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15 March 2015

Are They the Same Person?

It's hard to write a "quick tip" or set of rules for making certain that two records refer to the same person. There are many variables to consider when deciding that two people in different records are the same person. That said, here are some things to think about when trying to determine if two records actually refer to the same person:

  • are the names reasonably similar?
  • are the ages consistent?
  • is the occupation and lifestyle consistent?
  • are you not violating the laws of physics or biology?
  • are the locations reasonably consistent?
Think before you conclude that two people in different sources are the same person. Don't just assume that they are.


  1. Recently researching for a friend, I had a name, date & place: Rufus Sellars/Sellers, Texas, and an approximate birthdate.Who knew there would be two of them, same farming family, same names and same age, just 20 miles apart? I had to follow both until it became clear who was the "right" Rufus. And I was a lucky to find a clue that led me to a good (not perfect) conclusion. "William Smith", anyone?

  2. You'll find many folks with similar names within an extended family as well as other unrelated folks with the same names in the same area. It becomes difficult to determine who is who.
    For instance, my ancestor Albert Gallatin Kelly and another man named Abner Green Kelly settled in the same county. Their children, etc. often had the same or similar names and initials. I knew the migration trail and dates for Albert's family -- NC > SC > GA> TN> AL> MS. Using dates and places of birth was how I determined which individuals were my family.