Are Jones and Cohen the hardest names to research?

What happens when you are looking for both names for 1 person?

A couple of years ago we received an email from Belgium asking for more information on an entry we had under Lauriston Cemetery. The enquirer was interested to know whether Solomon JONES was his ancestor.

Now to be honest, my initial reaction was that it was highly unlikely but, because my own ancestors were from Belgium and I know how difficult it can be to research across countries, I replied asking for more information and what the enquirer felt the link to London was.

Etienne replied, explaining that he knew his Solomon Jones’ father was Jonathan and that he had moved to Belgium with his family from London, but that all trace was lost of Solomon after 1834 when, according to the population register, he left Belgium  for Holland.. He added that the family were HaCohen.  Great!  As if researching Jones wasn’t bad enough, now we had Cohen as well!

Unfortunately, the photo we had of Solomon Jones’ tombstone did not show the Hebrew inscription clearly. However, although the characters were eroded,  there was a strong possibility that the patronymic included the name ‘bar (son of) Jonathon’.  Additionally, it really didn’t look as if either ‘Shlomo’ or Solomon  formed part of the patronymic.  On the other hand, the English inscription was clearly Solomon Jones and the stone had Cohen hands. Although I like puzzles, this one was already getting complex.  And it was only the beginning.

Etienne and I were now in regular correspondence. We looked through the various decennial  census and found other members of his family, which helped to suggest that his Solomon Jones may have come back to London, or that his children had. But still no proof that the stone at Lauriston was his Solomon Jones. Despite this, Etienne was convinced that it was worth his while coming over to London and taking a look at the tombstone, even if it turned out to be the wrong one. He made arrangements to visit in late 2011.

Meanwhile, we carried on researching,  still trying to find the missing link. By searching SynagogueScribes we found some births of Solomon’s children with an address – Bunhill Row, London. That led to some finds in the London Gazette,  giving details of Solomon’s partnerships. But these were all before he moved to Belgium so, while it was all interesting background information, it was not the solution.

Then one evening, with nothing on the TV and  in some frustration, I Googled ‘Solomon Jones Bunhill Row’.  Etienne frequently told me he was lucky, and in fairness he had struck  lucky with several finds of his extended family, but nothing so ‘lucky’ as what came up in the Google search.

You can imagine that when we  had previously searched ‘Solomon Jones’,  we had brought up a load of results and nothing of interest.  But this time I absentmindedly searched Google Books, and the third result down was:

“Solomon Jones wrote from Brussels”!  A coincidence?  Certainly nothing like enough to confirm it could be the same one.  And what on earth was the connection to Alexander Bryan Johnson? Surely a book about Alexander B Johnson wouldn’t be talking about Solomon Jones who lived in London and then Belgium?

A few more searches of the book in snippet view produced some other familiar names, but still not enough to be certain. I told Etienne about the ‘find’ and we both set about ordering a copy of the book.  Though neither of us were patient enough to sit about waiting for delivery.

Etienne’s run of luck continued. He emailed me to say he had found an online archive with Johnson family letters available to view online at the Johnson family archive – Johnson family papers, 1776-1937. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

It wasn’t difficult to spend a long time looking through all the items available on this website, a truly fascinating archive, but my eye was drawn to 2 specific items:

Series 3 Genealogy/Family History, “Semitic Notes”: Johnson Family History (n.d.) Box 5 Folder 16, and Ancestral Tablets (n.d.)(photocopy) Box 5 Folder 18.

And there, finally, was the answer or, at least, most of it: a detailed record of the family; of changes of name; movements between countries; hand written family trees; and so on.

The arrival of the printed  book  filled in the rest of the missing bits, giving us confirmation of the date of death of Solomon Jones and his sister Rachel Robinson.  His address at time of death  corresponded to the information on Solomon Jones’ death certificate, while the date of death matched the date on the tombstone. Everything pointed to the Solomon Jones, buried at Lauriston, being Etienne’s ancestor.

Now you would think at this point that there are only so many lucky finds you can have. But you would be wrong. We all met at Lauriston and, with better light and a selection of filters for our camera, we were able to take sufficiently clear photos at a very high resolution which enabled us to make out the Hebrew inscription and, therefore, Solomon’s Hebrew name : Reuben b Jonathon HaCohen.

I have a feeling that this story will run and run as no sooner  had we found out the Hebrew name, we were able to match it to a circumcision record in The Portsmouth Circumcision Register Reviewed / by Henry Roche (revised 2011) which in turn matches information in the book and provides Solomon’s grandfather’s name.

Then there is the recently found Old Bailey Court case which mentions members of the Jones family and, indeed, Solomon.

So there we have it:  Solomon Jones, whose Hebrew name was Reuben HaCohen and who, ultimately, was quite easy to research!

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