Katherine Jenkins Family History
Katherine Jenkins was born on June 29th, 1980 to Selwyn and Susan Jenkins in Neath, Wales. She grew up in a council house and attended local schools.
After winning singing competitions in her youth, Jenkins studied at the Royal Academy of Music, modelled, and taught voice lessons. She came to wider public attention when she sang at Westminster Cathedral in honor of the Pope’s silver jubilee in 2003. Her breakthrough came when Universal Classics heard her demo, invited her for an interview, and offered her a six-album deal, All of these albums reached number one in the UK classical charts between 2004 and 2008, selling a total of more than four million copies.
Katherine is a mezzo-soprano whose range today extends from operatic arias and hymns to musical theater and popular songs.
Martha Jenkins the Cockle Picker
The story began with John Jenkins, an illegitimate son of Mary and Henry, who was born in 1794 at St. Ishmael parish on the estuary of the river Towy in Carmarthenshire. He in turn had a daughter named Martha who was born in 1820. She would be Katherine’s great great grandmother.
Martha started out as a housemaid but then became a cockle picker. Cockles thrived in the shallow waters of Welsh estuaries. At low-tide the women could rake this prized source of protein from the estuary bed. It was back-breaking work. And Martha would not just have to pick the cockles, but sell them as well. She would go round the houses knocking on doors, before heading for the local market to sell the balance.
When Martha was thirty-one she married a man named Evan Walters. But Evan was killed in 1853 in an accident while he was working at the Llanelli waterworks. So after just two years of marriage, Martha found herself bringing up her family alone. Martha was expecting her second child when Evan died.
Why did she call herself Martha Jenkins, and not Martha Walters after her husband? It turned out that Evan was a bigamist for which he had been jailed. There was a five year gap between his first marriage to a woman named Elinor and his second to Martha. And six years before he had married Elinor it was discovered that he was with another family in the next village. He was the head of that household and had a wife Rachel and a son David.
Martha never remarried. But she made herself a very successful cockle merchant and was running her own company by the time of the 1881 census. She lived a long life, finally dying in 1921 at the age of 101.
Going on two generations, Katherine’s grandfather David Jenkins worked in the tin works as a laborer and furnaceman in Neath. He married Catherine Davies after whom Katherine was named. Catherine was also a mezzo soprano and she sang in concerts during the Second World War. She and David had two sons, Selwyn and Alan.
Selwyn, a factory worker, was married twice. With his first wife Beatrice he had two daughters, both born in 1952. Selwyn later married Susan Evans, a radiographer, in 1979 and they raised two daughters, Katherine and Laura.
Katherine Jenkins’ Family Tree
- Martha Jenkins (1820-1921) m. Evan Walters (1821-1853) in Carmarthenshire in 1851
- – two children
- David Jenkins m. Catherine Davies in Neath
- – Selwyn Jenkins (1925-1995)
- – Alan Jenkins
- Selwyn Jenkins m. Susan Evans (b. 1949) in Neath in 1979
- – Katherine Jenkins (b. 1980) m. Andrew Levitas in 2014
- – Laura Jenkins (b. 1982) m. Gavin Johnson
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