A Quaker Family’s Search for Peace and Freedom in Early America
starting point in my search for our earliest Jones ancestors was a book of
about a hundred pages written and published privately in 1966 by a group of
Ohio Jones ancestors, “A Genealogy of the
Jessie Jones Family in Ohio 1805-1966” .
This small book is an amazing compilation of data, especially considering that
the authors had no Internet resources to consult. Their resources at that time were family
bibles, old letters, wills, land deeds and the records of early Quaker monthly
meetings. Their mode of research was to get in a car and drive to small town
libraries, Quaker meeting houses, schools or graveyards in search of documents
regarding their Jones family.
Jesse Hayworth Jones (1916-2009), acquired several copies of this little book
when he attended a Jones Family reunion in Laura, Ohio in 1966. He presented me with one of the books at some
date in the middle sixties when I was living in New York City. While I was
amused that his namesake ancestor was a leading character in his family’s saga,
I must admit that I never actually read the book, although, for no reason I can
name, in all my years of travel and living abroad, it was one of the few books that
I never lost track of and always had with me in my small collection of
essential books. Almost fifty years
later, here I am reading it word for word and making notes and corrections in
My initial efforts were an attempt to fill in the information not available to the authors at that time regarding the first three generations of the Jones family in America. This covers the time between 1711 - the year definitively established as the year of arrival from South Wales to Philadelphia of our immigration ancestors Francis and Rachel Newton Jones - until 1805, when we know the Ohio branch of the family arrived to the wilderness settlement that later became Union Township in Miami County, Ohio. Following my father’s death in 2009, in sorting through stored papers of both our parents, I found photos, certificates and letters concerning their parents, grandparents and great grandparents, so I naturally expanded these records to include some of that valuable information.
report on what I have learned about Francis and Rachel Jones' origins in
Ireland and most especially what I have learned about The Society of Friends,
commonly known as Quakers, their chosen religion. Why they left Ireland, what it meant to live
as Quakers in the early American Colonies, and what this particular family went
through in their quest to live according to their religious convictions are
what make this family saga so fascinating to me.
From the saved records in Ireland of the Quaker Monthly Meetings that documented the certificates of removal it may be safely estimated that at least 1,500-2,000 Irish Friends came to Pennsylvania between 1682 and 1750. This was the wave of immigration that I pursued as the historical time frame for Francis Jones and his family who, as members of the Society of Friends, lived and moved between Ireland and Wales, and ultimately immigrated to the American Colonies.
Let me make
clear that the purpose of my research is not to create a follow-up record of
our Jones family from 1805 to the present; surely such a record would fill a
library by itself. Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites clearly document
the widespread activities of our branch of the living Jones generations.
I am much more interested in exploring the unique character of a family of Quakers who lived through a tumultuous period in the history of the American colonies and who witnessed crucial historical events that eventually formed the independent United States – in most cases not as soldiers or rebels, but as non-combatant and fervent pacifists. As active participants in William Penn’s “Holy Experiment” in Quaker Pennsylvania and as pioneers into the untamed wilderness they did, however, greatly influence the nature of the American nation being formed.
Concentrating on the Direct Line
In order to narrow my research I have included only the direct paternal line (father-to-son, etc), even though the direct line descends from two of the sons of Francis and Rachel – Frances II and Henry – since Frances II's son married Henry's daughter. I arbitrarily stopped my investigation with my parents’ generation since a search of Facebook or other social media sites will yield all the information you’d ever want to know about my generation and the next two generations - as rollicking a batch of beautiful and talented offspring as any family could ever wish for.
discovered many family websites created by Jones descendants and relatives, as
well as wonderful websites maintained by libraries, schools, counties, cities,
and non-professional individuals (such as myself) relating the stories of
Quaker pioneers in early America and their role in the creation of this amazing
describe how exciting it was each time I stumbled upon the name of a Jones
ancestor I recognized, or even only a tiny clue that I could add to my mosaic
of information which has resulted in such a rich family tree. This particular Quaker Jones family - especially the first five or six generations - took part in well-documented historical events, and their stories are filled with adventure and
romance as well as tragedy and hardship.
I have included asides on some of the non-direct ancestors, especially where their recorded histories throw light on the Quaker way of life and the activities of our own Jones family line. I’ve also mentioned a few Quaker leaders with whom our Jones family was closely associated.
special interest to me are the remarkable Quaker women. The Society of Friends,
from its inception, recognized women as equals in the eyes of God and Man. Quaker women owned property, received
an education, participated in family and community decisions, and were recognized
as church leaders, missionaries and teachers.
At a time in history when women had no legal rights or privileges, this
attitude was as radical as the Quaker anti-war and anti-slavery stands.
Rich Quaker Resources
ancestors were Irish Quakers named Jones is, paradoxically, also what made them
easier to trace than you might imagine. There were many immigrants from Ireland
to America in the early 1700s named Jones; also many people named Jones from Wales and
England who immigrated; also many Quakers from Ireland, Wales and
England. There were, however, relatively few Irishmen named Jones who
were also Quakers and also immigrated to the American Colonies.
What I’ve learned about the lives of our Jones Family immigration ancestors in America – the original Francis and his wife Rachel, their four sons - and their descendants was also the result of tracing historical Quaker migration routes in the American Colonies and reading through hundreds of Quaker Monthly Meeting notes from settlements along those routes.
sources of valuable clues regarding their movements were websites created by
modern-day Quaker congregations that recorded the early histories of their
Monthly Meetings, Quarterly Meetings, and Yearly Meetings in Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, North Carolina and Georgia.
I have also revisited some of the Quaker meeting notes discovered in 1966 by our Jones family descendants in Ohio, and made liberal use of the photographs they collected from personal sources.
Fellow Family Descendants
were prolific, so there are many modern descendants using genealogical websites
to trace their roots back to our common immigration ancestors, Francis and
Rachel Jones. I have used these personal family trees primarily as guides
to seeking out actual documentation rather than simply accepting them as
accurate since they contain many errors due to the fact that similar given names were
bestowed generation after generation throughout the Jones Family branches.
Anecdotal evidence – family stories and references to land deeds, wills, family
Bible notations and other found documents – were more valuable and reliable clues to be found
on personal family websites.
wills, the most personal information regarding individuals during this very
early period in the Jones family saga is contained in the actual handwritten Quaker Monthly
Meeting notes. The recorded facts often appear bare and dry, but when
combined with historical accounts of events of the time and by connecting the
meeting names with geographical locations we are often rewarded with rich
portraits of our early families.
History Books as Resources
The migration of Quakers in the early years in the American Colonies was greatly influenced by specific historical events, namely:
- land grants issued by the King Charles II of England to William Penn and others, specifically to attract Quakers and other “non-conformists”;
- the British Crown’s expansionist policies concerning the territories bordering French and Spanish-held territory between Pennsylvania and Florida;
- indigenous Indian movements in the colonies and territories;
- the issue of slave ownership in the colonies;
- the French-Indian Wars; and, ultimately,
- the American Revolution.
history books on early Colonial America has been interesting and valuable in
tracing the movements of our Jones ancestors. Reading reference books on
Quaker beliefs and customs - from manner of speech, dress and religious rules
and regulations to daily family life – has been fascinating and revealing.
So, Where's the Tree?
when I started this research to simply use ancestry.com or one of the other genealogy
websites and make a really cool family tree … and that would be that.
But, when I built a tree using some of the information I already had collected on over
500 individuals (... and I had hardly scratched the surface) and printed it out and
attached all the sheets of paper and taped them to the wall next to my computer
it was almost two yards long!
Cool, … but
it really didn’t tell me anything. So I started over and just wrote about
what I found and what I surmised and what I felt about these people. It
doesn’t fit a chart … but so what?
I will, however, include mini-trees and genealogical lists along the way to keep the characters straight.
What Began as a Whim Became a Mission
I have described here are our own people; our biological blood relatives. They were
American pioneers in every respect, but they were also Quakers - a very particular and unusual
bunch of people.
seem like total strangers to you or fictional figures; too remote to understand
or relate to, but as I traced each name from father to son to sister to
daughter to husband to wife I began to feel a personal involvement in their movements and motives
and in their surroundings.
The more Colonial American history I read, and the more I learned about the Society of Friends, the more I began to understand what tremendous odds devout Quakers faced and what amazing courage they showed in their efforts to carve out new lives for themselves and at the same time retain their Quaker beliefs and way of life.
The End of the Direct Paternal Line
The Jones surname will not continue beyond my present generation in our particular branch of the Jones family because my three brothers and I produced six daughters but no sons to carry on the Jones surname. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I felt compelled to “fill in the blanks” on our early Jones ancestors – to give our part of the Jones family saga a recorded beginning as well as an ending.
We may feel that there have been … and still are … some interesting characters in the recent generations of Joneses (in spite of being lapsed Episcopalians rather than Quakers), but the simple records of the daily lives of our early Quaker Jones ancestors give us poignant proof of what a remarkable and resilient family the Joneses were...and still are.
 “A Genealogy of the Jessie Jones Family in Ohio 1805-1966”. Researched and compiled by the Jones Genealogy Committee: Gary Jones, Walter Jones, John Jones, Clark Cox, Shirley Jones, Virginia Netzley, Bessie Jones, Marie Cox. Privately published, 1966.
Many personal family websites, forums and blogs have "borrowed" information from historical sources without acknowledgement, and where I have "borrowed" from them I have tried to find and acknowledge the original sources in my quest to verify names, facts and figures. The process of verifying various obscure stipulations has provided some of the most entertaining moments in my research.