Henry Z ("Hank") Jones, Jr.

Fellow, American Society of Genealogists

Biographical Material



TIME Magazine recently had a cover-story devoted to genealogy in the new millennium and chose to close the article and tie things together with a quote from Hank Jones. That's a long way from his genealogical beginnings: Henry Z ("Hank") Jones, Jr. has been actively climbing family trees since the age of eight, when he found an old trunk filled with fading tintypes, family letters, and old newspaper clippings in the basement of his parents' home in San Leandro, California. He wrote his first genealogical work A Few More Left: The Story of Isaac Hillman , his great grandfather, while still in high school. Hank continued to pursue his genealogical interests while attending Stanford University, from which he graduated in 1963.

When Hank discovered that he descended from Abraham1 Bergmann, a German from Iggelheim in the Pfalz who immigrated in 1709 to County Limerick, Ireland, his interest in all matters Palatine was born. He exhaustively combed all archives in Germany, London and Ireland to gather all extant data on this Irish-German group who arrived with his ancestor in 1709/10 and then published his results in 1965 in The Palatine Families of Ireland (reprinted and expanded in 1990 by Picton Press). Determined to continue his investigations into all the families who left Germany in the great exodus, Hank then turned his attention to those 847 families who settled in colonial New York in 1710. His New York Palatine project began in 1969: Hank's goal was to write a history of these courageous emigrants firmly documented with sources contemporary with the events! Every extant New York "Palatine" churchbook was extracted for every Palatine reference 1710 - 1776, and this information was placed on family groupsheets - which eventually totalled 17,000! A major thrust of the project was to find the ancestral homes and German origins of the 847 families, and, via Hank's village-to-village researches overseas, over 600 of the 847 were found and documented in Europe.

His two-volume set The Palatine Families of New York - 1710 was finally published in 1985 and has won the prestigious Donald Lines Jacobus Award as "best genealogical work of 1986" and also the Award of Merit "in recognition of distinguished work in genealogy" from the National Genealogical Society; for his efforts on the Palatines, Jones was elected as a Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists, of whom there are only 50 in the world. Hank has continued to write many articles on the Palatines over the years, and they have been published in The American Genealogist (TAG), National Genealogical Society Quarterly, New York Genealogical & Biographical Record, Genealogical Journal, Genealogical Magazine of Pennsylvania, Der Reggeboge, The Palatine Immigrant, and many others. He also has served on the national Board of Directors of the Genealogical Speaker's Guild and as a Trustee of the Association of Professional Genealogists.

In 1989, Hank co-authored a volume with noted Pennsylvania scholar Annette K. Burgert on the German origins of 250 families from the Neuwied/Westerwald region who arrived in Philadelphia 1740 - 1753 entitled Westerwald To America (published by Picton Press). More Palatine Families, the companion volume to his 1710 set, which chronicles the European origins and American activities of many of the families who arrived in colonial New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey in the great second wave of emigration from Germany 1717 - 1776, was released in 1991. Hank's 1993 book Psychic Roots: Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (Genealogical Publishing Company), drawn from intriguing near "Twilight-Zone" experiences shared by over 200 prominent family historians, is now in its 6th printing.

Recently, NBC-TV's popular program "Unsolved Mysteries" starring Robert Stack featured an episode based on Psychic Roots. Hank's story of how he started genealogy at the age of 8 by exploring that old trunk was recreated and dramatized. He also had the opportunity to talk at length about his experiences in genealogy on the show, prompting a deluge of mail and calls from viewers wanting to know more about his work and how they might pursue their family history. This wonderful response has prompted a sequel - one of Hank's newest books - More Psychic Roots: Further Adventures in Serendipity & Intuition in Genealogy (also published by GPC): 225 genealogists worldwide contributed 300 new stories/experiences for this latest volume.

As to his "other life" apart from genealogical research, Hank Jones has been in the entertainment field since his graduation from Stanford. He began his career as co-star of the old daytime TENNESSEE ERNIE FORD television show on ABC, logging 400 network appearances on the program; during this period, Hank also recorded albums on RCA, Capitol, and Epitome Records. In 1963, Hank Jones began a twenty year career as an actor in films and television. He was a featured player in many of the WALT DISNEY films of the 1960's and 1970's, which still come back to haunt him on television today! These include BLACKBEARD'S GHOST with Peter Ustinov, Elsa Lanchester, and Suzanne Pleshette, HERBIE RIDES AGAIN with Helen Hayes, THE SHAGGY D.A. with Dean Jones and Tim Conway, THE CAT FROM OUTER SPACE with Sandy Duncan, and several others. He also appeared in many other films, including MGM's GIRL HAPPY with Elvis Presley (a Palatine descendant of Valentin1 Pressler of 1709) and 20th Century Fox's TORA-TORA-TORA - the Academy Award winning film about Pearl Harbor.

On television, Hank Jones had recurring roles on MY THREE SONS with Fred MacMurray and William Frawley, and also on the PATTY DUKE SHOW. He was on many of the comedy programs of the 1960's and 1970's, including LOVE BOAT, THE JEFFERSONS, MORK & MINDY, THE HENRY FONDA SHOW, LOVE-AMERICAN STYLE, PETTICOAT JUNCTION, and many others. One of his  most interesting roles was playing former-Beatle Ringo Starr's twin brother (after five hours of make-up every day) in a tv version of Mark Twain's PRINCE & THE PAUPER.  Over the years, Hank has been featured in countless tv commercials, several of which (for MacDonald's, Hai Karate After Shave, Honda, and Dial Soap) won awards and were shown on NBC's WORLD'S GREATEST COMMERICALS show. A long-time songwriter and member of ASCAP, Hank's song MIDNIGHT SWINGER recorded by MEL TORME was honored with a preliminary Grammy nomination in 1970. In 1986, Hank made three appearances as "champion" on the popular quiz-show JEOPARDY! on television. Besides all the fun and $$$ involved, it gave him a chance to talk about genealogy on national television and brought forth thousands of letters from around the country from those interested in the Palatines!

Hank retired from "on-camera acting" in 1981 to devote more time to his first love of genealogical research. He has a daughter Amanda, now in her mid 30s, and lives with his wife Bonnie in the Scripps Ranch area of San Diego.

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Henry Z ("Hank") Jones Jr., FASG
Updated August 8, 2012 --- Hank Jones, genealogy@HankJones.com
Copyright 1999-2012 Henry Z ("Hank") Jones Jr.. All rights reserved.