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This page is about the genealogical error known as conflation. It is to be
avoided because it leads the genealogist down false paths.
Conflation is the merging of identities of two or more individuals, concepts, or places
sharing some characteristics of one another — into a single identity. The
differences become lost.
Here, we focus on confusing two individuals
with being only one.
In the author's own research two separate and unrelated men were conflated
into one. They shared only a surname, county of residence and overlapping
- Abraham Taylor lived on Ayre's Addition in Gunpowder Hundred of
Baltimore County from 1694 until his death in 1719. He was appointed to the
vestry of St. John's Parish in 1698. His will named his wife and children
Abraham left an extensive record of real estate transactions, all in
Gunpowder Hundred from 1694 until 1718
- Wife Jane
- Son John
- Son Abraham
- Daughter Lettice
- Lawrence Taylor lived on Good Speed Plantation in Sesputia Hundred of
Baltimore County from 1692 until his death in 1699. He was appointed to the
vestry of St. George's Parish in 1698. His will named his wife and children
Lawrence, too, left a record of real estate transactions, all in Sesputia Hundred
- Wife Dorothy
- Son Lawrence
A previous researcher conflated the two into Abraham Lawrence
Taylor. Some of Lawrence's attributes were mistakenly credited to Abraham,
inhibiting further genealogy until the mistake was identified and corrected.
Among other problems, Abraham's descendants were assigned the middle name
"Lawrence" with no evidence. Infuriatingly, the erroneous information has
been copied prodigiously across the Internet.
Conflation is difficult to identify because it contains some elements of
truth, as well as the false conclusions. Independent and often detailed
research is required,
Begin by reviewing all evidentiary sources cited. Evaluate them as to quality
and whether they are correctly interpreted. In the absence of source citations,
assume that some error (not necessarily conflation) has been made.
Then conduct a "reasonably exhaustive search" for additional of the relevant
time and place for other individuals who might have been an object ofconflation.
To avoid committing conflation
- Use good sources. Primary sources are best, but secondary sources (such
as compilations or abstracts of primary records) may serve.
- Constrain conjectures and logical leaps. Don't go beyond what you know
from the sources.