Some of the factors that make it hard to determine whether an individual in one record is the same individual in another record include:
- common names
- irregular and variant name spellings
- inconsistent ages and birthplaces in genealogical records
- lack of vital records
- county boundary changes
- migration to new areas
- lost or destroyed records
1. Resist the urge to merge.
2. Venture beyond the index.
3. Create a chart or timeline.
A timeline is a chart of events arranged in chronological order. To create a timeline, set up a table or spreadsheet with lots of rows and six columns:
- names and ages of people in the record
- notes and comments
- source(s) of information
4. Map it out.
5. Follow the network.
6. Beware making assumptions.
7. Play devil’s advocate.
Tough cases of ancestor identity verification often come down to two or three possibilities. Some common examples include:
- Which of the three men in the county who are named Thomas Williams is your ancestor?
- Was Robert Evans or Isaac Evans the father of Sarah Evans?
- Do all the records you’ve found belong to the same person, or were there two Nicholas Millers in the same town?
Using Cluster and Collateral Searches to Beat Brick Walls on-demand webinar
Cool Tools for Creating Timelines video class
Brick Wall Busters: Solutions to Real-Life Stumpers on-demand webinar