Resolving A Question of Identity in NGSQ

Successful research involves identifying a specific person of interest and developing a focused research question about that person. Genealogical research questions are usually centered on problems of identity, relationship, or circumstance. Most of the case studies published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) resolve questions of relationship—for example, identifying the parents of a specific individual. Several NGSQ case studies have also delved into questions of circumstance, such as why an immigrant wound up in a certain geographic location.

In the March 2015 issue of NGSQ, Jean Atkinson Andrews, CG, posed a research question of identity with her case study, “Indirect Evidence for the Identity of Richard Andrews (1748-1824) of Stark County, Ohio.” Her research subject, Richard Andrews, was living in Stark County by 1811 and died there in 1824. Richard could be linked to several sons through Stark County records, and a county history indicates he had origins in Hagerstown (Washington County), Maryland. However, his specific identity in Maryland was not known.

The author faced numerous research obstacles, such as the deaths of Richard and four of his sons before the 1850 census, and the family’s limited church and military involvement. Despite this, she was able to use indirect evidence to support the Hagerstown claim by studying a web of individuals who can be connected to each other in Ohio and Maryland.

Another Stark County man by the name of William Andrews—or sometimes William Anderson—left a small footprint in local records during his two years in the area. None of these records connect him directly to Richard Andrews, and the two men never lived in Ohio at the same time. However, William’s estate file links both him and his wife Elizabeth back to Washington County, Maryland.

William’s children can be connected to a known son of Richard Andrews, also named Richard Andrews. The younger Richard’s estate was distributed among his living siblings, as well as several nieces and nephews, including children of William Andrews. This evidence links William to his brother Richard, and to their father, the elder Richard.

William’s connections to Richard and to Washington County, Maryland, provided the author with indirect evidence connecting Richard to that area. Several known associates from Stark County can also be traced back to Washington County, adding to the argument. Although the author’s argument is strong, she also brings in evidence to rule out several other men named Richard Andrews who were discovered in Maryland.

Andrews resolved her question of identity by connecting Richard Andrews of Ohio to a specific individual in Washington County, Maryland. She made this connection by extending her research beyond Richard Andrews, and exploring possible associates, studying same-name people, and correlating evidence. Although it was initially believed that Richard was from Maryland, his identity there can now be proven using the body of indirect evidence presented in the case study.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *