sings at times and expresses various incoherent delusions. Obstinate and hard to manage.
1907 Map (Austin Farm housed the women), Productive work, exercise, and time spent out-of-doors were important parts of the “moral treatment” of mental illness.
She was enumerated there in 1910, 1920 and 1930. She was however listed in several city directories, so perhaps she was an out-patient of the institution in earlier years (the asylum intake records do not record any evidence of this in the comment field).
Interior of a ward in the Department for Women at the Boston Insane Hospital. Some nurses and patients are visible. Photograph taken in 1900, seven years prior to Jane’s admittance.
By 1907, daughters Edith and Fanny had married. Fanny took in, and raised, her youngest sister, Doris.
Jane’s son in law, Edith husband, William John Haines, sold the homestead on 101 Maxwell Street in 1907, soon after the birth of his first child, Jane’s granddaughter, Edith Anna Haines. There is no evidence of the home being transferred or sold to him and the 1907 sewer assessment was in Edwin’s name.
In 1913/14 Jane Lansil is listed as a boarder at 63 Hiawatha Road, Mattapan (Boston) – the same address as her son in law Edward J. Thompson. In 1915-7 she is listed at 79 Rosewood, Mattapan – the same address as her brother in law Walter Lansil. Her name is not listed after 1917 in the Boston area.
Jane (Roberts) Roberts was sent to Chicago to live with her daughter Margaret about 1907. Margaret’s daughter writes on 28 Aug 1977 to my Aunt Natalie:
” My grandmother made her home with your [great] grandma Jane Lansil when she came from Wales but after awhile after Jane L passed away (I believe it was Frances) wrote and said they could no longer care for a blind old lady and they were thinking of putting her in the Poor house [editor’s note: Jane Lansil was in an insane asylum, not deceased]. I believe they meant an institution for the elderly but run by the city or state – so my father said “that will never be – we are poor but we will share what we have” so he went to Mass. And brought Grandmother back. I loved her very much and was sympathetic toward her. She passed away in her sleep at Rome and we buried her in our cemetery plot in Hillside, Ill. A suburb of Chicago” [she died 12 Mar 1912].
Little more is known of Jane Catherine (Roberts) Lansil’s final 25 years. Sadly in Massachusetts, insane asylum records are forever sealed. We may never know how Jane spent her last 25 years [in the event they are opened to future generations, her last form number is 5116 and registered number 8471 – FHL film 2108120 Items 5 – 6 include Register 1, 1855-1907 Register 2, 1907 [Boston, Massachusetts].
In 1910, she was with 777 others:
Superintendents and staff were proud of the Dorchester facilities and generally welcomed the public. Often, model patients would be allowed to congregate around visiting areas so that visitors would get a positive impression of the facility. The best wards were usually the easiest to get to, for the same reason. What were often called “back wards” were for the more difficult patients, and casual visitors seldom went there. These policies usually worked, and most visitors were favorably impressed.
A sampling of information in the Boston Insane Hospital’s annual reports (copies of which can be found on http://babel.hathitrust.org/):
Aunt Natalie does not recall ever meeting her grandmother Jane Catherine (Roberts) Lansil, but does recall that her mother Edith Bernice missed her sister Doris Haines high school graduation in early June 1932 to attend her grandmother’s funeral.
Her death certificate gives a last residence of the long ago sold 101 Maxwell Street home, indicating that she was perhaps admitted around the time of it’s 1907 sale. She left no known assets. There was no will or probate filed. Cause of death was lobar pneumonia, her underlying diagnosis was dementia praecox (a “premature dementia” or “precocious madness”) refers to a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder characterized by rapid cognitive disintegration, usually beginning in the late teens or early adulthood, a specific disease concept that implied incurable, inexplicable madness. A condition that would eventually be reframed into a substantially different disease concepts and relabeled as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other types of mood disorders including clinical depression [Wikipedia].
68 year old Jane Catherine Lansil was buried at Cedar Grove, Dorchester, Maple Lot, Section 21, Lot 1483, Row H. The lot was purchased 21 Feb 1891, there is only one marker, engraved with “Florence P. Lansil, age 9 months”, baby Florence was buried 22 Feb 1891 – the family may not have been able to afford engraving. According to cemetery records, a 10 day old Edwin R Lansil and Jane’s husband Edwin Lansil are also buried in the lot.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————- Sources: Llanfairfechan Baptisms, Marriages, Deaths – Findmypast.uk
Llanfairfechan Census data – Ancestry.com
Photos of Caehadd, Llwynysgolog and graveyard and tithe schedule- Courtesy Margaret Roberts, Llanfairfechen 2013
Welsh Newspapers Online Beta – http://www.llgc.org.uk/index.php?id=4723
Additional reading – Through Thick and Thin, Family Tales and Village Life, Llanfairfechan & Days Gone By, People Places and Pictures of Llanfairfechan – both by Margaret Roberts.