Real genealogical research rarely resembles the pure idea of starting with an individual and working backwards one generation at a time. On occasion, you may jump to the side (say, to a sibling), or even two steps back (to possible grandparents) before filling in the generations you need.
Today, I ran into a case on Facebook where someone was looking for a Benjamin Franklin Cummings. The given information was that his son was born in Walnut Shade in Taney County, Missouri, and that Benjamin was born in approximately 1879 in Missouri.
Could we find the parents of Benjamin Franklin Cummings?
A search of Find A Grave quickly located a Benjamin Franklin Cummings buried in Walnut Shade, with a tombstone photo indicating a birth of May 28, 1878. The burial was in the "Cummings Cemetery".
Immediately I was struck with wondering who else was buried in that same cemetery. His parents, possibly? Find A Grave had 6 burials there, and two others were Captain Vincent Monroe Cummings (born 1826) and Henrietta Mooney Cummings (born 1827).
At first, without much thought, I jumped to the idea that they were the parents of Benjamin F. Cummings. But I suddenly realized that Henrietta was more than 50 years older than Benjamin, and that Vincent and Henrietta were actually better candidates for being Benjamin's paternal grandparents. If so, I had the grandparents, but not the intervening generation.
Given that Benjamin was listed as being born in 1878, I expected to find him in the 1880 census, hopefully with his parents. And soon I found a Benj. F. Cummings in Stone County, Missouri, age 2. A look at Missouri maps let me know that Stone County was adjacent to Taney County.
And the Stone County 2-year-old had a 5-month-old sister named Heneritt. Not a surprising name if her paternal grandmother was named Henrietta.
The parents of Benj. F. and Heneritt were 28-year-old Jas. and his wife Elija. Now all I needed to do was to look in the 1870 Missouri census to find an 18-year-old James Cummings in the home of Vincent and Henrietta Cummings. And there in 1870 Taney County were Vincent and Henrietta Cummins, with a number of children, including 18-year-old James. Another child of Vincent and Henrietta was 15-year-old Ruben, and in the 1880 census, 26-year-old Ruben Cummings and his wife were living next door to James and Elija.
A good example, I think, of how you may find the grandparents first, which then helps you find the parents.