Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Evidenced-Based Research

Blogging has taken an interesting turn, for me. Actually, expanding how we can use Blogs to learn how to use our favorite Genealogy Management System to do our research.

Fellow Genea-Blogger, Randy Seaver and I have gone back and for a number of times on how we user our software to do our research. Clearly we do "things" differently, but our readers / followers can look and compare to see what works "for them".

This blog post is another one. There has been discussions, in February about Conclusion Based and Evidence Based Research. Randy posted this blog post:

Trying to be an Evidenced-Based Researcher- Does This Work? 

As always, he is a great read. Based on the various blog posts, I guess that I am an Evidence Based Researcher. I collect evidence, but don't draw a conclusion too quickly. I may make a conclusion at a specific point in time, but will continue to research to fine tune my conclusion.

Let me use an example: The example is of one of Randy's Brick Walls. I have spent a couple of months researching William Knapp (1777 - 1856). Here is a piece of what I have collected, as seen in Family Tree Maker, Version 2012, in the People Workspace, Person View.


I need to state, that I record what I see and put a Citation on that entry. Reason: If someone else, like Randy, were to look at my research and he went to that Source, he would see what I saw.

 Looking at the above, I have a number of Birth Entries. For Example:

Abr 1775 in Dutchess, New York

Abt 1775 in New York

Abt 1776

Three or more pieces of Evidence were used, each would be seen in the Right Panel with the Fact (Assertion) selected. Since I have multiple Birth Facts, I choose a Preferred Fact. So, at the moment, the About 1775 in Dutchess (county) New York is my Preferred Fact. I suppose, that might be considered a Conclusion, but I don't. 

If I look at the Citations, of which there are 5, one might think That IS my conclusion. But, in the list of Citations, 2 are from Randy, which was his initial file that I received from him, the second was an updated file he sent to me. 

Not questioning his data at all. But 2 of the 5 Citations were from Randy.

The other three Citations appear to be from a New Jersey Death Record. They were, but found in three different Sources.,, and the New Jersey Archives.

It appears that the Ancestry and Family Search sources were information taken from the image in the New Jersey Archives. In fact, I went to the New Jersey Archives and saw the image of the Record from Sussex County, New Jersey. It was a Film of the Page.

However, I am NOT going to jump to the Conclusion that William Knapp WAS born in 1775 in Dutchess County, New York, based on the Evidence that I have so far.

OK, why not,. you might ask. The real question has to do with the Image of that Record, that shows up in three different places. On this record, is a place for the Name of the deceased Parents. That field, and Randy's Brick Wall, is Blank.

The only Death Record found, contains missing information. Who gave that information to the Clerk in Sussex County? It could have been his wife, or one of his children. I am guessing, that it was Williams son Manning M Knapp. Manning was a lawyer at the time of his father's death. Why the missing information? Perhaps William never told his family, or never knew for sure who his parents were, or exactly when and where he was born.

Looking at the rest of the Facts (assertions) for William, there are Time Gaps, where there aren't records, or we haven't found records. His death record says 1775 (I always change a Birth Record YEAR Only to include About). OK, for arguments sake, I'll go with 1775. The next time we find William is at his Marriage in 1804. But not in New York, but in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, New Jersey. Mid 1700's from Dutchess County, NY to Woodbridge, NJ, makes me wonder. What, Why, and How - the change of location.

Creating a time line, for this Brick Wall was very helpful. For me, this is another reason that I like Evidence Based Research. I can enter Facts, with their citations, and run a Time Line for example. It was very helpful here too, because William didn't show up in a number of Census years, when we should have found him. Then he shows up in Sussex County. 

The hint was to create the Time Line showing his Family Events, especially the birth of his children. Some of his children were born in Middlesex County, then the rest in Sussex County. Why? Why couldn't he be found in Middlesex County between 1800 and 1830 when he appears in Sussex County.

Looked at the Time Line for his wife, didn't see anything there, Except when I added Her family, I saw that her father died in 1823.

Back to William and his children, a child was born in 1823 in Middlesex County, and the next child in 1826 in Sussex.

Don't have enough Evidence, but I can guess, that William and his family may have been living with the "in-laws" until his wife's father died, then they moved to Sussex County.

A little more information that makes this living with the "in-laws" is that he does not appear to have owned any property. There is a Deed of someone else, that reflects that William was the current resident on that property. Based on other information, it was probably a shoe store.

I have a picture of the Family, base on the Evidence that I have found and recorded. Not to many pieces of conflicting information, but a number of wholes in the data / Evidence that I have found to date.


I will say, that in Family Tree Maker, I have not found a way to make or indicate a Conclusion. The best that I have is the Preferred Fact. When I make a Fact the Preferred Fact, that is an indication of the best information that I have so far. Others may take that to mean a Conclusion, but I haven't completed my Exhaustive Research yet. So, I just keep collecting Evidence. 

________________________________________________________________ Copyright © 2012 by H R Worthington


  1. I believe they use preferred fact because of their desire to conform to the Elizabeth Shown Mills methodology. It's her belief (based on the methodology of the Scientific Method) that we will almost never have all the facts to say definitively that the assertions we claim are true.

    1. John,

      I, the user, selected the "Preferred Fact" if I have multiple entries for the same Fact. Each will have a Citation, as I use the Template Features (based on Evidence Explained!.

      My "conclusion" based on that data I have today, may change tomorrow, based on new data (evidence).

      The terms Assertion and Conclusion in some, if not all genealogy database management software do not have an indicator for those two terms.

      I think that was the point of the blogging community discussion on the topic, and from my observations.

      Thank you,



Please post your comments here

Print Friendly