Frankly, it comes down to this: with some exception, most of the printed discussion about the first few generations of Daytons in America is not useful. Much of what is found rests on repetition of century-old legend and presumptions created and sustained to emphasize someone’s desired image of our family. One of our reviewers observed, “a lot of it has always seemed really inflated to me.”
My brother Jim began researching our family history in the 1970’s, and continued until his passing in December 2022. What he was doing began to interest me more than thirty years ago. But it doesn’t take that long to conclude that a considerable percentage of what has been written in the last hundred years is innuendo or fiction. As one Long Island historian told me in 2010, “A Dayton history is long overdue.”
When Jim was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s in 2010, we agreed that what he had learned should be gathered and published so others could benefit from his work. Our purpose was to encourage research and informed discussion of early Daytons in America–not to disparage or deny them, but rather to understand, appreciate and honor them as real people. We are excited and feel obligated to share what we had found, combining the discoveries with our collection of records and resources into a single resource that might generate interest and advance the effort.
We’re regular guys. I don’t pretend to be an academic, but my brother and I loved history and heritage and enjoyed seeking truth where it can be discerned. Still, with due humility, we thought it was safe to say that ours is the best compilation of early Dayton history on Long Island only because we had no known competition at the time. That was precisely our purpose—to begin to fill the void and to advance discussion and research past its current state.
Judging from many of the emails we’ve received, readers of our book are very intelligent and thoughtful. Communication with these people, many of whom are extended family previously unknown to us, gives us confidence that interested and capable researchers are out there.