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Tuesday, 7 February 2012

At rest in Overleigh 'Mary Jonas, beloved wife and mother of 33 children'

This intriguing inscription on a tombstone in Overleigh Cemetery leads to the story of multiple twin births, a 52 year marriage, and a growing business in Chester.
The Overleigh Cemetery database online includes details from the cemetery registers 1850-1950.
Mary Thomas and John Jonas were married at Chester, St John the Baptist, on the 17th June 1839. Their first children, twins Joseph and Sarah, were baptised later that same year. After the births of Joseph and Sarah followed 31 more children – including 12 further sets of twins!
The Cheshire Collection available with Find my Past allows you to search indexes of Marriages, Baptisms and Burials. You can view the actual record if you have a subscription (or for free at the Record Office and some Cheshire libraries). Search for the surname 'Jonas' and place 'Chester' between 1839 and 1898 in all three indexes to find their marriage, multiple baptisms and burials, using just the indexes two baptisms in the same year can indicate Jonas twins.
Whilst looking after this growing brood John and Mary found the time to set up a furniture business. John, who on the 1841 census was listed as a chair maker, had, by the 1860s, set up his own cabinet making business on Foregate Street. He is listed in the 1864 ‘Morris and Co Trade Directory’ as a Furniture Broker and is recorded as a Master, employing two workers, on the 1871 census.
Selected Cheshire trade directories are available to browse and search online.
Sadly, many of the children did not survive into adulthood. Those that did were recognised in John’s will equally, with each of his children holding the same shares in his property after his death in 1892.

Cheshire wills, already indexed and available to view in the searchroom or order copies from, will appear as part of The Cheshire Collection in early Spring 2012.
Mary survived her husband, her final contribution to the Chester, St John parish records comes in 1898 where the priest notes 'The mother of 33 children by one husband'.