It all started while dining with the family over the Christmas holiday in Orlando back in 1994.......
At the time, I was working on my degree in American history out in northern Arizona and had agreed to rendezvous with the family in Orlando that winter for a trip to Disney World. While visiting the main park at Disney, we had noticed a vendor located in the base of Cinderella's Castle selling family coat of arms. My paternal grandmother had been into genealogy and traveled the world, so needless to say, my siblings and I had heard a few stories concerning our Scottish heritage and supposed ancestral castles. Prompted by these past tales we decided to see if they had a coat of arms for our surname Crookston, which to our excited surprise they did!
Later that evening over dinner, the topic of the coat of arms came up and the question was posed to my father, "if we were to travel to Scotland, considering there's an ancestral family castle and all, how would we be received by our Scottish relatives?" To which my father replied, "well for starters they wouldn't think anything special of you being a Crookston because you're an American, and it doesn't matter anyway because you have no blood relation to that name. That came from my stepfather."
NO BLOOD RELATION TO THAT NAME??? Apart from the sound of a few jaws dropping, you could have heard the proverbial "pin drop" at that table. All I can say is it's quite strange going through the initial 20+ years of your life thinking something is an absolute truth when it turns out it's actually not. Without even having had a chance to recover from the initial shock of it all, my mother decides to follow that up with, "oh yeah, and your grandfather Frank isn't my biological father either, my parents got divorced when I was a young girl." The irony of the situation could hardly escape me. At that moment it became clear to me that I was a historian who didn't even know his own history.
Up until that particular point in time, I honestly held zero interest in genealogy despite it's close association with studying history. I'd done the grade school family trees in the past and pretty much figured the stories had all been told and what's known is known. Now with 50% of my ancestral history a relative unknown, how could I resist such a mystery and challenge? Initially I started out with looking into my father's biological father and immediately ran into a brick wall due to the fact that my grandfather had been born out of wedlock to an unknown male, so I decided to switch over to my maternal side which is where I ended up coming across the name Jones.
My mother knew very little about her biological father's family due to her being at such a young age at the time of her parents' separation, so she directed me to her younger sister Jean who had rekindled her relationship with my grandfather in his later years prior to death. My Aunt Jean had fortunately had the interest and foresight to gather as much of the family's history as she could during her visits and was kind enough to send it my way. The bulk of the information pertained to two surnames, one of which was Jones, which had apparently been added to my family mix via my great grandmother Ollie Drucilla Jones. It appeared most of my work had already been done for me because her lineage had been clearly laid out going back to her great great grandfather (my 5th great grandfather)........Isaac Jones.
Born circa 1769 in Maryland, apparently spent some time in North Carolina, and eventually went east to Kentucky where he died in 1851. End of story. No wife, siblings, or parents listed. Even a subsequent internet search at the time produced little more than a person or two referring to him as the Reverend Isaac Jones and a few others having tacked "Sr." to the end of his name. Some even believed that he had lived in Virginia prior to coming to North Carolina. A quick look at the 1850 Census produced a wife named "Kissara" and confirmation that he was in fact a Methodist clergyman who apparently owned quite a bit of land. Still no siblings or parents. Strange considering his apparent level of success, not to mention the number of other individuals/researchers also searching out this same info. Why the big mystery?
By this point in time I had relocated back to North Carolina, so what better opportunity to test my chops as a historian than to take a crack at solving the mystery of Isaac Jones' origin? I'm only living two counties over from where he resided back in the early 1800's....how hard could it be? Little did I know at the time that this would end up ultimately being a 10 year journey, taking me from the foothills of western North Carolina, through the rolling hills and horse pastures of southern Tennessee, and further westward to the fertile farmland of western Kentucky and Calloway County. Along the way I was able to unearth a substantial amount of information regarding the life of Isaac Jones which helped correct several widely held misbeliefs, solve a number of mysteries, while at the same creating a few more needing to be solved.
As many of you who already know me are aware, my initial plan was to get this all published into book form. After having spent the last few years working on that, I've decided that the more practical route to take is instead putting it out here in a blog format. Why the change of heart? Well, there's a number of reasons behind it. With the genealogical world turning more and more every day towards the internet and the cost of quality publication being what it is, it just seemed more practical and cost-effective to go this route. Why publish a book that will most likely only end up in a few relevant libraries that only a few people would have the opportunity to access. With well over 100 written documents pertaining specifically to Isaac Jones alone, I couldn't possibly incorporate them all into a complete work without being forced to price the book as if it were some fancy coffee table book. By going this route, it's readily and freely available for all to see and benefit from while allowing me more freedom to present it in it's entirety.
While primarily focusing on the life of Isaac Jones, I'll definitely make a point to address each of his seven children, a few of his more interesting grandchildren, a number of the related families, and a good dose of historical perspective to help put it all into context. Hopefully somebody will find some benefit in my work, either now or down the road, possibly presenting that one little clue or shedding that new angle of light that helps you solve your own family mystery.