A Jones Family History
the first three hundred years (1700-2000)

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Jones Family Origins in England, Scotland and Ireland

King Charles I
Unknown Artist, National Portrait Gallery, London
Reigned from 1625-1649, and was deposed, tried and executed by Parliament in 1649 during the Civil War.

Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England 1653-1658, portrait after Samuel Cooper1656
National Portrait Gallery, London

George Fox by Unknown artist, stipple engraving

Be still and cool in your own mind and spirit from your own thoughts,
and then you will feel the principle of God ...”

                                                                                                     George Fox, 1658

King Charles II
by John Michael Wright
oil on canvas, circa 1660-1665, National Portrait Gallery, London

Engraving, Unknown Artist
William Penn Receiving the Charter of Pennsylvania from Charles II
State Museum of Pennsylvania
The London Printing and Publishing Company Ltd.

One of William Penn’s tracts which was widely distributed in England to recruit settlers:

"To all persons that are willing to Settle upon their Lands in Pensylvania, and the territories thereunto belonging, That they will give to every such person or persons, fifty acres of land, to them and their heirs for ever, free and clear of all manner of Quit-rents; ten families to settle together, for the convenience of good neighborhood, in every five thousand acres. This encouragement we promise to give to a hundred families; and so soon as each family have built them a cottage, and cleared ten acres of land, every family so settling shall have deeds executed by the Trustees, and send them over upon certificate for that purpose, first obtained under the hands of this company's agent or agents, residing in Pensylvania."

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726)

Godfrey Kneller’s 1689 portrait (Newton at age 46)

The Sir Isaac Newton Connection

That Rachel was a sister of Isaac Newton is a theory that has been propagated by several Jones descendants in their online family trees, but this could not be.  Sir Isaac Newton was an only child and was born several months after his father’s death. His subsequent step-siblings had a different family name.  It is more likely that Rachel’s father was simply related to the Newtons who were a prominent Lincolnshire family. There is evidence suggesting that Rachel's father was a brother or paternal cousin to Isaac Newton's father. That the Francis Jones family carried on the names Isaac and Newton for several more generations would also indicate that they had a connection to the English Newton family.

Quaker statement of belief:

“We gather in silent communal worship to wait on the Spirit of God. Sometimes It moves us to speak, sometimes It moves us in other ways. We strive to trust to love, rather than react to fear. We work towards peace because we believe it is the only way. We are led to implement our concerns for equal rights to all.”[9]

This is the foundation of their controversial stands:  anti-war, non-violence, no oaths to earthly authorities, and anti-slavery.  Also, they actively advocated equality for Indians, women, all social classes, and all religious beliefs; not just their own.

Queen Mary II and King William III
(mezzotint by Wallerant Vaillant,
Unknown artist 1677)

William Penn
(b. 1644 d.1718)

Oil on canvas portrait of William Penn at age 22 in 1666, possibly by Sir Peter Lely, Library of Congress, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Time Line: Territory in Colonial America acquired by William Penn and other Quakers 1664-1776

1664:  The British defeated the Dutch and acquired all of the Dutch possessions in North America. The King’s brother James, The Duke of York, was given proprietary authority over the entire area.

1677:  A group of prominent Quakers that included William Penn purchased the colonial province of West Jersey (half of the current state of New Jersey).

1681:  King Charles II granted to William Penn a charter making him the sole proprietor of a huge tract of land (over 45,0000 square miles (120,000 square kilometers) located west of New Jersey and north of Maryland (which belonged to Lord Baltimore). The grant gave him sovereign rule of the territory with all rights and privileges except the power to declare, making Penn the world's largest private, non-royal, landowner in the American Colonies.  The land included in the grant had previously belonged to the Duke of York (the King’s brother, who later became King James II). The Duke still owned the province of New York and the area around New Castle and the Eastern portion of the Delmarva Peninsula (the peninsula that now is mostly Delaware with parts of Maryland and Virginia). Under the terms of the grant, one-fifth of all gold and silver mined in the province (there was virtually none) was to be remitted to the King, and the Crown’s debt to Admiral Penn (William Penn’s father) of £16,000 (over £2 million today) would be repaid.

1682:  The province of East Jersey was also purchased by a group of Quakers.

1685:  King Charles II died and the Duke of York became King James II.

1776:  Penn's family retained ownership of the colony of Pennsylvania until the American Revolution. After Penn’s death, his son and successor, Thomas Penn, and his brother John, renounced their father's faith, and followed the Anglican line of restricting religious freedom (particularly Roman Catholics but also later Quakers). Thomas weakened or eliminated the powers of the elected assembly and ran the colony instead through his appointed governors. He was a bitter opponent of Benjamin Franklin and Franklin's push for greater democracy in the years leading up to the revolution. Through the infamous Walking Purchase of 1737, the Penns cheated the Lenape tribe out of their lands in the Lehigh Valley.

Source: Bonamy Dobrée, William Penn: Quaker and Pioneer, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1932, New York.

English, Irish or Welsh?

The first clue to determining the early origins of a family is the family name itself.  Jones is a surname of Medieval English origin, derived from the given name John which in turn is derived from the Hebrew name Yochanan  (Johanan).  The name Jones is especially common in Wales and south central England. The surname first appeared in recorded history in 1279 in Huntingdonshire, England. [1]

In 1966, a group of Jones family members, while compiling information for their book, concluded that “it is usually accepted without question that the family is of Welsh extraction”, something I had always taken for granted also (especially since our maternal grandmother was definitively Welsh, having been born in Wales).  My current research contradicts this premise. 

It is much more likely that our earliest Jones ancestors were English, and were sent to Scotland by decree sometime after 1649 by Oliver Cromwell (the Puritan Lord Protector who deposed King Charles I in 1649 in the English Civil War and ruled England from 1653 until his death in 1658).  Cromwell granted land confiscated in the English occupation of Lowland Scotland to loyal ex-soldiers and Puritan supporters and sent them to settle and protect the borders with Scotland.

Following the restoration of the throne to Charles II after the death of Cromwell, English settlers were ousted from Scotland, and it was probably around then that the parents of Francis Jones – our immigration ancestor - migrated to Ireland, shortly before his birth in 1660.  Their name was never Gaelicized to MacSeoin in Ireland, which would indicate that they retained their English affiliations during their next two generations in Ireland.

I have viewed records showing that Francis Jones was born in County Wexford, Ireland, in 1660 and grew to adulthood there. Family tradition says that his father came from Scotland, perhaps from around Kirkudbrightshire.  We don’t have the name of Francis’ father, but since we know he named his first son Samuel there’s a good chance that it was Samuel Jones.  If Francis Jones’ father did, in fact, come from Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, it would be logical as that area was mainly populated by English settlers who remained decidedly Anglican, not assimilating with the local population.

An important clue to the earliest Jones ancestors lies in the fact that we know that they were among the earliest converts to the Society of Friends in Ireland.  In 1654, the Quaker faith spread from England to Ireland. Its roots can be found among English soldiers, farmers, and merchants who arrived in Ireland after the English Civil War (1641-1651). These immigrants converted to the new religion from a variety of other nonconforming protestant faiths. There were virtually no converts from among the native Irish Catholic population.


It therefore follows that Francis Jones’ ancestors were English Protestants who migrated from England to Scotland to Ireland. The misunderstanding regarding their Welsh origin probably came from the fact that Francis Jones took his family in 1708 to Pembrokeshire, South Wales, three years prior to departing for the American colonies.

In 1687, at the age of 25, Francis Jones married Rachel Newton in Ireland. The marriage was recorded in Wexford Quaker MM notes where they married themselves according to Quaker custom.  Rachel was 23 at the time she married.  She was born in 1662 in Corbally, County Queens, Ireland, to English Quaker parents with likely connections to the Newton family that produced Sir Isaac Newton, the English physicist and mathematician (b.1642 Lincolnshire County, England, d.1727 London, England).   Rachel's father came originally from Lincolnshire, England, and may have been a brother or cousin to Isaac Newton, the father of Sir Issac Newton.Her parents were Jonas Newton (b.1628 d.1672) and Jane Wynne (Win/Urin) Newton (b.1632 d.1672).  Rachel was the fifth of ten children.  Jonas and Jane Newton were of English descent and it has not been researched when they settled in Ireland.

Quakers, the Society of Friends

The Quaker movement began in 1647 in England.  Since the founder of the Society of Friends, George Fox, made his first trip to Ireland in 1654, it would be likely that Francis Jones’ parents were among the first Irish converts to the new religion.  This is speculation on my part, based on historical reports that many Irish Protestants of English background did take up the new religion in the mid and late 1650s in Ireland.  It may be, however, that Francis’ parents were not persuaded themselves, and that Francis only became a Quaker as a young bachelor, or perhaps was influenced by his wife Rachel Newton at the time of their marriage. (We know that her parents were Quakers who had been married in a Quaker Meeting House and that her father was born in England and her mother in Ireland.)

The initial converts called themselves “Friends” and their community a “Society of Friends” although detractors called them “Quakers” as they were known for physically quaking while giving testimony. The term Quaker, over time, came into common use and was used proudly by Quakers themselves. By 1690 it is estimated there were between 5,000 and 9,000 Friends in Ireland.

 If Francis’ father did originally migrate to Ireland from Scotland, which is more than likely, and his family had previously been English Protestants, also likely, then they became members of the Society of Friends in Ireland during the mid 1650s.  It is, therefore, safe to infer that Francis and Rachel (a Quaker from birth) and their sons were devout Quakers long before they migrated to Wales prior to setting sail for the American Colonies.

Although members of the Francis Jones family were affiliated with the Society of Friends almost from the time the Society spread into Ireland, it is not known whether they left Ireland due to religious persecution or for economic reasons, or whether Francis was simply taking advantage of the offer of cheap land and good opportunities in the American colonies that was being offered by groups of English Quaker leaders, the most prominent group being led by William Penn. 

William Penn’s “Holy Experiment”

William Penn was an English aristocrat and the son of Admiral Penn, a military hero and close friend and supporter of King Charles II.  As a young man, William Penn became an active and very vocal convert to Quakerism. Upon his father’s death, his inheritance included debts owed to his father by the Crown.  In lieu of monetary payment, Penn was granted a charter in 1681 by King Charles II, giving him control of a very large section of land in the American Colonies and full power to govern whomever he could entice to settle there, subject only to the Crown.  The land was situated in what became southeastern Pennsylvania, an area which encompasses modern day Chester County, Berks County (north), Montgomery County (northeast), Lancaster County (west), Delaware County (southeast), Cecil County (now Maryland) and New Castle County (south; now Delaware).

A large influx of English Quakers had already begun establishing a foothold in and around the new city of  Philadelphia, and ships were frequently crossing the Atlantic in both directions bringing goods from the New World to England and bringing settlers from Great Britain to the colonies. 

By the early 1700s, “Pennsylvania”, as this new territory was called, came to be thought of in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales as a kind of utopia for immigrants, and especially for Quaker immigrants and others seeking religious freedom. 

Pennsylvania was Penn's "Holy Experiment"; his attempt to apply the Christian principles held by the Society of Friends to the practical business of government. Penn published his grand scheme as the Frame of Government for Pennsylvania”, granting the citizens unprecedented freedom to develop to the fullest their potential, and they and the colony prospered. For decades Pennsylvania stood as a model to the world of democracy, liberty and harmony. 

Anybody who has studied the eventual founding of the United States of America out of that far-flung jumble of British colonies will recognize the influence of Quaker beliefs and ideals that ultimately became an integral part of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States.  Quaker ideas concerning unfettered ownership of land, equal rights for all citizens without regard for class, no taxation without representation, freedom of religion not dictated by the government, and many other ideas which were considered most radical in the late 16th Century, became the foundation stones upon which the new country was built.

It is very easy to imagine, then, that Francis Jones was influenced by the teachings of George Fox to become a member of the Society of Friends, and then worked for the next 25 years toward the goal of taking his family across the Atlantic Ocean to the “promised land” of fertile farms, unlimited opportunity and religious freedom for Quakers in the New World.  George Fox had long been an advocate for Quaker immigration to the American Colonies, and William Penn supplied the opportunity.

An Irish Quaker family with four strong sons would surely have viewed the colonies as an excellent way to become independent landowners.  In two places in historical accounts of the Welsh-Irish Quakers who settled in Chester County PA Francis Jones and his sons were described as having been “men of means” in the old country. This is supported by the fact that they immigrated as a family group and had enough capital to purchase land in the colonies.  Poor farmers and laborers usually immigrated as indentured workers, or families would send single men on ahead to check the prospects and get settled before sending for the entire family.  

What it Meant to be a Quaker in Ireland and Pennsylvania

George Fox and his followers believed that Christ was a present reality available to any man at any time and did not require a lofty church or hierarchy of priests and elaborate rituals to practice or interpret what it meant to be a good Christian … all an individual had to do was lead a simple and honest life according to the Bible’s teachings and then sit quietly and Christ would communicate directly.

The Church of England at that time had reached extremes in the manner of dress and pageantry in an outward show of religious worthiness.  An individual’s personal religious status and standing was under the control of priests, bishops and religious bureaucrats who ruled through elaborate and often arbitrary laws, regulations, taxes and tithes. Damnation or salvation was dictated by forces far beyond the control of the common man.  The Puritans and other “non-conformist” sects had already broken away from the Anglican Church and Catholic Church, but had shown little or no tolerance for any practices but their own. The Quakers were unique in advocating freedom of religion and tolerance for ALL men.

From Ireland to Wales to Pennsylvania

Francis and Rachel raised four sons, Samuel, Francis II, Henry, and Jonas; all born in Ireland.  Later Quaker records mention that Francis was a soapmaker by trade, and that they were “a family of means”, but we do not know whether he owned property. It may be that he, himself, was one of many sons and that his family had run out of land to be inherited. The acquiring and farming of land was a Quaker passion and preoccupation.  Ownership of land meant independence and self-sufficiency and insured the welfare of future generations.

The political and social climate during the late 1600s in Ireland for Quakers, as for many other “dissident” groups, was not good.  Political upheaval in Ireland and England following the restoration of the throne to Charles II, taxes and levies, religious discrimination and crop failures, all combined to encourage anybody who could – and especially those families with able-bodied sons - to leave Ireland and seek a more favorable future in the New World.

The Colonies and the “Quaker Connection”

Quaker immigrants met very different welcomes in the New World, depending upon in which colony they chose to settle. Rhode Island became a safe haven while Massachusetts criminalized them, banished them, and had even hanged three Quaker leaders in the early years.

 In 1689, following the death of the Protestant Charles II, the short-lived rule of his Catholic brother James II, and the peaceful overthrow of James II by his Protestant daughter, Princess Mary and her French-born husband William, the Act of Tolerance was passed by the English Parliament.  No longer could people be punished for not being members of the Church of England and could not be compelled to become members of the Church of England, although dissenters were still required to pay tithes to the Church of England and were banned from public office and the universities. This eased the worst of the religious discrimination but dissenters, especially Quakers, were actively encouraged to emigrate to the American colonies. 

There was a political motivation for this policy, as Quakers were perceived to be ideal pioneers - hard working, good farmers, family oriented, opposed to military or political action, and non-violent – and perfectly suited to settling the untamed territories in the southern and western parts of the British-held lands, and to acting as a bulwark against the French-held and Spanish-held territories bordering these areas. They were known to get along well with the native Indian tribes and to be non-political.  It also made social sense to lessen religious strife by getting rid of troublesome “non-conformists”, Puritan, and other minority religious groups in England, Ireland and Scotland by luring them to the colonies.

The Pennsylvania land grants were initially settled by English Quakers and Anglicans. In the early 1700's the Germans and the Scots-Irish migrated into Pennsylvania, some moving from Massachusetts (where earlier English Quakers immigrants were being persecuted) and many more from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. (By 1776 the Scots-Irish would form about one fourth of the population of Pennsylvania.)

In 1700, Philadelphia was the largest city in the Colonies and a major hub of trade and travel between England and America. The colonial government had concentrated political power in Quaker hands, and the city’s commerce was similarly greatly influenced by a tight network of Quaker families on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean that controlled shipping and trade.  The more established, and predominately Quaker, counting houses were becoming at least as important as the Quaker meetinghouses.  Many of the newer Irish and Welsh Quakers settled outside Philadelphia along with French Huguenots and Jewish, Dutch, and Swedish immigrants seeking new lives in the expanding American territories.

The Quaker Network of Monthly Meetings

Although the Quaker faith did not believe in formalized worship in churches nor in priests or clergy, they were highly organized and led by natural leaders in each local community or extended family group.  In newly established settlements meetings were held weekly in private homes, and families (or a group of representatives) traveled to monthly meetings held in the closest larger settlement. Quarterly and yearly meetings would draw in hundreds of Quakers from wide-reaching territories. 

As local meetings outgrew private homes, the leaders would petition to the monthly meeting for status as a peripheral monthly meeting, usually with a request to build a meeting house to accommodate larger congregations.  This type of social structure, plus the frequent travel between communities by Quaker preachers and representatives, meant that there was mutual cooperation between settlements which strengthened all of them and helped insure their success. 

Tracking Jones Ancestors through Quaker Monthly Meeting Records

Records were kept at monthly meetings of births, deaths, marriages, incoming and outgoing of certificates of removal, and disciplinary actions against members, including banishment.  In this way the Quakers maintained their strict codes of plain dress, speech, morality and obedience.

Education was highly valued, so literacy within the Society was significantly higher than among the general population, and written records taken at monthly and yearly meetings became valuable historical documentation of the migratory movements of Quaker families in early America. These entries are often very descriptive of their way of life. The minutes are terse statements of fact, such as “accounted for the support of six orphans “or “killed by the Indians”, making them all the more poignant as minimalist hints of difficult lives led during turbulent times.

A distinct drawback in trying to trace monthly meetings is that as the Quaker populations ebbed and flowed throughout the territories new meetings were formed and old meetings dissolved and their records carried to new locations … with new names.  If a few extended families or settlements were granted the status of a Monthly Meeting it would sometimes be held in one of the locations and given the name of that place or family, but sometimes the meetings would be held alternately at two or three of the locations, with subsequent name variations in each meeting’s notes.  Also, information recorded in a local Monthly Meeting would often be passed on to be recorded at Quarterly Meetings and yet again to Yearly Meetings, causing duplication and inconsistencies in names, dates, and spellings.

To add to the various and changing names given by the Quakers to their Monthly Meetings, the land was being surveyed, claimed, settled and named by the civil authorities in the form of plantations, villages, townships, parishes, counties, “hundreds” , provinces, colonies … and, ultimately, states.  With shifting civil authority, these names were also periodically changed.

The Challenges of History

The members of the Society of Friends were pacifists, non-violent, against alcohol, against slavery, non-political and against fighting even in defense of their own property and lives … beliefs which made their lives very difficult in the new American frontier.

On the next page, we'll find out more about our immigration ancestors, Francis & Rachel Newton Jones