This week's Tuesday's Tips come from our friend Magda Miller of GenealogyWorks.com
How I solved my JONES family Brick Wall
Do you have a very common ancestral surname like Jones? This is a portrait of my great- grandmother, Annie Jones. She was buried under the name of Ann Mahony in the cemetery records. Her marriage record in Buffalo in 1883 listed her parents’ names as Michael Jones and Helen Sullivan. Thirty years ago, I was able to locate this family in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania in the 1870 census with six years old “Hannah Jones”. They were all born in Ireland. Down the road from them was a Lopus family that caught my eye. I knew that the Mahony side had a fireman cousin named James Lopus. Inquiries with my great Aunt Mae in Buffalo revealed that they were cousins but she did not know specifics.
How do I find Annie Jones’s roots in Ireland? With a surname like Jones, it seemed daunting, almost hopeless.
TIP no. 1 – What genealogists promote heavily in family studies is the FAN principal, otherwise known as cluster genealogy. Yes, it is not a quick solution to the problem but years of focus with this technique is sometimes the only way to break a brick wall.
TIP no. 2 - I only wish I had done this more with my elderly relatives but ask them if they have newspaper clippings, memorial cards, obituaries, pictures with dates, old letters. Annie Jones was my Aunt Mae’s mother and she died when Aunt Mae was nine years old. Aunt Mae recalled that she was sent with her siblings the summer after her mother died to an Aunt “Bessie” and “Aunt Nora” in Corry who had a farm for a long visit. She was able to reveal some great stories with names of cousins. It was my job to draw a “conjectural” family tree based on her stories.
TIP no. 3 - I began to uncover all the evidence I could locate about Annie Jones, her parents, and her brothers. I amassed a huge JONES folder with lots of paper trails. After collecting everything I could find in Buffalo, I snail mailed every church in the Corry, Pennsylvania region as well as their local library and cemetery office until I found results. All negative and positive conclusions were logged into a research sheet in the JONES folder. Evidence started pouring in with records on the Lopus family so eventually I proved their tie to the Jones family.
TIP no. 4 – I accessed all copies of everyone’s obituary. In this same Tuesday Tips blog series, Dawn Williams-Kogutkiewicz wrote about how to find newspapers in her “Newspaper Research Tips “. I also wrote to local libraries or viewed newspapers on microfilm for obituaries. You never know when that birthplace location is mentioned!
TIP No. 5 – Notice that all my research started thirty years ago. There was very little online. In the case of my Jones family, most of the conclusive information I have is still not online. However, the first goldmine tip that first pointed to their place of origin was from Google Books in an obituary published by a Railroad Journal. That score was followed by wildcard searches in the Ireland Government Genealogy website where I finally found my Jones family in church records in Ireland. I found Annie’s baptismal record as well as many of her siblings that died before the family immigrated in famine times. There was one great HAPPY DANCE for my Jones research when I saw that she was born on the same day as one of my children.
What’s next? I am doing a heavy JONES One Name Study in Listowel to go back another generation of my Jones family by researching records there. I even joined a JONES DNA study group.
 Highly recommend her pamphlet “The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (The FAN Principle): Quicksheet (Evidence)” by Elizabeth Shown Mill.
 They were related from Helen Sullivan Jones sister, Elizabeth Sullivan Hannon and a niece named Norah Lopus.
 I would like to add to her splendid article the free newspaper website Fulton History, especially for Pennsylvania and New York State.
 I am using online resources entirely for this step of the study. My resources are listed here at http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Project:County_Kerry
I started genealogy while a photography student rambling through old cemeteries in Vermont and rural New York. My children grew up having picnics in graveyards and scrolling through microfilm readers with me in libraries. I am a WikiTree leader and I co-admin at the Hungary Exchange genealogy group with Nick Gombash. I also conduct a registered One Name Study, plus a One Place Study of an extinct village in Hungary. The fun never ends.
Magda Miller of GenealogyWorks
Thanks for the tips, Magna! Congratulations on solving your brick wall!
What has helped you break through a problem area in your research? Share your tips in the comments below.
Are we kin? Need help with your research? Please contact me.
Together we can find our people.Thanks so much for stopping by!