Distance can help distinguish between individuals with the same name & age

When you have a bunch of people with the same name living in the same state and you can’t figure out which records belong to which person, find all the records, associate them with people based on location, and then consider the reality of distance for the period.

Consider colonial Philadelphia and Manhattan: two major cities about 90 miles apart. Amtrak’s Acela train can make that trip in 90 minutes, a car can do it in two hours. But in colonial times, a horse was the more likely mode of intercity travel.

Now a horse walks at around four or five miles an hour, making the journey take about twenty hours if you canter now and again.

Ninety miles was a huge deal. In reality, before the automobile, your ancestors’ family, friends, associates and neighbors were probably all within a two-hour radius—six miles on foot, ten on horse. If you see records for what appears to be the same person in towns twenty or thirty miles apart at about the same time prior to 1850 or 1860, you can bet they are actually two different people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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