Casefile Clues

28 October 2012

How Close Is Close?

It's common sense when the name is common: make certain you really have the same person.

It is more difficult when the name is less common and certain details match, but others do not.

I've researched Ira William Sargent for years. Ira often used simply Ira Sargent in most records. Based upon extant materials, he was born about 1843 in Ontario and lived in the State of Iowa from the early 1850s until approximately the mid-1870s. His family was apparently from New England, but had spent some time in Canada before settling in Iowa.

There's another Ira Sargent in Iowa during the same time period. This Ira was actually named Ira Horton Sargent and he was born in 1845 in Nova Scotia. Ira Horton died in 1935 in Iowa. His family too had New England origins.

Ira Sargent is not the most common name. It is easy to see how these two men can be confused. After all, they both have the same first and last name, were both born about the same time in the same country (albeit different provinces). They were even of the same ethnic background (and may be DISTANTLY related).  However, searching through census and other records, it becomes clear they are two distinct men.

I'll be honest. Early in my research, I wondered if the Ira Horton had some relationship to my Ira Sargent. However, when I realized that Ira H remained in Iowa after 1880 and my Ira was in Illinois after 1880, I knew there were two different people.

Just because the names aren't all that common doesn't mean the person is the same.