Trying to keep up with the Joneses

This portrait, taken from a book or newspaper clipping, varies from the other features I've seen in the Jones family, even before we get to the facial hair and his dress.

This portrait, taken from a book or newspaper clipping, varies from the other features I’ve seen in the Jones family, even before we get to the facial hair and his dress.

Another mystery. I'm wondering if he's the same subject we examined in the earlier part-of-the-hair posting.

Another mystery. I’m wondering if he’s the same subject we examined in the earlier part-of-the-hair posting. The cut of the coat, though, is Quaker.

Josephine (Josie) Jones was the only sister among nine brothers, two of whom died as an infants. While I’ve been able to identify photos of Samuel C. Jones and his brother Lambert, the rest of their appearances remain a puzzle. I’ve already presented some of the portraits in her photo album posting.

Samuel Coate Jones attended Antioch College and became a civil engineer before earning his law degree and working as a prominent railroad lawyer, a county prosecuting attorney, and a professor at the Ohio State University Law School in Columbus. He joined the Methodist church, had four children by his first wife, and remarried after her death.

Lambert Jones, another attorney in the family, moved to Columbus, where he remained a Friend.

From the little I know:

  • Dr. Henry Warren Jones married Carrie Thornburg and settled into a practice in Spiceland, Indiana. They had at least two children.
  • Laban Jenks Jones was deceased by 1896.
  • Ephraim M. Jones earned a law degree but became a Friends revivalist pastor. He died in 1885 at the age of 36, leaving a wife and young daughter, according to The Friends Review.
  • Roswell B. Jones was residing in Troy, Ohio, in 1896, and later relocated to Minnesota, where he farmed.
  • Barton H. Jones, another Quaker minister of the Holiness strand, was deceased by 1896.
  • And the 1880 Census adds another daughter, whom I take to be a daughter-in-law, Caroline, age 31, and two children: Alice, 5, and Clarence, 2.

Any help sorting these out would be most welcome.

A caution about genealogical data

Serious genealogists soon learn to be tentative about their findings. We want verification for our facts. Just because a date is carved in stone doesn’t make it true, as I can attest from one that has one of my great-great-great-grandmothers a decade older than she was.

Transcription mistakes and typographical mistakes are always a possibility, even before we get to outright errors.

Census records, as we learn, can mislead widely, starting with spelling and penmanship. I try to read their entries, as well as any earlier registers, with a phonetic awareness the informant may well have been speaking with ill-fitting dentures – or none at all. What would the name sound like mumbled? That’s before we get to something like the 1860 Census for Montgomery County, Ohio, where my great-great-grandfather’s household appears twice, with the first names and members’ ages varied enough for me to believe for all too long (more than a decade, I believe) we needed to account for a mysterious cousin. And another of my great-great-great-grandmothers apparently shaved her age when it came to official reporting. What was denoted as 35, for instance, should have been 38. Thirty years later, it was 62 rather than 68. (Anyone else want to hear her explanation for that one?)

The hefty county-by-county histories with biographical portraits that were commercially published in the late 1800s can be a wealth of data, but once again, caution is required. By then my McSherry line in Ohio was claiming to be of Scottish origin rather than Irish from Colonial Pennsylvania. (Matters of respectability? Should we footnote how times, too, can change?)

And just because something’s in a book doesn’t make it true. Clay Hodgin’s widely quoted Early History of the Quaker Hodgson-Hodson-Hodgin Family boldly proclaims that Orphan George descended from Robert of the Woodhouse mission and then, in a second mangling, insists that Robert’s linage was from Yorkshire, rather than Durham as Quaker records have it. To repeat my point, there is no apparent family connection between Orphan George and Robert of the Woodhouse. Nor is there any known connection to William and Isabell (Stockdale) Hodgson.

As a final caution, keep in mind that official repositories are no guarantee of accuracy. The massive Latter-day Saints (Mormon) collections name a John Hodgson of Doncaster in Yorkshire as Orphan George’s father, for instance, without any supporting documentation. (I’ll argue that what is available, via Quaker records, instead points to Lurgan, Ireland, and from there back to Lumplugh in Cumbria, England – but I raise that in a tentative context requiring further, definitive research. Go for it if you will.)


As you’ve pursued your own research, what cautions have you discovered? Has wrong information ever caused you pain? How about needless hours of labor only to reach a dead end? Can you think of any ways erroneous information can add to our understanding? What advice would you offer other researchers?

Sometimes it comes down to the part in the hair

This unidentifiedmale from Josie (Jones) Hodson's album has an usual part in his hair.

This unidentified male from Josie (Jones) Hodson’s album has an usual part in his hair.

As does this child. The same subject, years apart? I'd say the eyebrows and ears add to the deduction.

As does this child. The same subject, years apart? I’d say the eyebrows and ears add to the deduction.

Pairing photos can be assisted by an awareness of which side of the head a male used to part his hair. The arch of the eyebrows or the shape of the ears are other tricks I use to support or reject a connection.


Dipping into the archives

For genealogists, there’s something holy about the times we gain access to original source matter. Letters, photographs, maps, family Bibles, gravestones, newspapers, visits to old homes and meetinghouses or neighborhoods of our ancestors can all add to our understanding. When we examine these documents and artifacts with our own eyes, rather than copies or interpretations by others, details can pop up that would otherwise go unnoticed. And, when it comes to source documentation, the older it is, the more reverential we become.

On a trip to Guilford College in North Carolina, for instance, examining the original 1764 disciplinary actions around the marriage of George Hodgson and Rachel Oldham, I noticed the erasure of the letter m in one minute – something I’d never see on microfilm – as well as the cross-through of first and insertion of second in their cousin relationship in another minute, something that might well be edited out of a written transcript, yet the latter is evidence of a discrepancy between the books of Quaker discipline used by Nantucket Quakers and those from Pennsylvania as they melded in North Carolina.

Likewise, holding the two folio volumes of Joseph Besse’s 1753 A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers, for the Testimony of a Good Conscience, from 1650 to 1689, which I’d pulled down from the shelves in an Ohio Friends meetinghouse and was allowed to take home(!) provided many details on my family lines through that period. I must confess looking in awe at bits of gold leaf and leather cover stuck to my hands.

While we commonly traipse to special libraries and museums for these opportunities, it’s also possible to encounter them in a cluttered small-town facility, especially when a local authority is willing to provide free assistance. As an example, I’ll tout the ways the Brookville Historical Society provided great perspective on my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry in Montgomery County, Ohio.

Of course, the archives might also have microfilm you’d find few other places. For Quaker researchers, the Swarthmore College archives provided both access to William Wade Hinshaw’s cabinets of filing cards that became the classic six-volume Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy as well as microfilm of records held in Britain. Still, some crucial data for Orphan George, his siblings, and parents might be uncovered in the original pages that carry only a “too faint to microfilm” tag. If anyone’s going to London and wants to do us a big favor, please check in.

Which reminds me, there are some details I want to clear up in the full North Carolina minutes, which Hinshaw simply indexes. Next time I’m back?


If you’ve been doing genealogical research, you’ve no doubt come across similar experiences. Tell us of your moments of awe in dealing with source materials. How much is a matter of preparation? And how much is an element of surprise? Have you ever hired a genealogical researcher? How satisfied were you with the findings? What advice would you have for others?

Ralph’s in the middle

Aletha, Ralph, and Grant McSherry

Aletha, Ralph, and Grant McSherry

My grandfather was fond of his cousin, Ralph McSherry, shown here with his parents, Althea (Baylor) and Grant. By the way, does anyone else see a resemblance between Grant and the subjects shown in an earlier post, Where Are the Siblings?

Essential research facilities

Even in an Internet age, there’s no substitute for great genealogical libraries or appropriate historical societies. You never know what you’ll turn up digging around the filing cabinet folders or a section of the bookshelves. (Come to think of it, many of my early correspondents were people who’d written letters that were included in the folders – those addresses at the beginning of the letters or included on family charts were valuable in more than one way, as it turned out.)

Sometimes, finding myself at a dead end on what I’d come to investigate, I’d start opening books in the section I was working only to find answers to other ancestral lines.

A few treks up to the Case Western Reserve Historical Society’s acclaimed library in Cleveland provided crucial material at the beginning of my research. In an ironic twist, the core of its collection had been in the public library in the city where I was living, more than an hour away.

Floyd Hodson provided me with many notes collected in similar trips to the Fort Wayne, Indiana, public library, which claims to have the second-largest genealogical library in the country. From his photocopies I gleaned contacts for fellow researchers who helped flesh out our findings.

Sometimes a library may offer the “haystack” where the proverbial needle-in-the-haystack just might be discovered. The 14 filing boxes of papers in Albert Cook Myers collection at the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania, just might have a line that solves our questions about Orphan George’s tragic Atlantic crossing, along with names of his siblings and parents. It would take a dedicated researcher, though – one willing to order the two-box-a-day maximum well in advance.

For Quakers, opportunities to use the archives at Swarthmore and Guilford colleges in America or at Friends House in London can be, well, heavenly. For that matter, the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society in Pennsylvania is a trove for Pennsylvania Dutch family data spanning other denominations as well.

This points as well to the importance of specialized collections, since ethnic as well as religious denominational or regional considerations may require much different approaches. African-American research, for example, is quite different from French-Canadian or Irish.


Considering your own roots, what libraries and historical societies (among other possibilities) have you found especially helpful in your research? Which ones hold special memories? Are there ones you frequent? Which ones are on your “bucket list”? What tips do you have to share with those starting out? Any you think we should avoid?

When fashion offers a clue

Mary Magdalene McSherry? This woman could well be my great-great-grandmother.

Mary Magdalene McSherry? This woman could well be my great-great-grandmother.

Clothing styles can offer clues in historic photos. In sorting through my Josephine (Josie) Jones and Alice McSherry family images, I have an awareness of style in the Joneses’ Quaker circles, and even as it moved away from traditional Plainness, it continued to contrast with the fashions of wider society, which would have included the McSherrys.

One portrait, in particular, diverges sharply from Josie’s collection, and since Alice’s parents owned a jewelry and millinery store, the subject’s relatively extravagant dress of the late Victorian era leads me to tentatively identify her as Alice’s mother, Mary Magdalene (Bahill/Bayhill) McSherry. The little I can make out from the photo of Alice’s parents as they posed in front of their store supports this assumption. And from that, I’m looking at another portrait that runs along the same lines.

What do you think?

Is this an earlier portrait of the woman in the photo above? Or is she a daughter? Or someone entirely different?

Is this an earlier portrait of the woman in the photo above? Or is she a daughter? Or someone entirely different?