In the absence of evidence, superstition. It's a Middle Ages thing. That's my theory anyway.
You may recall that a session at the NGS conference by David Rencher and team got me thinking about evidence management. In “The Evidence Architecture of the New FamilySearch Tree” I showed that records preloaded into the New FamilySearch Tree (NFS) from Ancestral File, PRF, and the IGI are evidence summaries.
Compare the evidence summary example, below left, to the Ancestry.com record view, on the right.
As in an evidence summary, each piece of evidence is separate and labeled by what kind of “fact” it is (e.g. name, age, birth date). Unlike an evidence summary, it is not possible to annotate information in the summary or to give it a summary name for easy identification.
In the header of the evidence summary there are two links, one to the subject person and one to the source. Equivalent functionality is available in the Ancestry.com record view, shown more completely below. Click the Save record to… link circled on the left to link to a subject individual. Since Ancestry.com doesn’t have source management, the source information is displayed on the record view page (the four circles on the right).
Review Record Hint
When you click the Save record to… link, Ancestry.com allows you to review the information from the source before saving it into your tree, as shown in the illustration, below.
This interface allows the user to set or change conclusions in their tree. The left side shows the information indexed from the source. The right side shows corresponding conclusions in the user’s tree.
The user’s choices are limited. For each piece of information the user can:
- change the conclusion
- link the source to the conclusion
- create an alternative “fact”
- link the source to the new alternative
This system has many weaknesses.
- The user can not see existing alternative “facts.”
- The user can not see existing sources linked to conclusions or alternatives.
- The user can not link source to existing alternatives.
- If information already exists as an alternative “fact,” there is no way to link the source to it.
- If information already exists as an alternative “fact,” adding an alternative creates a duplicate.
- Two duplicates with different sources can not be combined.
- The user can not change conclusions and retain old conclusions as alternatives.
- Changing the conclusion does not unlink sources that supported the old conclusion.
- Sources can be linked only for indexed information. For example, if a death record also has birth information, but only the death information is indexed, then the interface above will lock the birth fields. The user can not enter the birth information nor link the source to it.
Compare this to evidence management’s conclusion interface, reproduced below. Each alternative is preserved and associated with its source. Additional information and space for analysis guide the conclusion process.
This concludes this series on evidence management. The primary audience has been development personnel at family history organizations. See “Evidence Management” for an overview of the series and links to other articles.