Samuel Witter – Confused No More!

March 17th, 2018 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor

Elizabeth Shown Mills Photo by Bob Patrick

TITLE: “Samuel Witter vs. Samuel Witter: Separating Same-Name Soldiers, War of 1812”
SESSION: F311
TIME & DATE: Friday, 04 May 2018, 9:30 am
SPONSOR: Board for Certification of Genealogists

Samuel Witter was a millwright, born in Pennsylvania in the mid-1780s, who died in Illinois…

But then … so was Samuel Witter, another millwright, also born in Pennsylvania in the mid-1780s, whose descendants believe he died in Illinois…

Which of these men—if either—was the War of 1812 soldier Samuel Witter, millwright, born in Pennsylvania in the mid-1780s, who enlisted 4 April 1814 in the 17th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army? Could the soldier also be the War of 1812 “Kentucky militiaman” found in many online trees: a Samuel Witter who supposedly joined on 1 June 1814 and whose descendants believe him to be a Virginia-born farmer?

Every genealogist faces problems of this type: same-name men whose personal details overlap to the point that bumfuzzled descendants claim for each the same set of records—or latch onto the wrong ones and miss the real lives their ancestors led.

This session lays out a blueprint we can use to disambiguate same-name men. Using four benchmarks from BCG’s Genealogy Standards as a guide, Mills will demonstrate the practices that help us correctly assign activities, records, and kinfolk. She will also tackle, head-on, another question hotly debated among modern genealogists: Can we really do “reasonably exhaustive research” solely from online sources, if we cannot travel to access offline archives?

ABOUT: Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, has pioneered problem-solving strategies for genealogical research for decades. She edited the NGS Quarterly for 16 years, has presented at every NGS Conference since 1983, blogged about genealogy for the New York Times, and been a featured genealogist on TV networks across three continents. Her 1000+ publications include the citation guide Evidence Explained, the textbook Professional Genealogy, the historical novel Isle of Canes, and the community history The Forgotten People: Cane River Creoles of Color (rev. ed.) Her latest book project is scheduled to launch during NGS Conference week.

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