What exactly does this mean? You cannot always take things at face value and must thoroughly look at all aspects of what you have found. Also, you must not stop just because you think you have found your answer. I was researching a Robert Watson and I had fairly convincing evidence his father was Ambrose Watson.
I found where an Ambrose Watson wrote his will in 1861 and died later that year. In his will he nominates his son, Ambrose M. Watson, to be his executor and names his wife, Jane, and children; W. Thomas, John David, Jesse, and Luiza. [i] However, these are not all of his children. The younger Ambrose dies without a wife or issue (biological offspring) two years later in the Civil War. If we stopped here we would determine him to be the wrong father of Robert but always look at every piece of paper or document in an estate. After the death of the younger Ambrose, the remaining children (led by Robert), all of whom had attained the age of majority, sued their deceased brother’s estate. This forced the elder’s estate back into court, added the younger Ambrose’s property into the pool, and allowed the court to decide a fair division. [ii] By researching every part of that estate, we get the names of all children of the elder Ambrose by both his first and second wives.
If you look at the 1860 Census and find Ambrose, you will see children named who are not included in the above estate. That is because this Ambrose is the nephew of the above elder Ambrose. We must search for ALL people with the same or similar names to ensure we are accurately analyzing our findings and coming to a solid conclusion. The natural reaction is to assume that every reference to a person with your ancestor’s name must be referencing your ancestor. But it also means you must annotate all others with the same or similar names and show why the one you selected is correct.
This also means, only stating things as fact if they are based on solid evidence and not using unsourced evidence, authored work, or arbitrarily using other people’s research results. As your school teacher used to say, Do Your Own Work. You may find where someone did the research for entry to a lineage society such as Daughters (or Sons) of the American Revolution and that is not proof. Thank them for their effort, take their work, and revalidate with skepticism. Make sure that for every name being researched there are not others with the same name without identifying them and explaining why you are confident in that person.
I’ll explain with an example from my own family. In Pierce County, Georgia’s Tax Digest for 1864, looking at the Thomas surname, there are two Jonathans, four James, and two Banners. [iii] Then if I were to look at the 1860 and 1870 U. S. Census records, there are more. How do I prove which Banner is mine? I would use the other Banner who was listed as “Banner, Sr” to be the uncle of “Banner, Jr” by the fact that the elder Banner was in a different Militia District and the Uncle is administering the estate, on two sons who died in the Civil War, and by virtue of being the estate administrator responsible for the taxes.
About the same time, there are two Thomas cousins with the same name and again, one is older and was the tax collector in Ware County before Pierce County was created from portions of Ware before the Civil War. After the Civil War, the family later moved just north to Appling County and the younger was the tax collector. During the Civil War, they both had Pierce County addresses and both served in the Civil War but with different Regiments. One was elected tax collector of Pierce County and was discharged from the Army to serve the term. But which? Both descendants claim it was their ancestor and until I can prove once and for all which, I will not make that claim due to unresolved conflict.
[i] Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Will Book E, Pages 127-128, Will of Ambrose Watson, 28 August 1861, Probate Court, Spartanburg County courthouse, Spartanburg, South Carolina, image, FamilySearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org/Will_A_Watson_1861: accessed 6 April 2020).
[ii] Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Probate Court, Real Estate Book 1853 – 1881, page 439, Spartanburg County courthouse, Spartanburg, South Carolina, image, FamilySearch.org (https://www.familysearch.org/Watson_Real_estate_Bk: accessed 27 April 2020).
[iii] Pierce County, Georgia, Tax Digest for 1864, microfilm, Georgia State Archives, Morrow, Georgia, multiple pages.