Friday, February 7, 2020
Gordons Getting Unstuck
There is one hazard which comes with relying on the genealogical research of someone else: that someone might be wrong. Granted, there are many cases in which another researcher's material is correct. When it is well-supported with multiple forms of documentation plus the good fortune of being clear of research landmines—such as cousins all having the same name and age—following another researcher's lead can possibly be safe, once you've tested the line of reasoning for yourself.
But this is the John Gordon family we're talking about. It's not exactly a Smith scenario, but still a fairly common surname—there are 161,833 people with the Gordon surname, according to the 2010 census, placing its rank as 161 out of all surnames in the United States (incidentally, Smith is still hanging in there at number one).
So should I get all jumping-up-and-down screaming when I find a nifty record for a John Gordon in pre-Revolutionary times? If you said—as I did—"Not so fast," you'd be on the right track for some solid research sensibility. But thanks to my Bright-Shiny Syndrome susceptibility, I couldn't help but look, when I found a tempting article on some Gordons recently.
Oddly enough, my Bright-Shiny path this time snagged my unsuspecting self from a safe haven: the hints at Ancestry.com. I kept running into member postings touting information on obscure, privately-created websites—on links which would not connect—which seemed to imply something I'd really like to know more about: the possibility that our John Gordon served in the Revolutionary War. Our John Gordon could have been a patriot!
Of course, looking up such a name on the Ancestor Search page at the national Daughters of the American Revolution website would not necessarily prove anything. After all, it's a case of that common name. There could be dozens of John Gordons coming to the defense of their home. How could I tell which one was the right one? Or if ours was even included in the listing at all?
There was one handy way to differentiate our John Gordon from all the rest that might have been on a potential list: the name of John's wife. Fortunately, there were many assertions that John Gordon had married a woman by the name of Mary—or Mary Hellen—Duke, and that was exactly the entry I found when I went looking for any John Gordons among the patriot files at D.A.R.
Finding another Revolutionary War patriot among my mother-in-law's ancestors—remember, this is the woman who had thought her grandparents had just "gotten off the boat" from Europe—may sound enticing to those who seek membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, but I found something else to my liking, as well: the possibility of breaking through the John Gordon brick wall to discover the name of his father.
And that leads to another shared document from an obscure website which I would never have found without a mention in an Ancestry.com hint posted by another subscriber. If that article is indeed correct, after years of searching, I now have a tentative name and identity for John Gordon's father.