As a little girl in Ohio in the mid-1800s, Genevieve "Gennie" Jones would accompany her country doctor father in his buggy as he visited patients. Along the way they'd discuss the natural world, which turned into a lifelong passion. Then in 1876, consumed with heartache from a broken engagement, Jones traveled to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Here she viewed John James Audubon's masterpiece, "Birds of America."
Inspired by the beautiful watercolor drawings, she returned home with a new sense of purpose, determined to create a companion book illustrating birds' nests and eggs. Encouraged and financed by her father, Jones set about creating the artwork. Her brother, Howard, collected the specimens and with help from her friend Eliza Shulze, they practiced sketching the eggs and nests and learning the lithography process through correspondence.
After completing just five illustrations, Jones was stricken with typhoid fever and died. Overcome with grief the family decided to continue working on the project as a memorial to their beloved. Seven years later in 1886 "Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio" was published.
Of the 90 completed only 26 intact copies have been located. One (valued at $80,000) on display in a plexiglass case at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History caught the attention of the new assistant librarian, Joy Kiser, who would walk by it every day. Captivated by the story of the Joneses and their unbridled devotion to completing Genevieve's endeavor, Kiser, now a writer and editor for theBureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, spent the next 15 years meticulously researching materials and tracking down relatives.