Methods to Differentiate Your Ancestor from Others of the Same Name

Genealogists are often surprised at how many people born in the same state and sometimes the same county bear the same name as your ancestor. What is a descendant to do? Learn methods to objectively distinguish your ancestor from others of the same name. Do you have “too many Daves”? See how to evaluate genealogy sources and form proof arguments to establish which “Dave” is yours.

Audience:  Intermediate to Experienced Genealogist

Genealogy Class Type: Genealogy Methods

Class Summary for. . .

Too Many Daves: Methods to Differentiate Your Ancestor from Others of the Same Name

This class teaches methods to objectively distinguish your ancestor from others of the same name. Genealogists use the term “differentiate” for this process. In genealogy, differentiation is critical, to make sure that we are tracing the family you intend to study. To differentiate between many people with the same name, we identify a group of candidates, and then objectively examine documents and sources about those people to determine which sources apply to one person and which apply to different people.

This class also includes tips on how to evaluate sources and form proof arguments to establish which ancestor is yours. Not all sources are equal. We put more emphasis on primary source documents, generated near the time of the event by people who knew what happened, and documents where we have the image of the original document instead of just an index or abstract. We remind genealogists that as documents continue to become available, we learn that some family trees published online or in books contain errors. We encourage genealogists to critically evaluate all sources to ensure that you spend your efforts tracing the family you intend to study.

We encourage every genealogist to carefully examine stories where pieces of the story don’t quite fit and to go back to the documents. Sometimes what doesn’t fit is a source that doesn’t actually apply to that person. Sometimes what doesn’t fit is our pre-conceived notions about how to interpret a particular family story.

Handouts:

This Genealogy Class was Taught at or is Scheduled for:

Questions? Comments? Interested in scheduling a class for your group? email our professional genealogist or leave a comment below.

© Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2012

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