Dear Professor Gates:
I've been trying to help my dad, Samuel D. Jones, locate his father. His mother, Amolene Hughes Jackson, passed in 2000; however, she wouldn't provide any information on who his father is. His aunt also has been reluctant in providing information, though she said my dad's grandfather is Eutah/Utah Jones and his father is Alious or Delious Jones. They resided in Malvern, Ark. She also said they owned a restaurant in Malvern. She believes my dad's father died in a car accident.
My father had a DNA test done with Ancestry.com. We have the results. I've reached out to some relative matches on the service, but all but one have not replied; and the one who did could not identify a common relative. I'm hoping you can provide me some hints or suggestions on getting some answers for my father. —Kim
You probably know your best option to solving this mystery would be to keep trying until you can locate a known descendant of Eutah/Utah Jones on Ancestry.com, or one of the other major testing services, such as 23andMe and FamilyTreeDNA, to compare with your father’s results. In the meantime, what we found in our records search should help with finding such a descendant.
Your father was born Dec. 1, 1942, in Sparkman, Ark., so we searched for Eutah/Utah Jones around this date. Using U.S. census records, we located a Eutah Jones residing in Malvern, Ark., in 1940 with his wife, Viola, and two sons, Horace, born about 1921, and Eutah Jr., born about 1925.
Either one of these young men could be the right age to be the father of your Samuel D. Jones, but their names do not match the one your father’s aunt provided, which was either Alious or Delious. Census records often do not include a person’s full name, so we considered that it was possible that one of these men had Alious as a middle name or that these were their middle names recorded in the census. We knew that searching for more records on each of them could reveal their full names or turn up other sons that were not recorded in the 1940 census.
Working backward, we located the Jones family residing in Malvern, Hot Spring, Ark., in 1930, with only a Harace (age 9) and Eutah Jr. (age 5) recorded as Eutah’s sons. This suggested that these were his only sons and his only children.
Then we found an obituary for Eutah Jones Sr., who died Dec. 7, 1992. According to the obituary, survivors included his wife, Viola Jones of Malvern, and one son, Horace Jones Sr. of Pine Bluff. This means that Eutah Jones Jr. must have predeceased his father but that Horace Jones was still living by this date. Searching for a death record for Eutah Jones Jr., we located his gravestone in the Masonic Cemetery at Malvern, Hot Spring, Ark., and discovered that he died Feb. 2, 1957. The stone also says that he served in the 112 Base Unit AAF in World War II. This discovery does not exclude him from being your father’s father, so you may still want to see if he had any known children that could still be living.
While searching for more records for Eutah Jones Jr., we discovered that he married Lorene Daniel at Malvern on July 16, 1946. Some family trees on Ancestry.com (subscription required) have children recorded from this union, but the information is private. If you have an Ancestry.com account you could try to contact the owner of the tree to see if he or she is willing to share any further information with you about potential descendants of Eutah Jones Jr. The creators of these trees may have more information on Horace Jones as well that could be helpful to your search.
Since we knew that Eutah Jones Jr. served in World War II, we considered that Horace may have served as well, so we searched for his military record. Interestingly enough, Horace’s full name was recorded on his draft registration as Horace Alious Jones, born Sept. 24, 1920! In the section of the card that asks the individual to place a name of someone who will always know his address, Horace put down Eutah Jones of 600 W. Page Ave., Malvern, Ark. This is the same address where the family was residing in 1940, proving that this is a record for the correct Horace Jones. Because of your great aunt’s story and Horace’s middle name, it seems a high possibility that he could be the grandfather that you are trying to identify.
Sadly, according the Social Security Death Index, Horace A. Jones died in Pine Bluff, Ark., on June 11, 2006. We searched for an obituary for him and discovered that one was printed in the Pine Bluff Commercial newspaper on June 15, 2006. The article is no longer available to view online, but you could contact the newspaper to see if you can get a copy of his obituary; this may help you identify any living descendants.
Another option would be to search public records for more information on Horace and his family. According to a public record directory, Horace Alious Jones of Pine Bluff, Ark., had a number of possible relatives, including a Gloria Marie Sherman, William E. Jones, Eutah Jones and Viola Jones. It seems likely that the latter two names are his parents, but Gloria Marie Sherman could be a wife or daughter, and William E. Jones a son. You could search public records and newspapers to see if you can determine if these individuals may still be alive and how you may contact them.
Good luck in your continued search to help your father find his roots!
Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is also chairman of The Root. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
Send your questions about tracing your own roots to TracingYourRoots@theroot.com.
This answer was provided in consultation with Meaghan E.H. Siekman, a senior researcher from the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Founded in 1845, NEHGS is the country’s leading nonprofit resource for family history research. Its website, AmericanAncestors.org, contains more than 300 million searchable records for research in New England, New York and beyond. With the leading experts in the field, NEHGS staff can provide assistance and guidance for questions in most research areas. They can also be hired to conduct research on your family. Learn more today about researching African-American roots.