Monday, May 24, 2010

Evidence Management

A researcher acquires sources, extracts information, identifies evidence, and analyzes all in all to reach a defensible conclusion. This is a genealogist’s research process. This is the standard a genealogist uses to “prove” a conclusion.

Evidence Management consists of the methods and tools a researcher uses throughout the research process to gather, track, and apply evidence.

Just as individuals grow in genealogical maturity, so too does software. This series of articles examines the maturity of evidence management on the and websites. Software vendors are the primary audience for this series. It will be quite technical, so some of you will have to bear with me. If I simplify it too much, I run the risk of miscommunication to the vendors. Hang with me, I have some lighter fare planned for the future.

Evidence Management diagram
The Evidence Management diagram shows the distinction that should exist between source tracking, evidence summaries, conclusions, and people in a genealogy programs.

As new articles are published, I will add links to this table of contents:

To learn more about evidence, the research process, and the genealogist’s standard of proof, start with these sources.


Mills, Elizabeth Shown, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA. “Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis.” Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Second edition. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009). Pages 13-38.

———. Evidence Analysis: A Research Process Map. Laminated study guide. Washington, D.C.: Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2006. I haven’t personally used this source, but I understand it is a separate publication of the diagram inside the front cover of Evidence Explained.

———. “Working with Historical Evidence: Genealogical Principles and Standards.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly [issue titled Evidence: A Special Issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly] 87 (September 1999): 165-84.

Rose, Christine,CG, CGL, FASG. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2005.

Tucker, Mark. “Genealogy Research Process Map.” ThinkGenealogy: Genealogy, Software, Ideas, and Innovation, 10 July 2008. : accessed 23 May 2010.


  1. Thanks for this series. This is a critical topic. I hope I can understand it all - you're right, it IS technical in general!

  2. Elizabeth Mills wrote the NGSQ article from your third citation. You should fix the omission of the author in the citation.

  3. John,

    Thanks for pointing that out, as there is a nuance that many readers may be unfamiliar with.

    The 3 dashes are shorthand indicating the source has the same author as the last author listed. See Evidence Explained, p. 79 or Chicago Manual of Style, 15th ed., p. 614.

    -- The Insider

  4. At the present time the database software programs on the market all have a slightly different way of indicating Surety Levels. The factors covered in Elizabeth Shown Mills' book, "Evidence Explained", sets up two major divisions of evidence, with several subdivisions in each:
    Evidence Categories: Primary, Collateral, Secondary, Circumstantial, Reported
    Derivation Levels: Original, Copied, Transcribed, Edited Transcriptions, Abstracts, Histories, Traditions.
    Mills does not apply some of the terms used in your Evidence Management document, such as "Calculated, Estimated, Explicit", etc. Such terms should be considered when a truly viable standard is created.

    I have thought about a numbering scheme that could accommodate all of such standard variables. Perhaps using a numeric character for the first part with an alpha character for the second part.
    1b = Primary Copied
    3a = Secondary Original
    4e = Circumstantial Transcription

    If there were such a Surety Level standard, perhaps it could then become part of the GEDCOM file of the future.

    Posted by: Everett Butler

  5. Thanks for this series! May I call your attention to Ben Sayers' online evidence management application Lineascope?

    (Thanks are due to Louis Kessler's website GenSoftReviews for the pointer to Lineascope.)


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