Sunday, November 29, 2009

Builing a case

Working with beginning researchers of late, it occurs to Ol' Myrt here that a review of the genealogical research process is in order. Seldom do we take the time to explain just how we arrive at a particular assumption about an ancestor.

Just when do we actually type something into a data field in our genealogy management program? As we unearth additional documents mentioning our ancestrors, what do we do about conflicting evidence?

Disparate - (adj) Distinct in kind, essentially different, dissimilar. Synonyms: separate, divergent, incommensurable, unlike.

Researchers often encounter seemingly disparate pieces of the genealogical puzzle. When describing the life and times of an ancestor, genealogists must explain every item -- quite unlike the well-studied development of defense arguments for a courtroom battle. Unfortunately, a jury may never know certain evidence has been excluded, due to peculiarities of law. Failure to consider all evidence can result in a skewed conclusion in the courtroom as well as in family trees. In either case, partial evidence simply doesn't represent the full picture.

If our goal as genealogists is to describe each ancestor in the clearest possible light, we must:
  • handle every bit of evidence
  • evaluate reliability
  • clearly state conclusions
  • leave a big audit trail supporting full disclosure for present and future discussion.

Stay tuned for a case study illustrating this research process.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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