Monday, 8 August 2016

ESM's QuickLessons A DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group Lesson 17

Hilary Gadsby

QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Map    
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Model,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : accessed 6 August 2016).    
Negative Findings / Negative Evidence
Elizabeth Shown Mills, “Negative Findings / Negative Evidence,"    Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (    : accessed 6 August 2016).  

Before I start any discussion on this topic I want to highlight what I consider to be the most important point from this lesson "the extent to which we understand the language and structure of evidence analysis will determine the success of our research."

This mindmap I created shows the elements of the Evidence Analysis Process Map as shown on her website. (with additions)

We have talked about how important it is to use reliable sources and to cite the sources we have used. However if we are to do this effectively we need to know what we have and what it is telling us.

We should not overlook the obvious sources such as family with firsthand knowledge, who despite memory lapses, may have more complete firsthand information than anything written on paper.

Getting as close to original records as possible can help reduce bias caused by poor transcribing. Video or sound recordings, letters, photographs and other family memorabilia can all support our family story and can help recall memories.

We may only find sources which are distant from an event, so we need to consider the relevance of this distance, upon the reliability of the information. A person may have been a firsthand witness to an event, but as the years pass their memory concerning exact details may not be the same as it would have been, if recorded close to the time of the event.

Uncertainty regarding the informant for any piece of information casts doubts on its usefulness in building a proof which is why official signed records may be considered more useful than a family legend of unknown origin.

Our interpretation of the information allows us to use it as evidence to support our conclusion.

The best way to show is by example so I am going to show someone I came across on Family Search Family Tree who has 44 sources attached. How many of these are for this person? Can we remove some as we interpret the sources.

If we look at her christening this fits with those of her siblings and is supported by this source.
The marriage as indicated would suggest that she was still in Bedfordshire when she married in 1773.

But did she really have 33 children!

If we look at the birthplaces of these children it is not until we get to Charles Wiltshire christened in 1799 that we find anyone allegedly born or christened in the county of Bedfordshire. The family could have moved elsewhere but many of these children have no source attached or only one.

In fact Charles is the only one I would consider to have a connection to this couple.

This is one of the sources attached to this person.
She was born in 1754.

Contrast this to one of my ancestors who was the son of John Wiltshire and Sarah Ingram. 

He has 27 sources attached some are duplicates many are census records almost all of the children have more than one source attached. Even those that currently have no sources have a date and place of birth consistent with them being a member of that family.

Whilst we know that families did not always remain in one place many did. We look in that area and time period first and then spread our search if records indicate or we can find no trace. 
The "scattergun" approach can be little more than speculation. Not all records are online and we need to use those that are with caution.
I have not relied on online resources alone for my research and there is a great deal that is still a work in progress.

I have only included a few screenshots here but they should be enough for you to see what I am trying to show on the tree. If you wish to see more take a look on the website. (You will need to register for a free account if you do not already have one)

To sum up if you do not understand the information in the source and how to use it you cannot build the evidence to support your family tree.

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