Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Our Family's "Alias Smith and Jones" Story

In my last post, I mentioned our family's "Alias Smith and Jones" story. I hope I can tell it briefly. My step-mother ("Mom") was Phyllis Jones (front row 3rd from left in photo) and her father was Henry James "Jim" Jones (back row, 2nd from left). Mom would accompany my dad to family reunions or conventions for his family (Germans from Russia), but she stated more than once that she wasn't going to talk about her family's history. It was her belief that "what we made of our lives was more important than where or who we came from". As I grew up I knew that Mom had an older half-sister---from a previous marriage by her dad, but I didn't know who her dad had been married to. Her dad died in 1976, my Mom died in 1997 and her older half-sister Katherine died in 2000.

I began my genealogical quest in 1999, but it wasn't until nearly 5 years later that I had gathered enough information on my maternal and paternal lines that I was finally ready to do some searching on my step-mother's family. I was still curious about the identity of Katherine's mom. In the back of my mind, I also wondered why that marriage was never talked about in our family, and why my step-mom was so adamant about not researching her family history.

I've been very blessed to have found the resources of other cousins in this quest and one of my "cousins" put me in touch with

another "cousin" who finally shed light on this story. It's from this same cousin that I've received the photos that are included with this story.

I learned that my Grandpa Jim Jones was actually born James Robert Smith. "Grandpa Smith"? Or "Grandpa Jones"? I can't tell you what a surprise that was. My Grandpa Jones was a very gentle, kind, loving, gracious and generous man. This photo is typical of him surrounded by his great-grandchildren. It seems Jim Jones was originally married to a woman who was not a fit mother to their daughter ('xxx Smith' who later changed her name to Katherine Jones). Jim Smith took his daughter and left that wife and left the state in which they resided. He changed his name, his daughter changed her na

This story was never told in the family while Jim or his daughter Katherine were alive. I don't konw if my mother knew the circumstances of her dad becoming Jim Jones instead of Jim Smith. I think she must have and that's why she didn't want to discuss her family's history. But those of us who now know the story find it quite fascinating. It shows us the integrity Grandpa Jones displayed in moving his daughter out of a destructive home. Grandpa eventually married a second time to a very loving wife and had three children, the oldest of whom was my step-mother. That wife was very loving to Katherine and gave her the "mother" she needed and the love and respect she deserved. In the photo at right is Jim Smith with his daughter and his mother.

In our family, we call this the "Alias Smith and Jones Story". I've omitted many details for the sake of brevity in this posting, but I think you'll get the idea. I certainly learned that you can't research a family's history when you don't have the correct information! I spent years looking for the ancestry of Henry James Jones. Thanks to my cousin in Oklahoma, I know the ancestry of James Robert Smith---my Grandpa!


Pamela said...

Interesting story! My husband's last name was originally spelled Jahraus and we have been thinking about changing the spelling of our last name. He is not close to any of his family since his mother died and his children don't speak to us either. We figure there would not be much that changed and he would be able to honor his ancestors, who he has more respect for than those living! Kudos for this man having the strength to make a better life for his child - and utilizing whatever means necessary to do so!

Apple said...

I'm glad you found out the true story while there was someone left to tell it. It makes research a bit difficult without the proper names!