In 1893, a young Alfred Douglas-Jones set sail from London, England to Port Elizabeth on a quest to make a name for himself in Africa. Upon arrival, an inquisitive port officer asked him where his strange double barreled surname came from. (While South Africa had welcomed many Brits over the preceding few decades, the hyphened surname was still uncommon and confusing to the locals.)
The story goes that the young Alfred explained that he was was from a quaint village in Wales called Douglas and because the Jones surname was common in Wales, the small Jones family in Douglas, legally changed their name to Douglas-Jones in order to make travel, in particular, much easier, for them. I love this story. Alfred, my great grandfather, did in fact achieve much. His crowning moment was in 1932, when he was appointed mayor of Walmer which, at the time,was a town on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth. These days it is simply a suburb in PE.
My father explained Alfred’s journey to me when I was a young boy. When I joined my father many years later in business, I asked him why my surname did NOT have the hyphen in it. He nonchalantly advised that he too had no hyphen in his surname but his father and siblings did. He explained that the hyphen was never an issue for him (hence the reason Douglas Jones Mosaics has no hyphen!) I was a little startled to then hear him mention that he personally had doubts about the authenticity of the Alfred Douglas-Jones story.
In many ways, odd as it may be, I have always felt some kind of connection to my great grandfather, Alfred. Born 100 years before me (almost to the day) he clearly had, at some point since arriving in South Africa, changed his name legally. While I didn’t do any investigation into the name change at the time, I did legally change my surname in 2012 to include the hyphen.
Fast forward to 2019, 6 years after my father passed away, I felt the need to get to the bottom of the story. Today it is so much easier to investigate ones family roots and with my aunts help and ancestry.com I finally was able to piece the puzzle together !
It turns out that Alfred’s full name was in fact Alfred Thomas Douglas and his surname was Jones. He was actually from London, England and NOT Wales.
Then where did the hyphen come from? While I have been unable to confirm my theory fully, I have worked out that he started a business in Port Elizabeth called Douglas Jones and I surmise that it became much easier to introduce himself as Alfred DOUGLAS-JONES – possibly to gain some sort of respect as a business owner in the community.
Be that as it may, the Douglas Jones name has a very interesting history. Not least of all is the fact that my eldest daughter and my wife have no hyphen while the twins and I DO have a hyphen in our surname! Home Affairs did say that when I completed my name change, Jackie’s name would automatically be updated, being that she is my spouse…mm…
Just to end off, the family name did confuse a few people in the early days of the mosaic business. For my mom, Beverley, my dad and I, it was a constant comedy show as we received orders addressed to ‘DUCKLESS’ JONES or ‘DRUGLESS’ JONES…or the regular one – DOUGLAS GREEN!
My absolute favourite was in fact when a new customer called to inquire about a fax number (remember those!) and to ask me to SPELL OUT, over the phone, the full name of the company. The caller was amazed that the name was so long…while I knew it was a long a name, I really didn’t think it was that complicated. You can imagine my surprise when the fax was received later that day…
It was addressed to: DOUGLAS HYPHEN JONES…