Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Genealogy Do-Over (Cycle 3) - Week 6 - Evaluating Evidence and Reviewing Online Education Options

So we are now nearing the end of Week 6 of the third cycle of the Genealogy Do-Over.

Review of Last Week

I was out of town all week at a professional conference, which is why this blog has sat here neglected.

Two Topics for Week 6

Evaluating Evidence

Not all evidence is equal. It may be an original, or a derivative work. It may be direct or indirect (what we call circumstantial in court). It may be contemporaneous to the event, or it may be much later.

As a concrete example, a birth certificate is more reliable than a death certificate when it comes to the date of birth of the person. The birth certificate was created near the time, by someone with knowledge. A death certificate is much later, and is frequently based on information from a grieving family member who most likely didn't know the person when they were born.

This brings me to thinking about Evidentia. Evidentia is a great program that is a pain to use at first. You enter each piece of evidence that you have. Then for each piece of information (a name, a date, etc.) you enter a claim relating to that the piece of information.

The value of this exercise is that it makes you evaluate every document critically. It makes you apply the Genealogical Proof Standard to every claim. It lists and reports every piece of evidence relating to a claim, e.g., every piece of evidence of a specific person's date of birth.

As you can imagine, this is an insane amount of information. A page in a single census record contains potentially dozens of pieces of information about a family. I have hundreds of people in my family tree so far, and most have multiple sources of information.

Of course, once this information is entered, it becomes easier and easier to do this. Still, it takes a major effort.

I have tried using this program for one specific person - James Brady, and his family. I have gotten bogged down. My brain is always racing ahead, and this is very painstaking work.

I can try to make another run at this, but I am not hopeful.

Reviewing Online Education Options

I spend a lot of time and energy on free online education for genealogy anyway, so this one pretty much is done. I monitor webinars and watch them as they are available/interesting.

However, I am finding myself doing less educational efforts in general.

I think that my general academic/intellectual leanings causes me to focus more on learning about an activity than actually performing them. I am always searching for that new database or technique that will solve all of my problems. But as time goes on, I find that I know most of what I am learning.

The key for me is to actually do the research.