In Wales, Jones is the most common of surnames, and throughout Great Britain and the United States more men answer to the name of John Jones than any other save John Smith. According to name authorities, it is the patronymic genitive of John — that is, it is a possessive form of John indicating “the son of.”
The first John Jones was John, the son of John. The name, therefore, has the same significance as Johnson. In some cases, the first to bear the name may have been a son of Joan. Instances of these matronymics or mother names are decidedly rare. (John is an old Hebrew name meaning the grace of God, and Joan means the same thing.)
Oddly enough, the most renowned man named Jones in this country was not really a Jones at all. This was John Paul Jones, daring admiral and adventurer, who, in command of the French ship Bonne Homme Richard, sank the Serapis in one of the greatest naval engagements of history.
His real name was John Paul, and his father was John Paul, a Scotch gardener. At the age of twelve, son John went to sea, and when he settled in this country he preferred to be known as John Paul Jones. There have been numerous conjectures as to why he made this change of name. To change one’s name always excites suspicion. But nothing definite has ever been derived from all this conjecturing. At any rate, since he was a son of a man named John, he had as good a right to take the name of Jones as any of those who took the name at an earlier date.
And though he did not belong to one of the long established families of Jones, he had several traits which seem to have been prominent always among the Joneses. He was daring and venturesome. He did not hesitate to do a thing just because no one had ever done it before him. A noted scholar of the name was the first European ever to master Sanskrit. It took a certain sort of courage to do that. And there was Inigo Jones, who went ahead of his contemporaries in architecture in England, and is remembered as the architect of old St Paul’s before Sir Christopher Wren remodeled it. In fact, much of the best in American colonial architecture is directly traceable to the influence of Inigo Jones.
A motto borne by a great number of Joneses, and one that seems to be especially suited to them all is this: “Never unprepared.”