This question is general to all inquiries where a person has differing last names in multiple records. In my particular case, I am researching my 3rd great grandfather Simon Zoller (1840-1902) and I have noticed that his last name differs in many records during his lifetime. I have found records with the first names of Simon and Simeon and the last names of Zoller, Zollar, Zolar, Soler, and Solar in marriage, census, and death records. Since his last name is not consistent, I want to be absolutely sure I have the right person when I attach documents to him in my family tree application.
To complicate matters, I was not previously aware of the name of his first wife. According to 1870 US census, the oldest child in the household was born around 1860 but my 3rd great grandmother Caroline was born around 1848. Due to the unlikelihood of her being a mother at the age of 12, I have concluded that she must have been his second wife and I have been looking for records of his first wife. I found some marriage records for a potential first wife Margaret (but no death record) using the familysearch.org with the last name Solar, but how can I be sure I have the right person? My grandfather thinks it unlikely that my ancestor would be called Solar in any records so I am trying to amass enough data in order to definitively say I have identified his first wife.
This is the data I have been using to tell myself I have the right person and not a person with a similar name:
- Matching or similar first name.
- Matching or similar last name.
- Matching birth year.
- Matching birth state.
- Matching occupation.
- Matching residence (city, county, and/or state).
- Marriage date to first wife fits the timeframe of the birth of the first child.
- Daughter born the same year as marriage to second wife also is named Margaret.
- 1860 census record for Simeon and Margaret Soler live nearby a Phillip Soler, whose birth date and state match brother Phillip Zoller in 1850 census.
How can I be sure I have the right person? What criteria need to be met for a genealogist to conclude that two records are referencing the same person, despite differences in name spelling? What particular data points and how many data points does one need to conclude that there was not a similarly named person living in the area around the same time and that I in fact have the right person?