One of the biggest problems you can come across when trying to perform an LDS family search is that involving common names. In fact trying to gather information on an ancestor that has an extremely common family name can seem like an impossible task. Thankfully it really doesn’t have to be as difficult as it first appears. Usually when you are performing an LDS family search you would start with immediate family members before starting to work your way back, however when dealing with an ancestor with a common family name you will realize that it becomes much easier to reverse this process. Start your LDS family search by using information you have on their later life first, by finding out all that you can about their friends, family neighbors or even information on people that they conducted business with. You may also find it helpful to determine their occupation, religion, whether they served in the military, whether they owned land or even if they left a will.
As you begin looking at records about someone with the same common name as your ancestor, it would be extremely useful if you knew who their children and spouse were. The names of your ancestors other family members such as spouses, grandparents, children, parents will assist you in determining which of the records belong to the ancestor that you are currently researching. For example the information contained in a will should include the names of some children. If during your research you stumble across a will that you believe may be that of your ancestor and it includes the names of children who you know did not belong to your ancestor then you will know that this particular will did not belong to them and you can continue your research.
Knowing the religion of your ancestor will also help you when it comes to determining whether a person with the same common name is your ancestor or not. Although there were cases of people changing religion this was not as common practice as it is today.
During your research you may come across a number of people with the same name living in a particular county or city. In order to determine if one of these is your ancestor then knowing who their neighbors were could be very useful in narrowing down your search. Census records are a good way of determining who they may have lived near to. Sometimes deeds may also have a record of neighbors listed in the description of the newly purchased property. This type of description on deeds usually recorded the names of the people who owned the property on the adjoining land that was being purchased. This information should be enough for you to determine which person out of the few in that particular county or city is your ancestor.
Other times during your research you may find someone with the same name as your ancestor with records created at the exact same time in 2 different places, this cannot possibly be the same person. In cases like this you will need to determine which of the 2 your ancestor’s records are. The answers that you are looking for in this case may come from the witnesses to those records. Your ancestor’s neighbors may have acted as witnesses, for example they could have witnessed the signing of your ancestor’s will, deeds, or other legal documents.
Working out which documents your ancestor may have signed will also be made easy if you have a copy of their signature. Ideally you should trace down a document that you know that your ancestor signed and then this can be used as a comparison for any future records that you find that may or may not have been signed by your ancestor. Remember you will need an original signed document. Certain records such as deeds or wills often get copied into deed or will books and will not contain the original signatures that you are looking for. In the majority of places the original legal documents such as wills or deeds will be housed in probate files which are kept separate and in the majority of cases these will be held at the relevant county courthouse.
As you can see tracing ancestors with common names can indeed be difficult and at times frustrating but if you take note of the information contained in this article you should soon realize that it is not impossible.