Tips from the Pros: Don’t Skip, from Michael John Neill

Skipping around can get you into trouble. And yet is so tempting to jump a few generations and get to the “fun stuff.” Recently I thought I had found my Ira Sargent. A “new” Ira was located in a state census and a little Web sleuthing combined with some census work had a potential name for the “new” Ira’s father. My half hour of research had reached a tenuous conclusion at best. At worst, I was dead wrong.

A website connected this “new” Ira’s father to several “Mayflower” passengers and numerous early immigrants to Massachusetts. I could easily spend hours working on these new pilgrim ancestors.
However, there are two problems.

First, I haven’t come close to reasonably proving “my” Ira is the same guy as the “new” Ira. And second, the connection between the “new” Ira and his father is weak as well. Before I research the distant ancestry of the “new” Ira’s father, I need to make the connections in these more recent generations more concrete.

I should not totally ignore the past of Ira’s father. There could be a clue there that could connect the families for which I am looking. But spending hours documenting ten generations of the father’s ancestry before I am reasonably certain he is the father is probably not the best use of my time and is not good methodology.

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3 thoughts on “Tips from the Pros: Don’t Skip, from Michael John Neill

  1. During my initial research into family history, I combined the ‘skipping ahead” error with another mistake of novices, “accepting undocumented information.” In one glorious evening, I generated “my Tree” back to the Mayflower. Seeing famous names (Alden, Mason, Frary, Fitch), I plunged into the fun stuff: early day research. I made a long (and pricey) trip across the US to visit the early origins of “my Family.” I even funded the restoration of the gravestone of “my GGG Grandfather!”

    THEN, one dreadful evening, a correspondent emailed to me: “Why are you so SURE that X was the father of Y?” Well, um……. In the ensuing 5 years, I’ve tried and tried and to verify that link. Failing that, I’ve had to trim my Tree back to the GG Grandparents that I’m certain are mine. Goodbye Mayflower. Farewell, heroes of the French-Indian War and American Revolution. All those famous early day people now reside in a separate, enormous, and almost certainly unrelated database!

    Oh well. It was a lovely visit to New England and I learned a lot about early American history. It just wasn’t (probably) my own family’s history!!!

  2. Earlier today I tried to post a comment, but failed to reach your site. I am a descendant of Asa Landon, a United Empire Loyalist who fled to Canada after serving with Burgoyne’s invading army in Vermont. The names in your Landon family as you posted them agree quite interestingly with those of Asa Landon’s family (see my article in Canadian Genealogist, I/1, 1979). You will find there the family history back to James Landon of Southold, Long Island, c.1700.
    I believe that we might be related, and that your Asa Landon family may have come back to the states from Canada, as did some of my Landon family. My great-grandmother’s letters mention relatives in Missouri, for example.
    With best wishes that this will help you to clarify the issues you mention in your very interesting article.

  3. Boy are you correct. I was skipping around and what a mess. I am new to searching. We don’t know much about my dad’s family. Most have pasted on, so it’s hard when his family never talked of the past. Growing up you don’t think of the past, just the future. We wish now we had ask more question.

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