There are many cases where people changed their identity or faked their own death, which can be traced back hundreds of years.
It used to be so easy to get a new identity before the digital age. Sometimes people just moved to a new state or country and were never found again. Creating fake documents was easy; authorities had no central data bases to verify their authenticity.
Governments did not work as closely together and exchanged information as they do nowadays. It was paradise for people who wanted to leave their old identity behind them and start over.
We live now in a 24/7 surveillance society, every move we do is recorded and analyzed. Thanks to cell phones, credit cards and internet the authorities always now where you are and what you do.
Even in this past 911 surveillance society we live, there are still ways to live under the radar.