We may have three stabilizing research points with which to steady ourselves in our quest to sort out the many George Mercers in my family tree, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will, together, direct us to the right answer. This is not the type of "triangulation" you may have been hoping for—not as I'm about to add a fourth clue to the mess. But we can try...
Our original question, back at the start of this research tangle, caused us to seek the reason why a man named George Mercer would choose to name two of his own sons the same name: George Mercer. Both sons did live to adulthood, so why such duplication?
In the process of searching through newspaper articles in their hometown of Savannah, Georgia, instead of turning up an obituary—or even a wedding announcement—for one of those Georges, I found a much more recent report of a kidnapping and demand for ransom for yet another George Mercer who, as it turned out, was already murdered by that point. This George Mercer was apparently also from a long line of men named George Mercer—he was listed as George Mercer IV—which led to a clue that he was related to someone famous named Johnny Mercer. At least it wasn't a lead to yet another George Mercer.
From that point, we found ourselves ensnared with another connection—this time to a house built by someone named Hugh Mercer, whose property eventually became the scene of another murder.
This is too much excitement for a genealogist.
While I do confess I got ensnared by each of those rabbit holes, we are no more enlightened by the experience than before getting sucked into the pursuit. If these were hints, they were breadcrumbs on a trail which seemed to lead nowhere.
Even so, there are a few strands which have yet to be tied together, so there may be an answer found in our future.
First, we need to remember, where there is a "IV," there must also have been a "III." Ergo, George Mercer IV must have had a father—or other progenitor—who was named George Mercer III.
The only problem is that the Mercer family I've been researching—descendants of my Tison line, living in Savannah, Georgia, for generations—were prone to bestowing the same given name repeatedly through the generations. And then, lose track. "Junior" tags gave way to "senior" men who actually should have had the designation of "junior," themselves. If I had pursued the line further back, there might have been even more generations with the same given name. These people had a hard time keeping track of their own generations.
But I didn't pursue those; they were in-laws to my Tison line. This, of course, now leaves me wondering whether I should regroup and trace that line back even farther than I have. Something needs to help untangle these Georges and Hughs.
On the other hand, take a city directory—any city directory—open it up and observe how many men have the same exact name. Any city could have had multiple listings for men named George Mercer—none of whom are related.
Of course, in our case, two of those George Mercers were related: they were brothers. And both of them were sons of another man named George Mercer. Fortunately for us, each of them was given a different middle name. Thus, we can avoid confusion in the future by calling one of the brothers Anderson, and the other Walter, based on their middle names. We'll save that for another day's exploration.
There is, however, one more clue enabling us to work our way back toward those George Mercers of the past: the additional name provided in the brief news clipping about the Mercer kidnapping. If you remember, the Marietta, Georgia, Journal article reported,
Chris Hammond, uncle of George Mercer IV who has been missing since Jan. 29, said a demand for ransom was received about a week after Mercer disappeared.
A Hammond uncle to George Mercer IV would, by necessity, need to be a brother-in-law of George Mercer III. This lays out a simple research challenge for us: can we find any records connected to this George Mercer III which include a marriage to someone by the name of Hammond.
As it turns out, thanks to my years-long descendancy-charting project, I already know a possible answer to that question.