When Ancestors Share Same Name

Question:  How Can I Tell Which Person I Am Researching When My Ancestors All Have the Same Name?

it is hard to differentiate when ancestors share the same name

This is a hard one!

When you have John Williams {1790-1830}; John Williams {1815-1875}; John J.  Williams {1828-1903} and John R.  Williams {1853-1915} how do you know which one you are researching?

Too often I’ve seen hints where people confused various ancestors.

So,  how can you tell the difference and know which John Williams you have?

  1. Check the dates–which John Williams are alive and old enough to have a record during that time.
    1. For instance…a land record dated for 1840.  You know it is probably John Williams {1815-1875}.  His father is deceased and his son is only 12 years old.
    2. A will date 1831–this is probably the first John Williams
  2. Check to see if spouses or children are listed
  3. Check for witnesses or others mentioned in the document.  Even if it is not children or spouses it could be neighbors, friends or extended family members.  From there check to see if that individual is in your database or check census records for this individual.
  4. Does the record fit?  If you have someone serving in the Civil War.  It is John J. Williams.  His father is too old and his son is too young.
  5. Search to see if any middle names are different to help differentiate
  6. Check to see if the spelling is different; over time a name can change and evolve
  7. Check locations where ancestors lived or are located–maybe you know one lived on Beaver Dam Lake and another lived in Upper Grove Way.  Census records can also provide some clues to what part of the county and ancestor lived.  {Don’t forget to check land records and maps for the time period.}

How have you determined a difference in ancestors with the same name?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.