It's no secret that a lot of people in the US are descendants of people who came here from European countries. Unfortunately back in the day, surnames weren't always so creative. Even if you thought it sounded original to you, once you start looking up documents online you realize "holy s**t! there's 4 other people named William Meek who were born around 1835 in Ohio!". That my friends is the moment panic sets in. Oh my gosh, how am I going to figure out which one is mine?! I can tell you from experience it's all about the note taking. I personally think that to be a successful genealogist you have to be super organized.
This is my shelf of goodness. I have 1 big colored binder per surname of my 4 grandparents; Panfil, Moseley, Larson, & Meeks. The pink binder is full of empty pages and some documents and odds and ends that my grandmother (Moseley) had collected on her family. The smaller light blue Ohio University (GO BOBCATS!) is for a sub-surname of the Panfil binder, the Opalinski family. The white binder contains lists of documents that I still need to find from family members, some really helpful documents from Ancestry.com about the 1940s census, newspaper/magazine clippings on genealogy as well as notes I have taken during some of the video seminars Ancestry.com conducts.
In each of these binders I have dividers and I many times split each surname into sub-surnames of their respective parents. I also have 1 large family tree with the main ancestors in each line, as well as smaller family trees for those split off surnames. I find that the more OCD you are about keeping all your records organized, the easier it is for you to verify facts and eliminate accidental issues like adding hints to the wrong people. I also find that the more information you have readily available about a person you are researching, the less likely you are to get people confused.
Take for instance the problem I've just come across. While researching the Keilhack branch of my Meeks family tree I am looking into the family of my great-great grandparents Jacob Keilhack & Catherine (Riordan) Keilhack. Last night during my research I discovered that his parents; Joseph & Theresa (Gamel) Keilhack had to boys right before Jacob. Their names; Joseph C & John C Keilhack. What makes matters even worse is that BOTH of those boys also married women names K/Catherine! So I know have Joseph & Catherine, John & Katherine, and Jacob & Catherine. Talk about utter confusion!!
I'm hoping that my work tonight will lead me to some more information to differentiate all 3 of these brothers and their respective K/Catherines. Wish me luck!!