See “Evidence Management” for an overview and links to other articles in this series.
Playing around with different genealogy management programs has driven home to me how very close the genealogy database vendors are getting to where they should be, but without evidence that they know where that is.
They would know where they should be headed if they…
- attended most any of the NGS methodology classes, or
- read chapters 1 and 2 of Evidence Explained (or even just the inside cover), or
- read the National Genealogical Society Quarterly special Evidence issue (Sep 1999), or
- bought an evidence analysis research process map from the Board for the Certification of Genealogists, or
- studied the Genealogical Maturity Model.
(Notice how I worked in that shameless plug.)
To put it succinctly, genealogy programs lack Evidence Management.
Genealogy programs have always managed individuals quite well. We can assign assertions (events and information) to them. We can list them. We can sort them. We can search them. We can filter them. All well and good and absolutely necessary.
Genealogy programs handle relationships adequately. Most use the concept of families as a shorthand method of dealing with an entire set of important relationships. And most allow limited assertions about child-parent relationships, such as blood, step, and adoption. (Not important for today’s discussion on evidence management, but we are also interested in non-familial relationships such as neighbor, friend, clergy, care-taker, and more. And we are interested in searching, sorting, and filtering by relationship assertions. But I digress…)
Genealogy programs have come a long way when it comes to sources, but without Evidence Management, sources remain an ugly step-sister. When it comes to evidence management, genealogy programs is exceedingly wanting.
Refer to this diagram as I talk through a scenario.
Here’s how a user would use the Evidence Manager.
- I find a source with information that I can use. That’s what evidence is: usable information. Applicable information. The answer to a question. Although as Tom Jones pointed out in one of his lectures, “it is an answer, it is not the answer.”
- I create a source record (shown in red) to track the source.
- I upload a digital image of the source.
- Or I link to it online.
- And I enter a citation.
- I create an evidence summary (shown in green) and type in evidence from the source.
- I link the evidence summary to the source record.
- And I link the evidence summary to a target conclusion (shown in purple) about an individual (shown in blue)
- I examine the accumulated evidence and adjust the value of the conclusion accordingly.
- I update the explanation of my conclusion as necessary.
Next week I will make this more clear with an actual example. (See “Evidence Management Explained.”) In subsequent articles I will compare the diagram with Ancestry.com member trees, the New FamilySearch Tree, and Footnote person pages.
For the time being, suffice it to say that sources and evidence and conclusions are three separate concepts and today’s software typically shoehorns the three into two. (See “Evidence: There’s No Better Rule.”)