Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Update on classifying sources, information and evidence

Here is a blog post I wrote back in November 2012 on classifying sources, information and evidence.  I need to update this information just a bit.  A new category has been added to sources.  Now you have original, derivative and authored.  Authored works would be things such as compiled genealogies or local history books.

Information also has a new category.  You now have primary, secondary and undetermined informants.  Undetermined would be something like a date of birth on a death certificate where the informant isn’t named.

Evidence has been expanded to three categories.  You have direct, indirect and negative.  We always noted negative evidence on our research calendars before but it wasn’t actually classified as an evidence category where you would actually weigh the negative evidence along with the direct and indirect.  An example of negative evidence would be that John Doe was not found in the 1850 tax rolls though he is found in 1851 through 1870.  This negative evidence may help you prove that John was not yet of age in 1850.

This method of classification is Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Analysis Process Map.  Click on the link and you will see expanded information and a case study that illustrates the process.  You will need to know what all of these terms mean for tomorrow’s blog post.

One thing I will warn you about.  Even though you have an original source giving direct evidence by  primary informant that doesn’t mean the information is actually true.  That is a hard concept for many beginners.  Take a look at people lie if you need more information on that.  Sometimes an indirect evidence case is more convincing than a direct evidence one.

I highly recommend the book, Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas Jones.  I also recommend that you sign up to participate in one of the MGP study groups.  There is a waiting list so go ahead and get on it.  The groups are offered on different days, different times and in different formats so there will be something there that will work for you.  Though you will have to pay for the book, the groups are free so why not take advantage of this opportunity.  You will learn more about classifying evidence and you will learn how to work through the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) one step at a time.  If you want your research to go to the next level then you will want to learn more about the GPS.

Copyright © 2013 Michele Simmons Lewis

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