Using Associates and Timelines to Prove Identity

When records in several places reveal persons of the same name, how can one determine whether those records were created by one individual or several?[1]

It’s one of the most common problems we face as genealogists. The solution is generally found not by a single, magical record, but by thoughtful, methodical research and analysis. In 1995, authors Marsha Hoffman Rising and Gale Williams Bamman illustrated this fact by presenting the case of Samuel M. Scroggins of Missouri and Tennessee.[2] Scroggins was one of the more elusive subjects of a broader, long-term study: the Ozarks Migration Patterns Project.

That project’s goal was to identify the geographic origins of the first one thousand purchasers of public land from the federal land office at Springfield, Greene County, Missouri (1 June 1835–5 March 1839). Its purpose was to test the generally accepted hypothesis that most settlers of any frontier community shared the same geographic origins as their neighbors and associates. (Spoiler alert: they do.) Ultimately, the study resulted in Rising’s landmark 2005 work, Opening the Ozarks: First Families in Southwest Missouri.[3]

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