James Owen's roots
According to James Owen's marriage records his father was Thomas Owen who was a farmer. It has been suggested that Thomas farmed Holywell farm near Sarnau (Sarney) (see map 1 and more detailed map). The late John Morgan-Owen called on the College of Arms to investigate James's ancestry and they reported that James's parents were Thomas and Ann Owen; an 'Ann Owen' (probably elderly as she wrote with a shaking hand) was a witness to the first of James's marriages in 1829.
All James's census entries indicate that he was born about 3 miles north of Holywell farm at Llansantffraid (map 1) but on James's gravestone is written 'James Owen (Penrhos)', Penrhos being just over a mile from Holywell farm. Clearly it was in this area of the Welsh Marches not far from Offa's Dyke, the border with England, that James was born and it was here that he grew up.
It is not clear whether the 'Penrhos' on his gravestone connects James with the hamlet of Penrhos or with Penrhos Hall (right and marked on the more detailed map). The hall is thought to have been built in the fifteenth century by a man called John ap Owen who took the surname Derwas (this was at the time when surnames were superceding the old patronomic system formerly used in Wales) and the Derwas family occupied the hall for over 200 years. One of their descendants, Elizabeth Lyster, married Lewis Owen (see the three pages in the 'Ancestry' section, starting here. The third page contains the contents of a letter from James Owen to his son, Timothy.)
That James Owen and Thomas were reasonably wealthy is demonstrated by the fact that not only was James's portrait painted by a capable artist but a similarly capable artist also painted Thomas's dog (right)! The latter painting is dated 1795 and is mentioned in the will of James's son, Timothy Morgan-Owen, to go down the family as an heirloom; it is currently in the possession of Timothy's namesake.