Names are NOT generally unique!

Sure we are all unique individuals.  Even identical twins are unique individuals.  So why would we think someone’s name we are researching is going to be a unique experience?

The best way to illustrate or explain what I mean is by describing an experience dealing with two people on my family tree.  The combination of the two names is probably a unique combination (but maybe not) but what they did with their names is certainly not unique.

Esther Leah Millontzik married Samuel Czidovetsky.  When they came to the United States they changed their surname to Goldberg and they became Esther and Samuel Goldberg.  Someone I do not know had an Esther and Samuel Goldberg in their family tree and decided that their Esther and Samuel were the same as mine.  He sent me an inquiry and asked if he could join my tree so he could see all the rest of the information I had and incorporate my data into his.  By way of proof he sent me his Samuel and Esther’s parents names.

My Samuel’s parents were Harry and Hannah (Chaim and Chana) and Esther’s parents were Harris and Rose (Tzvi Hersh and Ruchel).  The names this other person sent me did not match at all.  I was sure of the names I had – my mother knew Harris and Rose and a cousin knew Chaim and Chana.  Not knew through stories, but knew as in had met and spent time with these people.

My email back to the inquirer said that I didn’t think that his Samuel and Esther Goldberg were a match to mine.  I commented that mine had left Europe under the surname Czidovetsky and changed their name in the US and I also gave him the names of their children.  He responded that I had to be wrong about the surname change and the names of Esther’s and Samuel’s parents AND that I must have their children’s names wrong.

A long conversation ensued at the end of which the person admitted that he was not looking at the same person.

The moral of the story?  When you are trying to match people, look at more data than their names.  Look at dates for birth and death, places they lived, names of their children, reconcile differences in the things you think you know with the new data.  AND, most importantly, don’t be afraid of admitting you are not looking at the right records, and move on.  DO NOT try to force a match by insisting it must be right because the names are.  Any idea just how many Samuel Goldbergs are in the United States?

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