Monday, November 8, 2021

SAME NAMES - CONFUSING COUPLES - Which Robert and Margaret Campbell are mine?

Which Robert and Margaret Campbell are mine?

Main Street, Houston, Renfrewshire, Geograph, Creative Commons Licence

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about navigating the problem created when ancestors' names were recorded incorrectly on records. I illustrated some of the methods I used to solve the tricky name puzzles many of our ancestors left for us to solve. 

Ancestors with common names can also cause a significant amount of confusion and can require the same kind of detective work in the search for which ancestor is yours.
This blog post shows how I addressed the situation of finding more than one couple of the same name, similar age and who live nearby each other, and how I worked through the same name confusion to find evidence to prove which couple belonged on my family tree. 

I have found a number of my ancestors placed incorrectly on other online family trees and they are often there because of 'same name and same place' confusion. When we are searching for an ancestor and we find several couples who are potentially ancestors, with the same names, the importance of finding genealogical evidence becomes a crucial element of our research.

Elizabeth GIBSON, Glasgow, granddaughter of Margaret Campbell. Image belongs to author © 

My Scottish third great grandmother was named on her marriage record to James Gibson as Margaret CAMPBELL. [1]  Both Margaret and Campbell are common names in Scotland and if your Scottish ancestors were anything like mine, they likely followed traditional Scottish naming patterns which ensured that the same names were repeated in families over several generations and family members with the same names born in or around the same place at the same time. My blog post about this very situation, The Tale of Two Williams and the Importance of Genealogical Evidence can be found here. 

Common names can cause the same confusion when searching for ancestors even when people are not related. Confusing! Couples with the same names can be quite the recipe for a genealogical headache.

                                                     Image Pixabay, Creative Commons Licence

Working backwards from my Scottish paternal great grandmother, Elizabeth Gibson (1830 - 1876) through her father James Gibson (1830 - 1876) and his father James Gibson (1796- ), I discovered  my third great grandmother was named Margaret CAMPBELL. [1]  

                                                     Birth of James Gibson, 25 December 1830 [2]

My three times great grandparents, Margaret Campbell and James Gibson married [3] on February 3, 1828 at Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire, after banns were read in the Church of Scotland. Both were stated to be 'of that Parish' meaning that they lived there at the time of their marriage. Prior to the introduction of civil registration for births, deaths and marriages in Scotland on 1 January 1855, it was the duty of Parish ministers and clerks to record births, baptisms, burials and marriages, however these records contain little helpful information, beyond the parish of residence of the couple, the date banns were read and the marriage date and sometimes the groom's occupation.[4] 

Marriage of Margaret Campbell and James Gibson 1828 [5]

When Margaret Campbell and James Gibson booked their names for proclamation of banns on purpose of marriage [5] they were both described as parishioners of Houston and Killellan. 
Being a parishioner does not automatically infer that a person was born in the parish but it is a good place to look for the birth of the bride since often it was the bride's parish in which a marriage took place. Banns were usually read in two parishes if those intending to wed were from different parishes [6].

In this case it seemed reasonable for me to search for a birth for Margaret Campbell in Houston and Killellan, that being the place where she married James Gibson. 


Margaret Campbell is a common name in Scotland and although I found quite a few birth records of females with this name, there was only one Margaret Campbell who was born in Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire. Margaret Campbell was born, along with her twin brother Robert, on the 30th of May 1802 [7] to Robert Campbell and Margaret White in Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire. 

Robert Campbell and Margaret White had married in Houston and Killellan on 25 December 1794.[8] According to Margaret's birth record her father Robert Campbell was a Tailor. [9]

                                            Birth of Margaret and Robert Campbell, 25 December 1794 [10]

Since I found no death record for Margaret Campbell nee White of Houston and Killellan, it seemed a reasonable conclusion that her parents Margaret White and Robert Campbell were my four times great grandparents. 

Looking at the 1841 census in Houston and Killellan [11] I found Robert Campbell aged 76 years, a Tailor living in Old Town, Houston with wife Margaret 70 years and son Robert 35 years, a Shoe Maker. 

                          1841 Census, Houston and Killellan, Robert Campbell and Margaret White [12]

Robert Campbell and Margaret White had the following children all born in Houston and Killellan.  [13]

John 1799
Robert 1802
Margaret 1802
Mary 1804

The 1841 census record in Houston and Killellan informed me that Margaret White was born in Renfrewshire [14] but that Robert was not and I discovered from the 1851 Census that Robert Campbell was born in Callender, Perth. [15]  Since there had been Campbells living in Houston and Killellan from at least the late 17th century it is possible that family connections were the reason Robert Campbell had moved from Callender in Perth to Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire. Family connections for these Campbell families are yet to be explored. 

                                    Callender, Perth to Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire, Google Maps 

I felt confident that I had found my fourth great grandparents Robert Campbell and Margaret White because their daughter was the only Margaret Campbell who was born in Houston and Killellan and married there within the timeframe I was searching. A  problem arose however, for me when I looked at other family trees on Ancestry which had my ancestors Margaret Campbell and James Gibson on them. Almost every other tree named Margaret Campbell's parents as Robert Campbell and Margaret Love. Robert and Margaret Campbell were from Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, around nine miles from Houston and Killellan. 

Same name couples can cause so much confusion! Although I believed it more likely that that Margaret White, who was born in Houston and Killellan, was the person who married Robert Campbell in Houston and Killellan when she was 26 years old, I also know that no research is complete without investigating every clue you find. I set out to find what I could about Margaret Love and Robert Campbell because I needed to understand why other people had reached a different conclusion to the one I had reached. 

                                                 Houston to Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, Google Maps


I discovered banns being read for the marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire on the 4th of February 1792. [16] The couple were both stated to be  'in this parish' meaning that at the that time they both lived in Lochwinnoch, although banns read the same day in Abbey, Renfrewshire stated that Robert Campbell was from Lochwinnoch and Margaret from Abbey, Renfrewshire. [17] 

                                         Marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love, Lochwinnoch [18]

Robert Campbell and Margaret Love had the following children born in Lochwinnoch [19 ]

Mary 1793
James 1794
Robert 1802
Margaret 1806

Robert Campbell and Margaret Love were still living in Lochwinnoch at the time of the 1841 Census. [19] Robert Campbell was a Coal Agent and according to the census record neither he or Margaret (Love) were born in Lochwinnoch. 

                          Robert Campbell and Margaret Love, 1841 Census, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire  [20]

I had found a clear case of same name confusion. Two couples named Robert and Margaret Campbell, living within nine miles of each other both had a daughter named Margaret. One Margaret Campbell was born in 1802 in Houston and Killellan and the other was born in Lochwinnoch nine miles away in 1806. 

My problem was that I needed evidence to show which Margaret Campbell married my third great grandfather James Gibson in Houston and Killellan in 1828. Was she the daughter of Robert Campbell and Margaret White of Houston and Killellan or was she the daughter of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love of Lochwinnoch?  My evidence needed to go beyond the fact that one Margaret Campbell was born and raised in Houston and Killellan so therefore she was the person who married James Gibson there in 1828. 

                         My tree on the right with Margaret White and other trees with Margaret Love.


Looking for clues as to how I could prove that Margaret Campbell, wife of Robert who lived in Houston and Kilellan was Margaret White who was born in Houston to parents John Campbell and Janet Roberston, I revisited the 1841 Census record again to see if the Campbell's neighbours might offer some help. 

Looking at FANS (Friends and Neighbours)  is often the only way to find evidence of a family connection. Too often when we are researching, we  overlook neighbours in our research. As soon as I  looked at  the household living next door to Robert and Margaret Campbell,  I realised I had overlooked a vital piece of evidence. 

                                  1841 Census, Robert and Margaret Campbell, Houston and Killellan [21]

What I knew about Margaret Campbell of Houston and Killellan was the she was born in 1769 [22] to parents John Campbell and Janet Robertson of Houston and Killellan. Margaret's siblings were as follows William (), Janet (1767) and Mary (1771). [23]

When I re-examined the 1841 Census where had found Robert Campbell and Margaret White living in Houston and Killellan, aged in the 70's, I saw that right next door to them lived two women of independent means named Janet White 75 and Mary White aged 69 years.  Both were born in Houston and Killellan and both women were  the  age of Margaret's older sister Janet and younger sister Mary. With the two women were two boys named John Gibson aged 12 years and James aged 10 years. [24]

                                                   Houston and Killellan Church, Wikimedia Commons

Finding the two boys John and James Gibson solved a mystery for me since I had found their father James Gibson living at 41 Ferguslie, Abbey, Renfrewshire aged 45 years employed as a Spirit Dealer and with him was his only daughter Mary aged 7 years but his sons John and James were missing. James Gibson widowed by 1841 and so it made sense that the boys were living elsewhere with family.

Finding the two White sisters Janet and Mary living next door to their married sister Margaret Campbell (nee White) and the Gibson boys, one of whom was my three times great grandfather James, was the crucial piece of evidence I needed to prove that my four times great grandmother was Margaret White from Houston and Killellan and not Margaret Love from Lochwinnoch. 

When I conducted my initial research, my finding had been that Margaret White was my ancestor and that it was she who married Robert Campbell in Houston and Killellan in 1794. The fact that a number of online family trees still have Margaret Love on them incorrectly in her place, demonstrates the necessity for careful investigation when you come across couples with the same names. 

Perhaps Robert Campbell of Lochwinnoch and Robert Campbell of Houston and Killellan, originally from Callender, Perth were related which would mean that Margaret Love belongs somewhere on my family tree but she is not my four times great grandmother or the mother of Margaret Campbell who married James Gibson in 1828 in Houston and Killellan, Renfrewshire.


I am hoping that DNA will determine whether the Campbell family from Lochwinnoch is related to the Campbell family from Houston and Killellan. 


 Marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret White, 25 December 1794, Houston and Killellan,  Scotlands People, Statutory Registers, Marriages
1. Birth of James Gibson, 27 December 1830, Scotlands People, Old Parish registers, Births 559/60 p. 326
2. Ibid. 
3. M
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
7. Births of Margaret White and Robert Campbell, 30 May 1802, Scotlands People, Old Parish registers, Births
8. Marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret White, 25 December 1794, Houston and Killellan,  Scotlands People, Statutory Registers, Marriages
9. Births of Margaret White and Robert Campbell, 30 May 1802, Scotlands People, Old Parish registers, Births 
10. Ibid.
11.1841 Census, Houston and Killellan, Scotlands People 
12. Ibid.
13. Births of Campbell Children, Scotlands People
14. 1841 Census, Houston and Killellan, Scotlands People
15. 1851 Census, Houston and Killellan, Scotlands People
16. Marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewhsire, Scotlands People, Statutory Registers, Marriages, 570.
17. Marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love, Abbey, Renfrewshire, Scotlands People, Statutory Registers, Marriages, 559. 
18. Marriage of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewhsire, Scotlands People, Statutory Registers, Marriages, 570
19.  Births of children of Robert Campbell and Margaret Love, Lochwinnoch, Scotlands People
20. 1841 Census, Lochwinnoch, Scotlands People
21. 1841 Census, Houston and Killellan, Scotlands People
22. 1841 Census, Houston and Killellan, Scotlands People
23.  Births of Children to Robert and Margaret Campbell, Houston and Killellan, Soctlands People
24. 1841 Census, Houston and Killellan, Scotlands People

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

#ANZAncestryTime Twitter Chat "Research Goals"

A Summary of September 28, 2021 Twitter Chat - "Research Goals"

NOTE from all of us at #ANZAncestryTime may we pass on our condolences to our official blogger Sue @tasteach whose mother passed away last week. We are all thinking of you Sue.

This blog post is a summary of the #ANZAncestryTime Twitter chat on 2th September 2021 in which the topic was "Research Goals" We had a lively participation and some excellent suggestions for setting goals so a huge thankyou to everyone who joined in and to hosts for the evening Maggie and Fran.

The following is just some of the interesting discussion we had last night a #ANZAncestryTime. If you would like to join our lively #familyhistory chats drop by on Tuesday evening. We will be updating the time for next week with the introduction of daylight savings in NZ and some states of Australia.

Welcome to this week's #ANZAncestryTime when we will be sharing, learning and chatting about Genealogy Goals. Tonight's support team is @iwikiwichick and @travelgenee. Grab a tea or coffee, join in and enjoy. #FamilyHistory #genealogy #tweetchat

Q1: Do you make use of research goals? Why do you set them or avoid them? Do you write your genealogy goals down?

#ANZAncestryTime A1 Hmmm. I wish I could say I did. I started writing To Do lists at the end of my blog posts but have forgotten to follow them up. Think I might need to create a permanent page on my blog with a To Do List and cross them off as I go.

A1 When writing biographies, research goals are easy, working on the timeline. Otherwise the goal might be to follow a family in the census. Or work out how match fits in DNA #ANZAncestryTime

A1: I mainly write my goal down when I’m trying to figure out something specific. The big picture goals usually are in my head. I used to use a whiteboard and that was helpful.


A1: I set yearly goals in early January and revisit them during the year, checking my progress or adjusting them. I always po09st them on the blog to keep me accountable. #ANZAncestryTime

A1: I do try to set goals! They can vary from a large project such as digging deep into a particular source to small goals like finding an particular ancestor. Not good a setting measurable goals though or reviewing them. #ANZAncestryTime #FamilyHistory #genealogy #tweetchat

#ANZAncestryTime A1 I have not been conciously writing down research goals but usually have some plan when seriously researching #genealogyresearch

A1. Not always - for big projects associated & big brickwalls I do: either pen and paper mud map or digital mindmap to ensure I have covered all the appropriate resources and to avoid rabbit holes and to review if necessary if new information changes the context #ANZAncestryTime

A1 If I am researching a specific problem I make a list of strategies to use but in general I don't set or write down goals. I would like to be more organised #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @ANZAncestryTime

A1: I find writing down research tasks always helps get work done, and it helps avoid going down rabbit holes too! #ANZAncestryTime

A1. Sometimes am more of a "reactive" researcher, but trying to be more focused and "proactive" - setting a question that I want answered, identifying helpful records, and where I can access them. Def. useful when researching across diff archives / period of time #ANZAncestryTime

A1 I set research goals when I research house histories. I make a list of things to do but I am not as organised with my family history. #ANZAncestryTime

A1: Without goals, I'd make little progress in my FH research. #ANZAncestryTime

A1 not really set research goals, but now I have started blogging it has given me more of a goal of concentrating on a one line rather than skip between lines #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @cassmob @tasteach

A1. I find it helpful to use themes for family history - those involved in politics, military, church, farming, shops etc #ANZAncestryTime

#ANZAncestryTime A1 When a new record set becomes available online I set a goal to investigate for all families in the said timeframe or place

#ANZAncestryTime I have been reentering my records and have set up lists and logs so I know what I have done already finding it helpful #genealogyresearch

Replying to @SharnWhite

I also make sure I have my USB and iPad or laptop with me to make copies of what I find if I am at library or archive. Saves copying from a notebook into digital format if done at the library or archive. #ANZAncestryTime

A1. I sometimes use my blog s a form of research report and to identify future research goals. It means I have a record of my thinking and at least have part of the story out there. #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @SharnWhite

A1. I have set up a series of minifolders for each gt gdparent line and I put the papers in those - but today I moved my latest project into a ring binder - discovering my 2 x gt dad's family back to 1623 Massachusetts - so I am doing lots of scribbling as I go #ANZAncestryTime

Sue Wyatt @tasteach

Here is a link to SMART goal setting… #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @SharnWhite

I keep a research plan on hand (usually on laptop) and make notes as I go, what photos I took, what state the records were in, etc. Helps when I go back to review, or want to follow up months or years down the track. #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @SharnWhite

I'm much more methodical when I'm travelling and researching - until I get home! Now where are all those notes? #ANZAncestryTime

A1 If I am going to research in an Archive or library I definitely set myself goals and write them down and tick them off as I accomplish tasks #ANZAncestryTime

Specific - Measurable _ Achievable - Realistic -Time based #ANZAncestryTime @luvviealex

                                                             Image in the Public Domain

Q2 What is your research focus - individuals, brick walls, long-term goals, your FH story etc? Would clearly defined research questions help?

#ANZAncestryTime A2 I tend to focus on individuals although of late I have become much more interested in place as a way of solving brick walls. In fact I feel a one-place study would be a research strategy of sorts. Absolutely clearly defined research questions are essential.

A2: focus varies: DNA match checking; trying to plug those brick wall problems; fill gaps in my families’ stories. Long term: ensure my research is written up and complete two draft books. #ANZAncestryTime

A2: At the moment my research focus is on individuals and writing their stories. I need to get as many family stories as possible published so they are recorded for the future #ANZAncestryTime

#ANZAncestryTime A2 My overall goal is to get everything as accurately sourced as possible from original records #genealogyresearch

A2: To solve specific goals on individuals I do need to define the question in a much clearer way than just, for example - want to find my GGF is not really good enough. #ANZAncestryTime #FamilyHistory #genealogy #tweetchat

Replying to @ANZAncestryTime

I used to teach SMART goal setting to kids at school. #ANZAncestryTime

                                                                  Image in the Public Domain
Replying to @SharnWhite

I keep a research plan on hand (usually on laptop) and make notes as I go, what photos I took, what state the records were in, etc. Helps when I go back to review, or want to follow up months or years down the track. #ANZAncestryTime

A2 When I did intro to family history with Dianne Snowden at UTAS, creating a specific research goal was one of the first things she taught. Made your research more focussed. #ANZAncestryTime

Does it count that I have a spreadsheet for a research checklist on my blog? One way to ensure I haven't missed an obvious record source. #ANZAncestryTime

And here's the link - which I wasn't organised enough to include ;)… #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @ANZAncestryTime

A2 I really enjoy researching individuals and adding to their stories #ANZAncestryTime

A2 I would say that this year my main goal has been to go back further on each line as new records have become available. And revisit past research. #ANZAncestryTime

                                                                                                 Image Wikimedia

#ANZAncestryTime A2.2 I have set up a spreadsheet I adapted from something I found online to keep track of my individuals on Family Search and WikiTree by their ID

Replying to @Jennifer_Jones0

Faffing around describes much of my “methodology” 😂 not very S.M.A.R.T on my part #ANZAncestryTime

Seems we may all have a guilty Faffing gene ;) #ANZAncestryTime

A2 I have used OPS for our local museum - helps with planning exhibitions and also provides a framework to guide research and exhibition preparation #ANZAncestryTime

Q3 What skill, techniques or tools do you use to structure and log your research thus keeping focused and achieving your goal?

A2: My research focus used to be more of a ‘Whac-A-Mole’ approach trying to find out how all my DNA matches connect. Recently I’m focussed on individuals, namely my 2nd and 3rd-Great grand mothers & their families. Starting with a clear goal helps! #ANZAncestryTime #genealogy

A3 spreadsheet to help set timeline and which records I have found individual in #ANZAncestryTime

A3: My goals are on a board in view of the computer. I don't use research logs as I don't like them. I just record all information found & sources in the FH program in the notes for the person. #ANZAncestryTime

A3: I use spread sheets to tick off things I am looking for when doing research. However I think I need to vastly improve how I define my goals, set ways to measure them and then check that I do achieve them. #ANZAncestryTime #FamilyHistory #Genealogy

A3: I find blogging helpful to document past research and potential future pathways. Spreadsheets can be helpful to assist when there’s a lot of data to look at. #ANZAncestryTime

A3 I try to work on one thing at a time which is where writing a blog post keeps me focused. Include sources as I write the post or include the source if on an Ancestry tree as a web source #ANZAncestryTime

                                                                Image Creative Commons

A3: I find blogging helpful to document past research and potential future pathways. Spreadsheets can be helpful to assist when there’s a lot of data to look at. #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @luvviealex

I often use mind maps to try to solve a problem Alex. My blogs usually show the process of my research as well as telling a story #ANZAncestryTime

#ANZAncestryTime A3 Using Family Historian V7 Research Notes alongside the spreadsheet I set up

A3. I use LibreOffice to write up research plan, file in surname folder on laptop. Bigger projects I use Scrivener to collate research notes, workplans, citations, images, &c. Wondering if I should use a log in my FH software, but easier to find on computer. #ANZAncestryTime

Hilary Gadsby @Genemeet

#ANZAncestryTime A3.1 I am trying to use a standard numbering system so I also have a card index for recording basics where I will add the source record number still setting it up currently

Replying to @Genemeet

I sometimes introduce numbers for indexing however then will change the methodology on how I allocate the numbering system. #ANZAncestryTime

Q4 How do we avoid bright shiny objects (BSO's) when researching? Does education, such as courses & conferences make up part of your goal development?

A4 I never try to avoid bright shiny objects when researching. often they become my best discoveries. I am happy to be distracted and pop down a rabbit hole. Often where I have the most fun! #ANZAncestryTime

#ANZAncestryTime A4 How indeed??? I think I have mentioned the Pomodoro method. So I do set up a schedule every day broken into half hour blocks to try and keep myself on track with my To Do list. There's always so much to do!

A4 Always time for BSOs. But don't let them take over your research time.. Watching videos especially DNA help with focusing on specific skills for your research #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @ANZAncestryTime

A4 Learning plays a big role in making us better researchers, avoiding BSO can be tricky though, I find that being involved in groups like our local Study Buddies really helps me improve my skills #ANZAncestryTime

A4: I should say I don't always avoid BSO's. I'm really good at going off track. But that's what it's all about. Isn't it? #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @ANZAncestryTime

A4 #ANZAncestryTime Yes, I have a goal to watch webinars/take courses about DNA research. I have DNA results, but if i'm going to discover who Dad's grandfather is, I need to learn more. #GeneticGenealogy

#ANZAncestryTime A4 Avoiding BSOs is almost impossible with all the new records coming online I know I need more focus

Some excellent suggestions for goal setting here!

Replying to @Genemeet

A4 DIIGO bookmarking tool is what I have been using for a decade or more - before that Delicious

I use Pocket to bookmark things to read later. Not always good with search results though

Replying to @ANZAncestryTime

A3 #ANZAncestryTime I'm using Scrivener to contain all my writeups (blog posts and THE BOOK). I'm using Evernote to take notes on research and learning. Has to be searchable. I'm using tags more & more in Evernote.

In terms of our research goals, so much depends on what we want from our family history. Is it to learn the stories, find their home place, go back as far in time as possible? That will determine what strategies and goals we set. #ANZAncestryTime

Replying to @tasteach

Every single week I come away from #ANZAncestryTime with new goals and ideas Sue. It has been a wonderful learning experience and fun connecting with everyone #ANZAncestryTime