(Jeremy Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I learned early in my life that I was related to Jim Jones. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that both he and I are also related to Jim’s wife, Marceline Baldwin – and not just by marriage.
I remember the first time I felt a personal connection with Jonestown and the events of November 18, 1978. I was about 15 years old, and my parents and I were helping my father’s uncle build a house that someday this uncle would retire to. I had very little knowledge, if any, about Jim Jones, Jonestown, Peoples Temple, or any of the related people and events.
At one point during the day my father’s uncle made an off-hand comment about being related to Jim Jones. When I began to ask questions, I remember feeling that my parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of me finding out I was related to this man. My father’s uncle seemed indifferent and proceeded to outline a brief history of the events of Jonestown.
From this brief conversation I learned that my father’s uncle was actually a first cousin to Jim Jones. I had recently developed an interest in genealogy, and this lit a fire in me that has yet to subside. What can our ancestors reveal about ourselves and what do we have in common with them? Do our ancestors provide a lens through which we can view ourselves, or do they simply serve to give us memories and stories with no bearing on our present lives?
I have spent over 13 years researching the Jones family. My grandmother was a Jones, so the family is no distant branch with which I am unfamiliar. With the widespread growth of the Internet, family history resources such as Ancestry.com and the various sites run by the LDS church have given the world instant access to records that were once only accessed by means of a cross-country trip and a dark room with a microfilm reader. New chapters about the Jones family in America have poured forth from these records.
But nothing was more stunning than what I found in September of 2009: Jim Jones and his wife Marcie were third cousins.
Jim’s humble beginnings and infamous downfall are well-documented. Born in 1931, James Warren Jones, the only child of James Thurman Jones and Lynetta Putnam, was raised in a small Indiana town in the middle of the Great Depression. What is less well-known is that, despite hailing from such a small nuclear family, Jim Jones had at least 29 first cousins on his father’s side of the family. Some died in infancy and some are still living. Most stayed in the Indiana and Ohio area while others ended up moving west to Washington, California, Arizona, and Nevada.
There is only one surviving biological child of Jim and his wife Marcie. As a result of their limited procreation – and of the relatively small nuclear families from which they both emerged – I imagine most people believe they know the story of the whole family, and there is little incentive for any in-depth research into its genealogy. In fact, there are probably many people walking around who do not realize their own connection with history. I know of at least 100 surviving blood relatives that are descendants of these 29 cousins, but that number could be and probably is much higher.
Jim Jones was a fifth generation Hoosier. His father was James Thurman Jones; his grandfather was John Henry Jones; his great-grandfather was Warren M. Jones; and Edmund Jones was his great-great-grandfather who had moved to Indiana from West Virginia in 1818. Edmund and his wife Ruth Jarrett had a large family of 10 children, including Warren and a daughter named Sarah. Sarah Jones married the Reverend Phineas Lamb in 1846 and lived a long life, passing away in 1914 at the age of 90. This was the part of the Jones family history that I’d known for quite some time.
When I began my research on the Jones family, then, I felt that there was nothing more I could discover. I focused on Lynetta Putnam’s family for awhile and hit so many brick walls that I decided to take a different path. It then occurred to me: “Why has no one done any in-depth research on Marcie’s family?” Here is a person who was an integral part of the story of Jonestown, and all I had ever heard of her extended ancestry was a passing mention of “Grandma Lamb” in Tim Reiterman’s book Raven. I felt I could shed some light on a place no one had ventured before.
So in September of 2009 I began to flesh out a family tree for Marceline Mae Baldwin. Many of these Baldwin descendants have put their research online and so the Baldwin family was easy to trace.
Marcie was a Baldwin because her father was Walter Baldwin. As I would soon find out, Marcie was also a Jones.
My first clue to Jim and Marcie’s relationship came from the 1910 Federal Census. I had turned my attention to Marcie’s mother, Charlotte Lamb. I found a four-year-old “Sharlett” living with her parents “Edwin” and Hannah in Richmond, Indiana. Census records are notorious for spelling and age errors, but there could be no doubt that this was Marcie’s family. “Edmond,” “Edmund,” “Edward,” and “Edwin” were often used interchangeably in older records. Hannah and Charlotte appear at the same address in the 1920 Census, but Edmond is nowhere to be found. In the same census, however, “Edward” Lamb is shown to be a patient at the “Eastern Indiana Hospital for the Insane,” now the Richmond State Hospital. In fact, Edmond’s obituary from 1922 indicates that he died at a local hospital. When he was admitted to Eastern Indiana hospital, and if he was ever released is unknown to me.
When I was comfortable that this Charlotte, Hannah, and Edmond Lamb were Marcie’s ancestors, I entered the information into my database. I still remember when the thought occurred to me: “Where have I seen the last name ‘Lamb’?” A quick search in my collection turned up the Reverend Phineas Lamb and his wife Sarah Jones. I had not yet done any extensive research on Phineas and Sarah’s children, but I did have a list of them: Mary, Rebecca, Ruth, Albert, and Edmond. It was early in the morning on September 19, 2009 and I sat there in disbelief. Could this really be true? Had I unwittingly stumbled upon a previously unknown connection between Jim and Marcie?
Even after using various records and obituaries to confirm the relationship I still had a hard time believing that no one had made the connection. Jim and Marcie shared a common Jones ancestor: their great-great-grandfather Edmund Jones. It is unlikely that either Jim or Marcie knew of this connection. When Jim and Marcie married in 1949, there was likely no one left living that knew of or remembered the relation between the families.
I believe there is little that this new-found connection can do to shed light on the events that surround Jonestown, though I find it ironic that there was already a history of preaching and psychological issues in Rev. Phineas Lamb and his son Edmond. Regardless, I see it as proof there can be incredible connections and stories to be found after so many years, not just as a person interested Jonestown, but as a family member interested in my own history.
Obituary for Sarah Jones Lamb: 1914 April 2. Richmond Evening Item, p. 8.
Obituary for Edmond Lamb: 1922 May 2. Richmond Item, p. 11.
Biography of Rev. Phineas Lamb: Lewis Publishing Co. Biographical History of Fayette, Franklin, Union and Wayne Counties. Vol 1. 1899. p. 54-55.
Will of Edmund Jones. Filed 1874 February 8. Wayne Co., Indiana Will Record Book 6, page 62.
Lamb family in federal census records
Year: 1850; Census Place: Center, Wayne, Indiana; Roll M432_180; Page: 182A; Image: 371.
Year: 1860; Census Place: Wayne, Wayne, Indiana, post office Richmond, roll M653_308, page 736, image 736.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Wayne, Wayne, Indiana, post office Richmond, roll 371, page 676, image 454.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Wayne, Wayne, Indiana; Roll: T9_322; Family History Film: 1254322; Page: 254.4000; Enumeration District: 68; Image: 0272.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Richmond, Wayne, Indiana; Roll T623_412; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 164.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Richmond Ward 8, Wayne, Indiana; Roll T624_388; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 202; Image: 493.
Year: 1920; Census Place: Wayne, Wayne, Indiana; Roll T625_474; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 158; Image: 269.
Year: 1920; Census Place: Richmond Ward 8, Wayne, Indiana; Roll T625_474; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 181; Image: 870.
Jones family in federal census records
Year: 1850; Census Place: Morgan, Owen, Indiana; Roll M432_164; Page: 39A; Image: 82.
Year: 1860; Census Place: Washington, Randolph, Indiana; Roll M653_292; Page: 735; Image: 207; Family History Library Film: 803292.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Washington, Randolph, Indiana; Roll M593_354; Page: 441B; Image: 326; Family History Library Film: 545853.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Center, Wayne, Indiana; Roll 322; Family History Film: 1254322; Page: 221B; Enumeration District: 67; Image: 0206.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Washington, Randolph, Indiana; Roll T623_399; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 129.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Washington, Randolph, Indiana; Roll T624_376; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 142; Image: 325.
Year: 1920; Census Place: Washington, Randolph, Indiana; Roll T625_464; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 159; Image: 850.
Year: 1930; Census Place: Greensfork, Randolph, Indiana; Roll 624; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 4; Image: 606.0.