02 January 2010

The Genealogical Proof Standard, step 3

We collect many pieces of information as we search for our ancestors. How we look at and weigh that information determines what we learn.
The third step in the Genealogical Proof Standard:

3.  We analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence.[1]

Source - the record
Original—first oral or recorded form; the original document, artifact, photograph, etc.
Derivative—derived from the original, either by copying or manipulating the information (transcript, abstract, compilation, database, etc.)

Information - content of the source
Primary—first-hand account/knowledge of event (someone who was there). Created at or about the time the event occurred.
Secondary—account/knowledge of someone who was not there. Someone who heard about it or was told about it later. Or someone recalling an event long after it happened.

Evidence - our interpretation of the information; the weight we give it
Direct—information that answers the question or solves the problem by itself; self-contained
Indirect—information that, compiled with others, answers the question or solves the problem
Negative—“an inference we can draw from the absence of information that should exist under particular circumstances”[2]

Sources provide information from which we select evidence for analysis.
- Elizabeth Shown Mills

Other things to ponder:
Who created the document and/or provided the information?
What is it?
Why was it created?
When was the record created and/or manipulated?
Where was it created and where is it kept?
How was it create/reproduced/derived?

Look at each piece of information a source provides and weigh it as evidence:

This is the death certificate for Chloe (Nichols) Fitts. The image above is a third-generation original source (it is a digital image of a microfilm picture of the original). The informant is Chloe Taft, her daughter, and a resident of Oxford, Mass. Mrs. Fitts died 14 August 1911 in Oxford, Worcester County, Massachusetts. This information is primary, as it was recorded at the time of death by someone who was there. Her cause of death is "old age," and at "99 years, 6 months, and 6 days," it is valid, although I would list it as indirect evidence since I do not know what, exactly, she died of. The date of birth listed is 8 February 1812, which agrees with the age at death. She was born in Oxford, Mass. The birth information is secondary - her daughter was not there when she was born. The evidence is direct since it tells us exactly when and where she was born. The same analysis for her parents, John P. Nichols and Sophia Shumway: secondary and direct. Mrs. Fiits is the widow of David Fitts, who preceded her in death (primary and direct, as her daughter would have known first-hand who her father is and when he died). Chloe (Nichols) Fitts was buried 17 August 1911 at Gore Cemetery in Oxford (primary and direct). The death certificate was filed 16 August 1911.
[1] The Board for Certification of Genealogist, The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, UT: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), 1.
[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2007), 25.
[image] "Massachusetts, Death Records, 1841-1915," digital image, FamilySearch (http://pilot.familysearch.org/ : downloaded 24 September 2009), Chloe (Nichols) Fitts, death certificate no. 46, 14 August 1911, Oxford, Massachusetts; citing FHL film no. 2396049.


Randy Seaver said...

Hi Jen,

Thank you for the heads-up on your GPS series. Looks great! I wish I could attend your talk at SCGS. We have an SDGS seminar on 9 January here in San Diego.

I did not have your blog on my Bloglines list for some reason (I must have missed any notice on Geneabloggers - not unusual!), but I've added it now so I won't miss the next installments of your series. I added your first three posts to my Best of post also because they deserve to be on the list.

Hope to meet you at Jamboree in June -- Randy Seaver

Palmsrv said...

Nice analysis - thanks for taking the time to explain. Cathy

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