Week 33: #52 Ancestors – Comedy
By Eilene Lyon
This story isn’t funny-haha, but funny-peculiar. A comedy of errors, if you will. That does happen in genealogy research. Sometimes you have to come up with a hypothesis to guide you when you come to a brick wall.
Then the path you take, based on your assumption, leads to absurd conclusions. Or you jump down the rabbit hole to find yourself staring at a fun-house mirror, or completely upside-down, defying gravity.
This is a long tale, so I’ll present it in parts to keep it somewhat manageable.
Meet the Joneses
Samuel and Eliza B. Jones had four children: Emma E., Josephine M., Edwin T., and Florence R. Edwin had no children and Florence never married (her tale will be next week). Emma married and had children in Illinois, later moving to Oklahoma and eventually to Monterey County, California, where all the rest of the Jones clan was living at the time.
Josephine was still single when she, Edwin, Florence, and their parents moved to El Dorado County, California, in 1871.1 The following year, Josephine married Addison Walter Porter in Georgetown.2 He was 40 to her 24 years.
In the 1870 census, Add W. Porter worked as a miner. He was 36 years old [incorrect age], born in Indiana.3 There are no known photographs of Josephine or Addison, nor have any documents in their handwriting come to light.
The 1892 California Great Register does give a physical description for Porter: he stood 5’ 8” with light complexion, light hair, and gray eyes.4 What is most puzzling about Porter is that he seems to have appeared from nowhere.
I have many examples of people getting missed during a census for some reason. Other people get counted twice on occasion. But Porter is missing in 1850 and 1860. If he was in California, as I suspect, he’s also missing in the 1852 California census. Missing from three censuses is striking.
The 1850s and 1860s saw several gold rushes and the Civil War, causing great domestic upheaval all across the country. Many men left home, never to return. Some died, of course, but others just vanished into new lives.
They were mesmerized by the free-wheeling world of mining camps. Or they were traumatized by the horrors of war and couldn’t imagine resuming the lives they’d left behind to serve. They didn’t necessarily change their names, but that did happen. It’s not like they had social security numbers and driver’s licenses. Changing your identity back then was a fairly simple matter.
I finally began to suspect that Addison W. Porter just might be one of those “disappeared” men. If that wasn’t his real name, who was he? Surely it must be an impossible riddle. Cue the deerstalker hat and magnifying glass – Eilene Holmes is on the case!
The First Clue
The first hint came on my research trip to California in April. I met my 5th cousin who is Josephine and Addison’s great-granddaughter. I probably mentioned that I didn’t know who Porter’s people were. She thought he was somehow connected with the Zane family.
Wait. What?? The Zanes are my ancestors, but I’ve never seen any connection between them and the Jones family, aside from them living in Belmont County, Ohio, at roughly the same time. Was there a connection to Porter, from Indiana, somehow?
Then something clicked. I checked the Samuel Jones family in the 1850 census and there he was: Jefferson Zane, farm laborer, 17 years old, living in their household.5 I’d never been able to find a later record for this guy. He just vanishes after 1850. And he’s the right age to be Addison.
Apparently this Jefferson Zane meant something to the family – he was not just a casual acquaintance or transient farm help. I know this because Josephine’s sister, Emma Jones Getz, uses Jefferson’s name as the middle name for two of her sons.
Could it be that Jefferson went to California and, perhaps in trouble with the law, changed his name? Then years later, the Jones family moved out west and they reconnected? Josephine, now grown, fell in love with Addison/Jefferson, a man she’d known as a very young child?
The Zane Connection
My cousin also has the Samuel Jones family Bible. That’s where the Zane name popped up again – in the wrong place. Most likely it was either Emma or Josephine who wrote over the original inscriptions and changed their mother’s and aunt’s (sisters) last name to Zane! Whoever made the change must have wanted the cachet of the Zane name in their family tree – where it definitely does not belong.
The maiden name of Eliza B. Jones, and her sister, Maria, is ZINN. It’s clearly spelled out in both their marriage records in Belmont County.6 I really didn’t know much about their family, so I started digging.
What I discovered was that their father, George Zinn, died young and intestate, in 1835. He also happened to have way more debts than assets. Not good. All of his children, except one, were minors. His oldest daughter, Esther, married Isaac Lee that same year.7 Isaac Lee became the legal guardian for all of George’s children, as well as taking responsibility for his widow, Elizabeth (Zimmerman) Zinn.
Guess who one of those children happened to be? Jefferson Zinn! And court records that are part of the probate make it clear that in 1850, Jefferson’s legal guardian was – Samuel Jones.8
Oh no, no. No way did Josephine Jones marry her uncle. Just eeewwwww!!
Scratch all that.
Feature image: Headstone of Josephine M. Jones and Addison W. Porter in El Carmelo Cemetery, Pacific Grove, California. Josephine’s actual birth year is 1848, not 1849 – see 1850 census excerpt above. The 1900 census also gives 1848 as her birth year. (E. Lyon 2019).
- Hedegard, Bettyann Lockwood. 1996. First County Hospital Census, Monterey County California, 21 January 1886 through 8 February 1917. Salinas, California, p. 18. This record indicates Samuel Jones moved back to California in 1870. However, a series of real estate transactions makes it probable that most of the family moved sometime in early 1871. ↩
- Josephine M. Jones and A. W. Porter. Ancestry.com. Web: Western States Marriage Index, 1809-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. ↩
- Add W. Porter. Year: 1870; Census Place: Georgetown, El Dorado, California; Roll: M593_72; Page: 46B; Family History Library Film: 545571 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Addison Walter Porter. California State Library, California History Section; Great Registers, 1866-1898; Collection Number: 4 – 2A; CSL Roll Number: 28; FHL Roll Number: 977080 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Jefferson Zane. Year: 1850; Census Place: Jackson, Blackford, Indiana; Roll: M432_136; Page: 39A; Image: 411 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Eliza B. Zinn and Samuel Jones. Belmont County, Ohio. Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. And: Maria Zinn and Benjamin H. Jones. Ibid. ↩
- Isaac Lee to Hester Linn [sic]. Ibid. This one is a typed transcript with errors. ↩
- All probate records from FamilySearch.org. Inventory from Belmont County Inventory Book A, pp. 208 – 210. Probate case file numbers: 1233, 1573, 1574, 1575, and 2260. ↩