Monday, June 14, 2010

Genealogist or Gossip

If they don't depend on true evidence, scientists [including genealogists] are no better than gossips.

Penelope Fitzgerald

In the example presented in “Evidence Management Explained” we saw that the big payoff of using evidence management occurs when a conclusion is drawn. Drawing from the example of Angeline née Clements Goldsmith again, suppose a week or more passed between discovering and entering each piece of evidence. As each piece of evidence about her birth is entered, we might well revisit our conclusion about her birth date. Each time we click to edit the birth date, the evidence manager displays a conclusion entry window.

For convenience I have reproduced the conclusion entry window from the example. I have incorporated most of your feedback. If I didn’t get yours, remember that this example is only conceptual.

Summary Name Asser-tion Evidence Notes Created Date Link Analysis
Automatically Selected Evidence
1850 Census Peyton C Clements Age 2 Image copy of federal copy 1850 Source The earliest record; at just two years of age, it is highly likely that the 1850 census correctly implies 1848.
1860 Census P C Clements Age 12 Image copy of federal copy 1860 Source Next earliest records agrees with 1848
1870 Census P C Clements Jr. Age 18 Image copy of federal copy 1870 Source New orphans with all birth dates wrong suggests a 3rd party supplied the data
Peyton Clements probate finalized Age Over 21 years Image of original. Primary information 25 Nov 1873 Source 1848 and 1850 are consistent with father’s probate record
1880 Census W H Goldsmith Age 25 Image copy of federal copy 1880 Source Census ages ending with 0 or 5 are suspect
Death certificate A J Goldsmith Birth date 5 Feb 1850 Image copy of original. Secondary information 1939 Source There is no reason to doubt 5 February even though the 1850 is not possible according to the 1850 census
Gravestone A J Goldsmith Birth date 1850 Secondary 1939 Source Likely same informant as death certificate
Manually Selected Evidence
Marriage W H Goldsmith Marr-iage Date 15 Jan 1873 Explicit 1873 Source Birth from 1843-1858 is likely.
1850 Census Peyton C Clements Sibling Eleanor Age 1 1850 Source To have a 1 yr old younger sibling in 1850, Angeline must have been born in 1848.
Conclusion for Birth date: 5 February 1848
Reasoning: It is clear that the earliest records have the correct birth year. While there is no collaborating evidence for the day and month, there is currently no reason to doubt it.


How do the vendors do with conclusion entry? Here is what I found:

Conclusion entry facilitates intelligent conclusions by design. No No No
Pertinent assertions from all relevant evidence summaries are gathered together and displayed in one place. Yes-ish Yes Yes (but not grouped together) if a person page is considered a conclusionary person, but no if the person page is an evidentiary person
To encourage critical thinking, notes can be entered for each piece of evidence and for the conclusion. Yes-ish Yes-ish Yes-ish
Evidence is automatically selected for analysis based upon the conclusion type. For a birth date conclusion, evidence about age and birth date are automatically displayed. No Yes Yes (but not grouped together) if a person page is considered a conclusionary person, but no if the person page is an evidentiary person
The user can manually select other evidence. No No All evidence is displayed in all cases.
Attributes are displayed for each piece of evidence and its source. For the source, these might include: original or derivative, derivative type, recording date, and recorder. For the evidence, these might include: informant, primary or secondary, direct or indirect, and supportive or contradictory. No No No


I realize these tables are barely better than nothing. I need to display some screen shots from each of these products to illustrating what I’m talking about. I had planned to start those today, but articles for Wednesday and Friday caused a digression and my weekend is over. Stay tuned…

And just so you (the vendors) know, I’m always open to answer questions you may have regarding evidence management… no extra charge.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder who Penelope Fitzgerald is and why her opinion is important.