Sunday, February 27, 2011

Keeping Up With the Joneses II

In my last post I began discussing my Jones family history, starting with my grandfather James Dewey Jones (1907-1973).  And, though I still need to obtain copies of his death certificate and marriage license I want to continue back as far as I can go.  I do have his parents’ names from three sources: my grandmother’s Bible, the census forms I found online, and information from my cousin Michelle, so let’s chase more Joneses as we go “forward into the past!”

(top) Vrg, Grandmother Rose, Emy,
Grandpa Jake; (bottom) Paul, Vera, Dan
The parents of James Dewey Jones were Jacob Jones (1866-1951) and Nancy Rosanna “Rosa” Barnes (1872-1948).  Both died before I was born, but my father remembers his grandparents.  Both were born too early to have a birth certificate and I haven’t yet started ordering any death certificates, but I have a number of other sources I can draw on to supplement the personal memories of my living relatives.  First (working backwards) I have a picture, courtesy of my cousin Michelle again, of Jacob & Rosa’s gravestone, showing birth and death dates.  It is located at the North Salem Baptist Church Cemetery in Port Wentworth, Chatham County, Georgia, the same church my grandparents attended all the time I was growing up and where they are also buried.  Because they died before 1962, a search of the SSDI (Social Security Death Index) proves fruitless.  There are some deaths recorded in the SSDI dating as far back as 1937, but very few.  So I’m not surprised.

Jake Jones & Rosa Barnes Jones
Tombstones and other grave markers are funny things.  While most people regard these as concrete evidence of a person’s life and death they aren’t anything more than a memorial placed by others (usually family) after a person’s death.  The date of death on these stone memorials is generally accurate, particularly for gravestones of people who have died in the past century or so, the dates of birth can be problematic, particularly in rural areas where birth records are often sketchy at best until well into the 20th century.  I know people who were born in rural Georgia in the 1930’s who were issued delayed birth certificates decades after they were born because an original was never issued at the time of their birth.  When you go back earlier than that, and into the 1800s, you are often lucky to get a consistent year of birth from one record to the next.  Education was often minimal.  Parents would lie about their childrens' ages to get them to work in the fields sooner.  It was a hand-to-mouth existence for sharecroppers like my great-grandparents and they did what was necessary to provide for their family.

1900 Census, Bulloch County, Georgia
So the grave marker for Jacob and Rosa Barnes Jones is valuable corroborating evidence, but not conclusive for dates of birth.  Note, for example, on the 1900 census, that the record indicates Jake Jones was born July 1865 and Rosie Jones was born March 1870, while the gravestone has Jacob Jones born March 1866 and Rosa born July 1872.  The census was taken in June of 1900.  If whoever gave the information to the census taker got the birth months mixed up and said Rosa was “about 30”, then the census taker would have figured backwards from the age an birth month to calculate the year.  And that’s assuming that it wasn’t intentional fudging of dates whenever talking to a government worker.  However, I am reasonably confident that this census record is that of my Jacob & Rosa Jones in Bulloch County in 1900.  One piece of lore for which I have as yet NO documentation is that two of Jake & Rosa’s sons had multiple middle names: Green Mathew Daniel Jones (1895-1963) and Jacob John Cuyler "Shank" Jones (1899-1976).  I do have a copy of a picture that shows Jake and Rosa with some of their children (thanks again to Michelle; my aunt Mildred Jones Helmey has the original).  The photo is undated, but probably from the early 1940s.  I’m hoping for more pictures and for family reminiscences when I attend a family reunion this spring.  The idea is to add confirmation to the number and names of Jake and Rosa’s children, and where they lived, and hopefully confirm the documentation I’ve been able to find.

Jacob Jones & Rosa Barnes
Marriage License
(click any picture for a larger image)
One other important document I have from Jacob and Rosa’s life is a copy of their marriage license.  As with the other marriage records I have obtained so far I got this from the Georgia’s Virtual Vault website maintained by the Georgia Archives, a division of the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.  I posted it previously when I discussed finding marriage records at the Virtual Vault, but here it is again.  It shows that the marriage license was issued in Bulloch County, Georgia, to Jacob Jones and Miss Rosie Barnes on 22 August 1891 by A. R. Lanier, Ordinary.  The marriage was performed 26 August 1891 by J. B. Lee, S.P. & J.P. and recorded in the marriage book on 8 June 1892, again by A. R. Lanier, Ordinary.  I read J. B. Lee’s title as “S.P.  & J.P.”, but now, after a little Google research, I think it might be “N.P. & J.P.”, as in “Notary Public & Justice of the Peace.”  It seems more likely and solves that little mystery.

Since the 1890 census records did not survive there is a gap in the documentation, and this seems to be a good place to end this posting.  As I move back up this branch of the family tree, my primary paternal line, the research gets more and more difficult.  The period from the end of the Civil War through the Great Depression (1865 to 1941) was hard on everyone, but particularly on poor farmers in the South; “hardscrabble” is a word that comes to mind.  I have begun a search in microfilmed records available through the Family Search Center, looking for property and legal records that may exist, but so far it doesn’t appear that my Joneses owned property or wrote wills during those decades.  I haven’t located any probate records of intestate decedents or other court records, though I haven’t yet searched through the court minutes of the inferior and superior courts (in case they got into legal troubles).  I haven’t found any indication of a Jones family Bible from that time period.   

But I think I’ve found enough to at least give me a framework to build on, and I’ll tackle the parents of Jacob Jones in my next post.

Here’s your summary:

  • To repeat an important point: Talk to your relatives.  An old family Bible is a valuable find.  Quite often they may be the only record of your relatives’ births, marriages and deaths.  When possible, try to link living memory with the historic document.  Is there someone alive who has personal memory of the people listed in the Bible record?  Try to get their stories recorded.  They can provide valuable clues about where to search and who to look for.
  • Families weren't always consistent or particularly accurate when talking to the census takers.  While the census forms are extremely valuable, they aren’t necessarily to be taken as Gospel truth.  When conflicts arise, try to arrive at a reasonable decision based on a preponderance of evidence.  At times you go with the “earliest report” method.  The earliest reported age is generally going to be the most accurate.
  • You can search the SSDI in a variety of places on the web, including,, and the FamilySearch site.
  • Marriage and death records can often be found online at Georgia’s Virtual Vault, a digital document resource from the Georgia Archives and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
  • There is a wonderful resource for finding gravestones, call Find A Grave, at  My bookmark for the site goes straight to the search page at  It’s a searchable database of user-submitted cemetery and graveyard information from around the world, though the majority of the listings seem to be in the USA.  Because it’s user-submitted, not all cemeteries and graveyards are covered, and every gravesite isn’t listed.  But it does have a surprising number, with more being constantly added.  Additionally, many have pictures of the tombstone or other grave marker.  So search the site and consider joining.  It’s free.  And you could do a great service to the wider community by joining and contributing wherever you can, even if it’s just a few pictures of your close relatives graves.
  • Don’t forget to use your local public and university libraries, WorldCat (the online card catalog indexing hundreds of libraries across the country), Google Books, eBay and to search out books that may provide indexes to primary resources (marriage indexes, cemetery indexes, will book indexes, etc), as well as published county and family histories that may have information on your ancestors.  Construct search phrases composed of state, county and family names in various combinations, such as “Bulloch County Georgia marriages”, “Jones family history Georgia”, “Jacob Jones Bulloch Georgia”.  You’ll get a lot of extraneous hits, but occasionally you’ll get lucky and make a real find that you might otherwise have missed.  Make sure you read the FAQs or Help files on constructing complex queries that group phrases with quotation marks and plus signs, or use a separate “advanced query” web page; the exact method varies with each search site.
  • Google your counties and add “historical society” or “genealogical society” or “genealogy” to the search phrase.  Consider joining the local historical or genealogical society you may find, even if you no longer live there.  They often have published information that may not be available anywhere else, plus many offer volunteer look-up services for free or for a nominal fee to members.  Plus they can always use your support.  While these are volunteer organizations, there is still a cost involved in editing and publishing the information in a format that is widely accessible, whether as a hard-cover book, soft-cover magazine or booklet, CD, or other, there are costs involved, and your support can prove invaluable.

Later y’all,



Jennifer said...

Just found you through Geneabloggers. I'm your newest follower. :) I'm currently living in Georgia (Savannah), but I have no family ties here. There is so much history in this area! I wish that my family had been a part of it.


TCasteel said...

That virtual vault seems like a wonderful resource. I wish every state would do something like that!
Theresa (Tangled Trees)

*GeorgiaTim said...

Theresa, I agree about the Virtual Vault. I'm dreading reaching the 18th century when most of my lines move into North & South Carolina. While they have many valuable resources, I don't believe they have anything like VV. And if you think records loss is bad in Georgia ...