Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Workspace for creating proof arguments

DearREADERS,Compiling a family history is more than matching up birth, marriage and death records with individuals on a family group sheet or pedigree chart. Current genealogy management software does well to link events in a person's life with notes and the image of a document that "proves" the point.

However, inferential research isn't so easily documented using convention genealogy management software. We need:
  • a workspace to develop in paragraph format our proof argument that a specific person is related to our family tree.
  • the ability to link documents we've uncovered that may indicate through indirect evidence the relationship.
  • indications of "negative" evidence must be considered.
  • a workspace where we can invite peers to review our work.
Adhering to the GPS Genealogical Proof Standard, rather than merely clicking to link to an online family tree is essential for the development of accurate family histories.

A study group has emerged that wishes to develop these thoughts further, and formally work to develop a workspace -- be it software interfacing with an online version.

Please reply with your suggestions of who might be added to the study group.

You might also explain WHERE you are writing up your proof arguments and linking documents in your own or client research.

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


  1. Russ contributed the following link:


  2. As a relatively new family researcher, I would be thrilled to be able to use a product like this. I hope it comes to fruition. Thank you Myrt for getting this group going!

  3. I use RootsMagic to document my family tree with sources. Its source citation software allows for indicating direct, indirect, negative, original, derivative, primary or secondary. Unlimited comments can be entered for each occurence of a source used (eg, I use the same census record citation for each member of a family, and each member can have their own source details and source comments entered.) These comments can be printed in the Narrative Report source pages, or suppressed as needed. Digital images of the sources can be added when available. Since RootsMagic allows you to create a website from your data, I think peer review would be possible - on a case by case basis.

  4. We're talking about BEFORE one is ready to assert that an individual is part of his family tree.

    For the longest time, I thought RM and other genealogy software programs would work, as I could link any number of documents (indirect, direct) to an event such as birth.

    However, our group is talking about the RESEARCH PROCESS and having a workspace that that is paragraph based (like a Word document) with links to documents currently being worked through.

    Once the proof argument has been composed (sometimes this takes years) then the appropriate docs can be attached to the individual as he is added to RM (or whatever the researcher's program of choice.) Also the proof argument can be copied/pasted to notes for that individual as well.

  5. Myrtle, it sounds like you're describing a wiki. Something that has the look and feel of a word document, but able to attach documents, pictures, links, etc. There are many free wikis out there. Many of which allow you to control who can see and/or edit the information. An archive/history is created that allows you to see who edited what. When you have reached a conculsion, then the information can be copied and pasted into whatever database you use. And if you used the wiki correctly, you'll have footnotes.

  6. Myrtle, How about OneNote? You can write to your hearts content and attach Word, Excel, photos, pdf files and more.

    I imagine Evernote might do the same as well although I have not tried it.

  7. Ben Sayer and his Lineascope.com seem to be on the same page with you. I would also suggest Mark Tucker (thinkgenealogy.com) as someone to consider for the study group. And THANK YOU!

    Right now I'm beginning to write up research status reports - no where near proofs - for key people in my family tree. All analysis and writing is being done at my desk, using Word & Excel. I've given up on trying to do anything within the software. I'm sure I'll eventually add it in to the notes, but the key element is linking it within my files.

  8. Would Google Docs work for this? They can be accessed from remote locations and can be used by a workgroup.

    This is one area where my skill set is still developing. I'll be very interested to see what the group comes up with.


  9. Myrt, I am pleased to hear about the emergence of a study group to consider how to bring the Genealogical Proof Standard further into the mainstream of genealogy research practice. Hopefully we will hear more about this group - its members, its ideas, and its progress - in the coming weeks.

    I also hope that the group will solicit public input, and will seek ways not only to create a stand-alone GPS resource, but also to encourage existing genealogy software makers to improve their products by further integrating GPS principles into them. Notionally, I would like to see genealogy products evolve from having a nearly singular data-management focus to include a fully integrated research-management capability. Beyond the rudimentary research tools generally available in most genealogy software today (text fields for research notes and to-do lists being the most common), I would like to see the research workflow become standard functionality in these programs, with GPS principles at their core.

    Presumably, Elizabeth Shown Mills would be involved in any GPS effort, and Mark Tucker has also been suggested. Having taken part in several of Arlene Eakle's presentations at the recent California Family History Expo, I would also recommend her as a potential participant (I think she would admit technology shortcomings, but her ideas on research processes would, I think, be very valuable).

  10. I agree with you that we need to find a space in which to document our findings and our research notes. The "source" field on the family management software is not enough. What I have done is to use the notes field for my research notes. In it, I include a brief biography at the top, and a chronology of their life, including their mention on others' obituaries. I've wanted a separate notes field that I can write a biography, for inclusion in any printouts, and a separate notes field for my research notes, which aren't as "pretty" for family members.

    A space in which to collaborate with other researchers would also be nice. I think right now I would do that in a blog format, if I had a separate genealogy blog.

  11. These sound like good ideas, but those of us that are weak in techology and in research writing skills will need some help. I have close to 35 years of research and I can't seem to find a way to orgainize it and include my conclusions.