Flawed Huggins (Ireland) family trees

In order to assist other Irish Huggins family history researchers, this page describes the kinds of significant errors and unsubstantiated claims that have been used to build some Irish Huggins family trees. 

These inaccuracies take one or more of the following forms:

  1. Not citing sources:
    Readers have a right to expect to see fully cited sources, both to assess the validity of the resulting family tree, and to corroborate those sources before using any of that research in their own family trees.
     Most of the Irish Huggins family trees online show either no sources or just one, uncorroborated source for their earliest ancestor in Ireland.
     Most of these trees fail to cite a document which proves the relationship of the emigrant ancestor to the supposed ancestor in Ireland.

  2. Relying on one piece of data to claim an ancestor:
    Some family historians have used the 1766 Religious Census Returns to claim "John Huggins, Presbyterian, of Aghalow and Carnteel, county Tyrone" as their ancestor. It appears that Ancestry™ has added this database to its Irish collection, and the temptation to click-and-add this name within Ancestry's family tree builder has proven too much to resist. It is important to realize that not all of these returns have survived. Because this data set consists of fragments of the original, it is not a complete census of either the population or the heads of household.
    While your ancestor's name may have been John Huggins—and a Presbyterian who lived in Ireland in 1766—this limited piece of information, alone, is simply insufficient to prove a family connection.

  3. Relying on proximity to claim an ancestor:
    This claim is based on thinking, "My John Huggins left Ireland from Belfast (or Londonderry), there was a John Huggins in county Tyrone, so he must be my ancestor." However, there were also Huggins families with men named John Huggins, in counties Antrim, Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Fermanagh, Longford, Monaghan, and Westmeath.
     It makes no sense simply to pick any old John Huggins as your ancestor, whether from Tyrone or another county, just because he was living within walking or carriage distance of Belfast or another place of embarkation. This is simply an inadequate research proof, and to select your ancestor on this basis is a sloppy and lazy approach.

  4. Relying on someone else's family tree:
    Many of these trees appear to be carbon copies of someone else's original. Most, if not all, of these trees have been published online without source citations, while making unsupported leaps in genealogical logic.
     Merely citing someone else's tree is hardly an adequate proof. What if that person's work is full of gaps and mistakes or, worse, assumptions and misrepresentations portrayed as facts?

  5. Making family connections without evidence:
    On the 9th March 1653, James Huggins and Jane McLealand,⭐︎ of Ard-kene, parish of Donagheady, county Tyrone, were married at St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry (parish of Templemore).
     Some family historians have drawn a straight line from their John Huggins (born c.1690 and emigrated from Belfast to North Carolina in the early 1700s) to James Huggins and Jane McLealand—without any proof of such a family connection. ⭐︎ Some Irish Huggins researchers have taken the liberty of altering the spelling to Janet McClelland.

  6. Converting a marriage record into a birth event:
    Some family historians have converted the marriage record, mentioned in (5) above, into a birth event for James Huggins. This appears to be an attempt to compress the time lapsed between James and Jane's generation and that of John Huggins b.1690—hoping, it would seem, to "prove" that these marriage celebrants were the parents of their John Huggins who left Belfast in the early 1700s. In 2003, I reviewed the marriage entry described in (5), above, at the General Register Office in Belfast, and it is, indeed, a marriage record.
     In addition, two online sources provide the correct information about this marriage, including Ancestry™ and Family Search™. There is no excuse for mispresenting this record, and for building a family tree based on such genealogical sleight of hand.
     Jane Huggins née McLealand was probably beyond child bearing age when John Huggins (the emigrant mentioned above) was born in about 1690. If Jane were only sixteen-years-old when she was married in 1653, she would have been at least fifty-three years old in 1690.

  7. Fictionalizing where convenient: Where the marriage was converted to a birth event, some family historians have taken the added, creative step of inserting the year 1675 as the date of marriage—unsourced, of course.

  8. Claiming direct lineage from O Hagan, the Gaelic chieftains of Tullyhogue, county Tyrone: There are several trees online that show James Huggins (who married Jane McLealand in 1653) was the son of Crandall O Hagen (1620-1660) and Shirlie O Donally. One tree pushes this line back eleven more generations to Teige Hogan (b.1150)! ... and, of course, not a single source is cited.
     Several firm pieces of substantive and consistent research evidence are required to prove: first, that Crandall O Hagen was the father of James Huggins m.1653; second, that Crandall O Hagen was the grandfather of John Huggins b.1690; and third, that James Huggins m.1653 was the father of John Huggins b.1690. In the absence of such evidence, the suggested lineage is a bogus attempt to attach a family tree to one of the great ancient septs of Ulster. As it stands, the claim is groundless.

  9. Failing to detect an error in logic: One family tree holds that James Huggins was born in 1653, Jane McLealand in 1658, yet they still managed to get married in 1653. Words fail.

Dozens of Irish Huggins family trees, containing any or all of these errors, have been uploaded to the internet.

  1. The result of bad genealogical research is speculative family fiction, or a family faery tale.
  2. It is unethical to hold out such fiction as a properly researched genealogy.
  3. It is grossly unfair to other people who would, in turn, rely on a family tree that has been built on such fiction.
  4. At the same time, no one should simply pile someone else's research onto his or her own family tree without first having been satisfied that the data were compiled in accordance with rigorous research standards, and second, without corroborating the first researcher's sources. People who copy speculative family fiction in this manner are as guilty of perpetuating the invented narrative as the person who made it up in the first place.
  5. If it isn't properly sourced, and corroborated, such a family tree can only be viewed as contrived and fabricated.
  • Remove the unsourced, uncorroborated, and fictionalized pieces from your family tree.
  • If you have copied someone else's research and not verified it, say so. Provide an introduction to your work, and attach an explanation to each individual from the borrowed family tree with a statement to this effect.
  • Take a course in genealogical research methods. Then use them. Ancestry and Family Search offer many useful tutorials online, at no cost.
  • Remember that the Huggins surname occurred not only in county Tyrone, but also in counties Antrim, Cavan, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Fermanagh, Longford, Monaghan, and Westmeath.

During the past fifteen years, I have researched the county Tyrone Huggins family in considerable depth, primarily from source documents at the PRONI in Belfast (though there is still research pending). Writing and uploading the results of this research to the Arborealis web site is a work-in-progress. Throughout this study, sources are always cited, and where necessary, indications given where doubt exists and further corroboration is required.

The line of men named John Huggins who resided in Glenarb townland has been traced through documents held by the Registry of Deeds, as follows:

  1. John Huggins, cited in 1718 (VM), died c.1741;
  2. his eldest son, John Huggins, died in 1756;
  3. his eldest son, John Huggins, died in 1795; and,
  4. his eldest son, John Huggins, cited in 1819 (died in 1849?).

The earliest recorded mention, in 1718, was found in the Vestry Minutes for St. John's church in the parish of Aghaloo, county Tyrone. The other dates cited in the list above were found in deeds. The first three John Huggins lived at Glenarb, county Tyrone and died in Ireland. The last reliable mention found for the fourth John Huggins, who lived at Dungannon, is dated 1819. This results in an unbroken sequence of four men named John Huggins, proven to have been resident in the county of Tyrone between 1718–1819, a period of 101 years.

To date, the 1653 marriage of James Huggins and Jane McLealand is the earliest found in the Irish records. However, this does not mean it was the only Huggins marriage that took place in Ireland during the 17th and 18th centuries! The records of those other marriages simply have not survived. There is a very high probability that your Huggins ancestors were a different couple altogether, whose marriage was in one of those lost records. Moreover, there is a better-than-even chance that the marriage of your ancestors was never recorded.

Most compellingly, no evidence has been found in the Irish records that even remotely suggests that John Huggins b.1690 (the emigrant to North Carolina) was the son of James Huggins and Jane McLealand. I have looked for this evidence at the record offices in Ireland, while also searching for similar records for our county Tyrone line, and such records have not been found. No trace has been found, either, of where James Huggins and Jane McLealand lived out the remainder of their lives. Since no evidence has been discovered of any linkage between any 17th, 18th, or 19th century Huggins individual and James Huggins & Jane McLealand, no one can claim this couple as his or her Irish Huggins ancestors.

  1. No evidence has been found to prove that Crandall O Hagan (b.1620) was the father of James Huggins m.1653.
  2. No evidence has been found to prove that James Huggins m.1653 was the father of John Huggins b.1690 (emigrant to N. Carolina) or any other Huggins individual.

Unless and until firm research proofs are discovered (and none have been found to date), and studied for authenticity and consistency, no Irish Huggins family historian can claim the O Hagans of Tullyhogue as his or her penultimate Irish Huggins ancestors.

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This page was published on the 1st December 2015, and edited subsequently on the 3rd December 2015 (1. approximate year of death of the first John Huggins from the index entry in Ireland Diocesan and Prerogative Wills & Administrations indexes 1595-1858; and 2. links to biographical sketches); on the 4th December 2015 (for a link to the biographical sketch for John Huggins d.1756); and on the 18th June 2016 (moved a paragraph; corrected a syntax error).

© Alison Kilpatrick, 2015. All rights reserved.
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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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