Welcome to my genealogy blog. Genea-Musings features genealogy research tips and techniques, genealogy news items and commentary, genealogy humor, San Diego genealogy society news, family history research and some family history stories from the keyboard of Randy Seaver (of Chula Vista CA), who thinks that Genealogy Research Is really FUN!
Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2006-2013.
"In actuality, every fact reported as such is a conclusion reached through research into that specific research goal.
"Each of these conclusions/facts may provide evidence that leads you to a “big picture” conclusion, a more complex research goal.
"If you accept that every fact is a conclusion, then it should follow that every fact is subject to the Genealogical Proof Standard, and all that it entails."
I understand what Michael is saying here, but I have a quibble with his definitions. Here is what I commented on his post:
"Starting with a definition of Fact:
"1. 'something that actually exists; reality; truth: 2. something known to exist or to have happened: 3. a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true: 4. something said to be true or supposed to have happened:' (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fact)
"It seems to me that we find an “assertion” in a record or statement from a source without knowing the veracity of the assertion, A collection of assertions forms the body of evidence that define an “event” like a birth or marriage or burial.
"If we have done a reasonably exhaustive search for all of the assertions for the event, then we can apply the GPS to drive to a “Conclusion.” That “Conclusion” becomes the basis for the “Fact” – the true date or place or name for an Event in a person’s life history."
I want to expand on my logic here - my logic string goes likes this:
1) A historical Event happened (e.g., a birth, marriage, death, census return, obituary, burial).
2) An informant created, or another person created, a record of the Event based on an eyewitness or hearsay account. The informant may or may not be identified in the record.
3) The record of the Event is an Assertion - an informant said the Event happened and provided details of the Event (e.g., a birth date, a birth place). The Assertion has a Source (written, verbal, image, video, etc.).
4) The collection of one or more Assertions creates a body of Evidence about the Event.
5) The body of Evidence for an Event can be evaluated by applying the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) to the evidence at hand - performing a Reasonably Exhaustive search; creating a Citation for each assertion; analyzing the quality of each piece of the body of evidence; resolving conflicting evidence; and drawing a sound written conclusion from the evidence at hand.
6) The Conclusion drawn by a researcher for a specific Event, after applying the GPS, becomes their "best estimate" of the "truth" or "Fact." As Michael points out in his post, that Conclusion (and therefore the "Fact" in my construct above) can be altered by finding and evaluating more assertions and adding them to the body of evidence.
I also noted in my comment on Michael's post that:
"In reality, many researchers reach a conclusion for each event based on a non-RES and enter the “best” (most likely or most convincing) assertion into their genealogy management program and move on.
"Why do they not perform a RES? Almost all of those conclusions were reached before the GPS was defined and/or learned. Sadly, 95% of the genealogical community has never heard of the GPS nor reads the peer-reviewed journals that use GPS principles to solve difficult research problems."
This is, of course based on my own experience working on my own research and in the genealogical community for many years. When I mention "Genealogical Proof Standard" at my talks or in my research group, the response is almost always MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over).
In my own research experience, I was (and still am) a Name (and data) Collector - from books, periodicals, manuscripts, microfilms, websites, databases, etc. I typically add newfound information for specific Events, from any source, subject to a quality evaluation) on persons that fit my research interests (my ancestral families and my one-name studies) to my RootsMagic database, and then go hunting for more assertions in other resources. I also try to capture as much family history information and records for persons in my database, but there are thousands of persons in my database that have no or few Events on their list (typically, parents of spouses of siblings of my ancestors). My collection is, and always will be, incomplete.
If I find additional assertions of events, I add information to my Research Notes about those persons and will add an "Alternate Event" (e.g., Alt. Birth, Alt. Marriage) to my database with the information that is different from my Conclusion for the Event. If the additional assertion corroborates my Conclusion for the event, then I add the Source for the additional assertion to the Conclusion. If I am convinced that my Conclusion for the Event should be changed, based on my informal or formal analysis of the evidence, then I select the new Conclusion for the Event to be the one displayed in the RootsMagic database.
Unfortunately, throughout my research history, I have not done this consistently, and my database shows this inconsistency. Too many of my Conclusions are based on the mental evaluation of the available evidence and not on a rigorous GPS evaluation.
I will try to review how the genealogy management programs I use address this issue of Events, Assertions, Conclusions and Facts.