Photo Mystery: Overcoming Common Surnames

By Maureen A. Taylor

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Identifying Family Photos Photo Detective Maureen Taylor


D.J. Dennis has a wonderful photo of two women and a man. The gentleman might be Bob or John Jones from Arkansas. Do you see the problem?

The surname: Jones. It’s a very common name. In the 1850 Census it was the fifth most common name after Smith, Brown, Miller and Johnson.

The place: Arkansas. While Bob or John Jones brother Albert (b. 1867) was buried in Scott Co., Arkansas, it’s not known where the family lived before that.

Solving common name and non-specific location issues can take time and patience. Even in the digital age, finding information can be elusive.

D. J. thinks that John was born in 1864 and Bob (likely Robert) in 1872 someplace in Arkansas.

I’m going to start with the 1880 census because I’m trying to find them while they are children living at home. I may have found a match but no one in the household is named Bob or Robert. Sigh!

Locating an exact match to the death information is making me dizzy. There are A LOT of Albert Jones and none buried in Scott County, Arkansas. It doesn’t look like the Weeks cemetery is on yet.

D.J. wonders if the woman in the middle is the mother and the one on the left is the man’s wife. It’s possible but more information is necessary.

This photo appears to date from the second decade of the twentieth century, but nothing in their attire stands out to pinpoint a more exact year. They are dressed in everyday clothing.

Before jumping to conclusions it’s important to verify that Bob/John lived into the early twentieth century, that his wife did and his mother too.

I’m going back to D.J. to see if there is any other information on the possible trio in this image.