- Sounds matter more than spelling. Consider a name as potentially being a match to your person of interest if the name sounds the name, even if the spelling is different.
- Ages should be reasonably consistent. If the document gives an age it should be relatively consistent with the known age for the person. Often we do not know who provided the age in the record and it’s also possible that the age you have for a person is incorrect, particularly if you know little about the person of interest.
- Does it fit the chronology for the person of interest? People are not buying land or paying taxes (usually) before they reach the age of majority. Eighty-year old women are not having children. Sixty-five year old men are not usually signing up for active military service.
- Does it fit the lifestyle of the person of interest? Does the new document indicate the person attended a denomination significantly different from what is suggested in other records? Does the new document suggest a significant change in financial status? Is the residence of the person of interest consistent with what is suggested by the new document? Does the person’s religious beliefs or church membership suggest they would not actively serve in the military on a volunteer basis? Is the occupation listed consisted with the known person.
- Place of birth should be reasonably consistent. Records on the known person may give inconsistent places of birth, but these hopefully are either in close geographic proximity or tied to other events in their life (eg. the family of origin moved and places of birth as given include these different places). If all information on the known ancestor suggests they were born in Kentucky or Virginia, a record you think is on them that indicates they were born in New Hampshire would be suspect.
- Any other item that looks “off.” This last piece of advice summarizes the first five points and is intended to cover anything we overlooked. If the new record suggests something significantly different from what’s known about the known ancestor, there’s a good chance you have the wrong person in that new record.
The less you know about a person of interest, the more difficult it can be to make these judgement calls about whether you have the same person in a record or not. In those cases, more research is warranted before determining if it’s the same person.
Keep track of the things you have eliminated as being for your person of interest, especially if that determination took you some time. Don’t just track what you concluded was not for your person of interest–briefly include your reason as to why that conclusion was reached and the information eliminated. That will make it easier if you realize what you “knew” about the person of interest was incorrect and a review of previous research is necessary.