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William Dunham of Wisconsin in the mid-1800s, who is he?

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As a family historian, how does a researcher separate multiple people with the same name, same location and nearly the same ages? In this “how to” article, the genealogist will learn methods to separate people with the same name.

William Dunham lived in Wisconsin in the mid-1800s. Which William belongs to the family? Is it William that owned a saw mill, William that attended the founding meeting of the Republican Party, or another person as yet unknown? Eight men named William have been identified living in Wisconsin between the years of 1850-1920.

Start with the census – A Heritage Quest search for Wm will provide different results than a search for William. The results for William will include William, William H. and William W.

  • Search each census year starting with the latest year of interest. In this exercise, the year 1920 results show three William’s. The age range is from 52 to 65. They live in three different counties.
  • Separate the men by age.
  • Separate the men by location.
  • Abstract all the census information. This information includes other family members and birth locations.
  • Complete a separate search and abstraction for each census year working backwards. In this example after 1920, complete 1910 then 1900 then 1880. Prior to 1880, the census provides names only and not relationship. If a relationship has been established, the 1870, 1860, and 1850 census offers clues as to location. Any names that have not been established in later census research cannot be assumed as family members.
  • As the census records are clues only, the researcher will want to look for other documents to establish family units. Birth, marriage and death records offer family names and dates especially if a death or divorce and multiple marriages may be suspected.
  • Compare location, family members, ages and birthplace. Remember, some information varies depending on who answers the enumerators’ questions.

The William Dunham families will be an ongoing research project with articles. For more information read William DUNHAM lived in Wisconsin during the mid-1800s, who is MY William?

Contact Selma Blackmon with questions and you family information.

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