Davies/Davis Family Origins

Our DAVIS ancestors were from Pembrokeshire, Wales. Pembrokeshire is located on a peninsula jutting to the west toward Ireland, far removed from the more industrialized coal mining regions of the country. Many of the residents get their living from the sea. Modern Wales -- called Cymru in Welsh -- has a rural, rugged flavor all its own. This is partly due to the language, Welsh, which is one of the oldest languages in Europe. It is still spoken fluently by about 20% of the population.

The Welsh, a celtic race, inhabited the isolated western shores of Britain long before the Anglo-Normans began their westward espanse in the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. The Cambrian mountains, which cover the length of Wales, served as a kind of natural barrier against the Romans, Saxons, and even the Vikings. Yet, as the Anglo-Normans started spreading like a plague, Welsh tribes were pushed even deeper into mountain strongholds. In 1282, the last native Prince of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffud, was killed in battle, squashing any serious hope of Welsh nationhood. Owain Glyndwf, another Welsh revolutionary, nearly succeeded in pushing the English out of Wales in 1400. But in an oft-repeated scenario, England's armies prevailed over the disjointed clans of Cymru. -- from Fodor's "UpClose Great Britain"

Today, the craggy western coastal area is set aside as a national park -- Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Our ancestor, John Tucker Davis, was the son of Henry Davies (1772-1849), a mariner and fisherman, and Elizabeth Tucker (1767-1841). For part of his life, he spelled his surname "Davies". This is the original Welsh spelling of the name Davis. On the birth records of the children of his first marriage, it is spelled this way. After his second marriage, and after moving to Liverpool (England) the family changed to the English way of spelling their name.

In Burke's "GENERAL ARMORY", a well-known reference on heraldry, there are over fifty entries for "Davies" or "Davis", describing coats of arms which have been registered to families with these names in the British Isles. There are some from Ireland, many from Wales, and many more from various parts of England -- from Cornwall (in the west) to London (in the east). However, only one of these entries mentions the area of Pembrokeshire, where our ancestor was born:

    DAVIES (Pentre, co. Pembroke). Quarterly,
        1st and 4th, az. a wolf saliant ar., for DAVIES;
        2nd and 3rd, az. a chev. or,
        betw. three eagles' heads erased ar., for SAUNDERS.
      Crest --
       1st, DAVIES: A wolf saliant ar.;
       2nd, SAUNDERS: A demi bull saliant
         couped at the loins ar.
      Motto -- Solem ferre possum.

The translation is as follows: On a shield with a blue background, divided in quarters: 1st and 4th quarters: a leaping wolf, silver colored (for DAVIES) 2nd and 3rd quarters: a gold colored chevron between three silver eagles' heads (for SAUNDERS) Motto -- ???

This was obviously a designed and registered at the time of a marriage between the Davies and Saunders families. Depicting only the portion pertaining to the DAVIES family, the shield part of the coat of arms would appear as follows:

It is unknown whether the family of Capt. John Tucker Davies/Davis, or any of his ancestors, had this coat of arms registered to them. All we know is that there was a DAVIES family in Pembrokeshire that did.

The most famous Welshman in the early days of the Church was Dan Jones, who was also a ship's captain. He was converted in America, at about the same time as the Davis family heard the gospel in Liverpool. After the death of Joseph Smith, Dan Jones went on his first mission to his native land of Wales (in 1844-1849). It is said that when he arrived, there were only about 250 Welsh converts. As a result of his labors, there were several thousand by the time he left. He was a moving force in getting the Book of Mormon and other LDS literature translated and printed in the Welsh language so that the common people could read it. (Interestingly, a Welshman by the name of John Davis was the printer who helped with this project. He may have been a relative of our ancestor John Tucker Davis.) At that time, many Welsh people could not speak or understand English. There had been an attempt by the government to outlaw the use of the Welsh language (also Irish and Gaelic in Ireland and Scotland), and require education and business to be conducted in English only, but this had not been very successful. Even today, in some areas of Wales, Welsh is the first language rather than English.

In 1849 Dan Jones returned from his mission and brought a large group of Welsh converts with him across the sea and the plains. When they first came to the Salt Lake Valley, they started a "Welsh Settlement" on the west side of the Jordan River, but within a few years most of them moved back closer to the center of Salt Lake City. Many of the Welsh people were very poetic and musically talented, and this group brought by Dan Jones "became the nucleus of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir".


Information Compiled
by Karen Bray Keeley

INTERNET Adaptation
by Sandra Shuler Bray