A Marriage-Oriented Research Strategy that works every time. It will separate out for you families or persons by exactly the same name. Multiple people combined into the same person or family is the most common genealogy problem–in the past and today.
Extract onto family group worksheets, everyone with your surname of interest. Get them all out of the records at the county level, where they can be compared for fit and match. You can do this manually on paper charts or digitally on charts included in your genealogy software. Major rule: ONE–one family per chart, one source per chart.
- Search the marriages first. Start tentative family units by extracting each marriage on a family group worksheet–each marriage on its own family group. Sort by census year so each married couple can be located in the next census after the marriage and followed each census year. Watch for names of men who marry the daughters.
- Search census records second. Extract all the entries for your family surname from the census records–census decade by census decade–So you add to and build the family units as you go. Extract all the men who marry the daughters
- Interim Analysis–identify the re-marriages, especially for the women. The average marriage before 1800 lasted an average of 7 years before it was broken by the death of one of the parties. Which families appear to move away? Which ones stay in that locality? Look for “Gretna Green” marriages—where the couple runs away to be married or chooses a different place for their marriage. If they are married in a county without too much record loss, additional evidence can usually be found. Spot middle names which are surnames. Identify unusual given names, often repeated in each generation–Permelia, America, Cinnamon, Trauma, and so on. Watch for given names that are repeated in each family unit or each generation. Watch for other families who marry into your family groups: And track the evidence for the men who marry the daughters..
- Set aside family units which clearly don’t fit, for later consideration.
- Plan follow-up searches–in the marriage records for those re-marriages you spot. In the probate records–if the head of house is elderly, look for a will, inventory, or estate settlement. If the head of house is a farmer, look at the deeds–what lands did he own or farm? Where are the lands located? How did he acquire his lands? If there are young males in the household, search the tax rolls. If there are males age 16-18 years old in 1820–check the militia lists. And so on. You don’t have to wait until you have searched all the county records to do these searches. Do them as you discover the evidence.
- If you are working in a burned county—bypass the missing records by using records preserved at other levels of jurisdiction.
PS Break your losing streak!