One Quick Way To Potentially Reduce False Matches

Your ancestor lived in St. Louis, Missouri, from the 1850s through the 1880 census. That is the last year you can locate this person. The name is not overly common and you find a death record for a name pretty close to your name, but the person died in eastern Kentucky in 1902.

What do you do before you assume this person is yours?

One thing is to see if the person who died in eastern Kentucky in 1902 was in that same county in Kentucky in 1900 or even 1880. Try and see if that Kentucky person in 1902 was living there before that same point in time–particularly when your person of interest was known to be in St. Louis.

A researcher “found” my relative’s naturalization in Woodford County, Illinois, in the 1880s. The name was a match and so it was concluded by this person that it was my person. The problem was that my person married in Adams County, Illinois, in the 1850s, purchased property there in the 1860s and was enumerated therein every census until he died in the early 20th century. Travelling the distance to naturalize in Woodford County didn’t make any sense.

Not making sense is not always a reason to conclude something could not happen.

However when census and other records were analyzed for Woodford County, Illinois, there was a guy with that name living there in census before and the census after the Woodford County naturalization. Those were censuses when my person of interest with the same name was living in Adams County, Illinois. It didn’t really take me long to conclude the Woodford County naturalization was for a different person with the same name.

Elimination of potential matches is not always this easy. But a fair proportion of matches of this type can be eliminated from consideration simply by searching in the area where the match was located. That “match” may have been living in the other area while our person of interest was living elsewhere.



2 thoughts on “One Quick Way To Potentially Reduce False Matches

  1. E. Toby Charles says:

    Be aware of the family naming patterns. If a father named James had six sons if could happen there will be six James named in honor of their grandfather living in the same area about the same age. One or two may have left only to return for settlement of an estate or to help their father because of illness. Scotch & Scotch Irish are guilty of these naming patterns. I had to learn this the hard way..Sorting out a certain one takes a lot a lot of records in a lot o places.
    Rule One: Assume Nothing.

    • Nancy McGregor says:

      Mr. Charles, we are Scots or Scots-Irish. I believe scotch is either tape or hard liquor. Your tip was helpful though.

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