Sorting Out Men of the Same Name – Sometimes It’s Really Easy! Really!

Today’s post has several purposes.

I’ve been diligently working on cleaning up my genealogy software, which, for me, includes adding hundreds of Adams extended family lines into RootsMagic.

I compiled a history of descendants decades ago and, although I have added a few families to it, I hadn’t really worked on this project for many years.

So, I’ve worked out a method for filling in the blanks, but only one portion has anything to do with today’s post about sorting out men of the same name.

One of my very collateral ancestors (3rd cousin, 3X removed) is Mary Ann Conroy, born c1846, New Brunswick, Canada and who died after the 1901 Canadian census, probably in York County, New Brunswick, Canada.

Mary Ann is the daughter of Eleanor Matilda Adams, who married John Conroy in 1845. The Adams line from Eleanor extends back through her father, Edward William, grandfather Jonathan and great grandfather, Loyalist John Adams and his wife, Sarah Coley.

I had no information about what happened in her life after she was at home with her parents in 1871.

My starting point for updating family information is the FamilySearch Family Tree. I repeat – it’s a starting point and basically becomes my checklist to prove or disprove the data associated with each person.

Here is what I found for Mary Ann Conroy:

She married Robert Craig on 20 July 1873 in York County, New Brunswick, Canada. Yes, it’s a fact, as I found the marriage record:

Next, I found that her husband, Robert Craig, was consistently about twelve or so years older than Mary Ann, with his birth year being c1833. Furthermore, the FamilySearch family tree showed a first wife for Robert Craig – Elizabeth MacLeod. I found their marriage, record, too – this couple married on 30 April 1858, also in York County. Elizabeth reportedly died c1868.

Here are the two family groups for Robert Craig and each of his wives, found on the FamilySearch family tree:

Robert and Elizabeth are the parents of the following children:

1. Mary, born 1858
2. Aaron, born 1861
3. Mary M., 1862-1952
4. Catherine, born 1863
5. James, born 1865
6. Peter, born 1868

How does this match up with the 1861 and 1871 censuses and the statement that Elizabeth died c1868?

1861 – Robert, 29, Catherine, 29 and children Mary, 2 and a 2 week old unnamed son.

1871 – Robert, 39, no wife, and children Mary, 12, Aaron, 9, Catherine, 7, James, 5, and Peter, 3.

Elizabeth is not in the home, so it is probably safe to say she died sometime after the birth of Peter and before the 1871 census.

The rest of the census information matches the tree EXCEPT
that the online family tree has a second Mary M., who lived 1862-1952, sandwiched in between the births of Aaron and Catherine.

So, there is already one issue to be resolved.

It’s a proven fact that Robert married Mary Ann Conroy on 20 July 1873. What does their family look like in the online tree:

Robert and Mary Ann were purportedly the parents of these children:

1. John Allen, born 1875
2. Archibald, born 1880
3. Ellen, born 1881
4. Daniel Gilbreath, born 1881
5. Margaret Mary, born 1882
6. Annie, born 1883
7. George, born 1885
8. Andrew, born 1886
9. Carson, born 1887
10. Charles Robert, born 1892

That’s a lot of children born in the 1880s and a red flag to me right off the bat.

What do the 1881 and 1891 York county censuses tell us?

Robert, 48, Mary, 35
Mary, 22
Aaron, 19
Katie, 18
Peter, 13
Ellen, 2

Mary, Aaron, Katie and Peter match the children found at home with Robert in 1871. Ellen appears to be the only living child born to Mary Ann (Conroy) Craig.


Robert, 59, Mary 46
Mary, 31
Catherine, 27
Ellen, 10
Annie, 8
Andrew, 5

So, by 1891, Robert and Mary Ann’s children were Ellen, Annie and Andrew.

Looking back at Robert and Mary Ann’s online family tree, over half the children are not found in the census record with these parents – John Allen, Archibald, Daniel Gilbreath, Margaret Mary, George and Carson.

Are there any sources linked to these six mysterious children? Yes. I first looked at Margaret Mary (who I think someone cloned and added to Robert and Elizabeth’s family, adjusting her birth year to fit in the 1860s.) Mary Margaret Craig married Samuel Allaby on 26 December 1894, in Restigouche County, not York County. By the way, Restigouche County sits at the northernmost border of New Brunswick – York doesn’t even come close to bordering it.

Are there clues to be found in Restigouche County?

A number of marriage and death records for this Restigouche Craig family all name the mother as Mary Galbreath.

What do the census records in Restigouche County tell us?

1861 – Robert Craig, 21, so born c1840 and about 7 years younger than Robert Craig in York, is unmarried, at home with his parents, James and Ellen, siblings, and grandfather, in Colborne.

1871 – Robert, aged 30 and Mary, 26, are living next to his parents and adult brothers, still in Colborne.

1881 – We find Robert, 39, and Mary, 36, at home in Colborne with children:

Elizabeth, 10
James Will, 8
John Allen, 5
Robert R., 4
Harriet Lillian, 2
Daniel, 0, few months old

1891 – Robert, 50, Mary, 46

Elizabeth, 19
James, 17
John, 15
Robert, 13
Nelly, 11
Daniel, 9
Mary, 7
George, 5
Carson, 3

I think we found the rightful home for most of the mysterious children plopped into the family of Robert Craig of York County.

Both Roberts married women called Mary in the census and, while they were consistently about 7 years apart in age and didn’t even live in the same county, they were having children in the same time range.

I guess this was enough for someone/some persons to conflate part of the families into one.

Therefore, Robert Craig of York County has a number of children ascribed to him who do not belong.

I believe Mary M. and Margaret Mary, born 1862 and 1882, are the same person with the birth year manipulated and that this girl is actually the daughter of Robert Craig and Mary Galbreath in Restigouche County.

Similarly, John Allen, Daniel, George and Carson are not part of the York County group, but clearly match the children of Robert Craig and Mary Galbreath.

The only anomaly is Archibald, born c1880, on the FamilySearch family tree. Of course, there are no sources attached to him, except for a note that it came from family information. Whether or not little Archibald ever existed is up for debate. It is possible that Mary Ann gave birth to him about 1880 and he died young, but I’ve found no records to support that.

Back to my goals for writing this post.

First, I wanted to clear up the confusion in these two Robert and Mary Craig families. I think I’ve accomplished that!

Second, this is a reminder to carefully check online information yourself. While there are certainly many cases where untangling two or more men of the same name living nearby each other is complicated and time consuming, for these two Robert Craigs, solving the problem was simple and only took me a couple of hours to assemble the evidence and write this post.

Online trees are ONLY CLUES to be proven or disproved!





2 thoughts on “Sorting Out Men of the Same Name – Sometimes It’s Really Easy! Really!”

  1. Great case study of how easily two couples with the same name can be conflated. I have a similar example in my family and I have seen similar results on the FamilySearch Tree (which I’ve fixed).

    Location is an oft-overlooked aspect for new genealogists. Even more confusing, as in the case of my couples with the same names, can be when both live in the same area, so other distinguishing evidence is necessary.

  2. Your methodology is a great way to distinguish between men of same name but different generations. TY so much!

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