Monday, February 27, 2012

More on Conclusion-Based and Evidence-Based Genealogy

Following up the discussion last week about this topic, I recommend interested readers to check out these blog posts:

1)  Michael Hait on his Planting the Seeds blog:

*  What is a conclusion? -- this posted started the present round, and there are many excellent comments.  Michael noted that:

"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."

*  Simple and complex genealogical conclusions -- here is a model for when to perform a proof argument.  Michael says:

"A simple conclusion is a straightforward statement of indisputable fact.

"A complex conclusion, by contrast, is a conclusion based on a proof summary or a proof argument."
I like the definitions!  

2)  Tim Forsythe on his Ancestors Now blog:

*  Evidence-based Genealogy vs. Conclusion-based Genealogy -- Tim defines the terms and discusses his Evidence-based practices.  Tim notes:

"Evidence-based genealogists (EBGs), like myself, don’t add claims to their database unless there is some evidence to support the claim. Generally this evidence comes in the form of sources. EBGs will add their sources and claims as soon as they become available, all times being relative. This approach will lead to multiple and duplicate claims for individuals even for claims which are considered single-occurrence-events (SOEs), such as a birth date or a death date. Obviously, these claims cannot all be factual, but, since EBGs are not focused on a conclusion model, this is not an obstacle.

"Conclusion-based genealogists (CBGs), which make up the bulk, take a different approach. They gather all their sources together of a period of time, and when they feel comfortable with making a conclusion based on the sum of their data, they will enter only those claims for which they have made conclusions, into their database with their supporting sources. Using this approach, the database will usually not contain multiple claims for SOEs."

*  In Where To File Your Well Thought Out Genealogy Conclusions -- Tim has a fascinating example of embedding a document into a genealogy database.  He says:

"I couldn’t agree more. Although I would propose that that full report that you painstakingly developed should remain with the data it analyzes rather than be separated from it, only to be lost among your files. Have you SEEN my files!"

*  Certainty Assessments -- Tim categorizes the certainty of his evidence using ten criteria.  He notes:

"Genealogy, fundamentally, is nothing more than a set of claims made by sources about individuals. Certainty assessments are used to rank those claims by their likelihood of certainty. Ancestors Now supports 10 levels of certainty assessment. "

The list is helpful to me, and the discussion, because it assigns a logical quantity, but it is still subjective.  

I found Tim Forsythe's examples of a person profile in (from his comment on Russ's post) and his source-based evidence in greatly admire Tim's work - read his entire site and add his blog to your blog reader.

3)  Russ Worthington wrote When to enter data into your Genealogy Software? on his A Worthington Weblog blog.  This has lots of excellent observations and comments.

I said before that I was a "Conclusion-based genealogist" because I want to fill in as many fields as I can in my genealogy management program, adding one or more source citations to these conclusions.  However, I am making the effort to collect as much evidence as possible as I research, with sources noted.   When I have evidence conflicts, I try to write about each piece of evidence, provide the source, and its quality, in my General Notes, and describe my conclusions (whether simple or complex). That way, it "goes along" with my GEDCOM file (I'm really not sure that Research Notes or a Research Log gets transferred in a GEDCOM file between all of the programs or online trees that I frequent.  note to self:  Investigate this!).  When there are evidence conflicts, I haven't yet figured out how to cite all of the evidence into the genealogy management program, other than as an "Alternate Fact" in the programs I use.  

I hope that a reader, or another genealogy blogger, will describe in some detail their process for entering data into their genealogy management program in an "Evidence-based" way.  I'm curious about it, and I'm sure that many of my readers are also curious about the process.  

Thank you to Michael, Tim, Russ and the commenters for adding to this discussion.  

Copyright (c) Randall j. Seaver, 2012.


Happy Dae said...

You may also find the following interesting:

Cousin Russ said...


This has been a great discussion and thank you for pulling it together.

What I have learned from this, I think, is the Role each of us play and why we are doing Genealogy.

The biggest example is the difference between Michael and I. I won't say we are extremes, but what we are trying to accomplish may be different. I am doing my research for me and my Family. As Michael has clients, his approach may be different.

I have been in a couple of Michael's classes, read his blog, and learn from him.

One thing we have in common is that we are members of APG. Like our research, we belong for different reasons. I joined to hang out with cool people. I won't take on any clients, but I can learn from the members of APG. That is why I joined.

So, from this discussion, we will approach our research differently.

Thank you,


Ed said...

I have been reading some of the same discussions, and since I write code, decided to write myself an app for that. I anticipate two parts to - cataloging sources and the claims they support (assertions, facts, events, whatever); and then putting together a proof for specific subjects and facts.

The question is what to do with the proof, and integrating the results of this new app with my genealogy software of choice (in this case RM5). I'm leaning towards using the PROOF document as the source for the facts in RM, knowing that the proof document itself will have citations to all the accounted for sources. However this makes it harder to 'share' sources, since the proof is unpublished.

Obviously I am still mulling on this, but hope to have a working app in a few weeks.

I know both Clooz and Lineascope do some of this same work, but both seem to be stalled, and both couple sources to tightly to people for my liking.

ColeValleyGirl said...

Ed, you might like to look at The app is just going into beta-testing, and isn't coupled to any particular family history programme.

Disclaimer: I'm the author.

Geolover said...

Randy, interesting summation - but as you suggested toward the end of your post, there is more to be said, at least in the vein of how genealogy programs are presently designed. In particular, demanding that a 'primary' *conclusion* be entered.

Normally I just grit my teeth and follow this mode, with careful explanation of reasoning.

However, I recently ran across a cousin whose birth record states born XX XXX XXXX (informant supposedly father, but whether there was an intermediary step before the County Clerk had the opportunity to make a mistake is unknown; sometimes the Assessor drew up the lists, and may have gotten the info from making the rounds of local general stores). His Ohio Marriage License Application states born AA BBB CCCC (he was the applicant for the license), as does his World War I Draft Registration form. His death record and gravestone give birthdate of QQ RR SSSS, the informant for the death record being a son (who may also have purchased the gravestone). So there were at least three different opinions regarding date of birth, and since (when he was born) he was not of an age to be sure of the date of birth, his opinion is not necessarily governing. Any speculation as to who gave him a reason for this opinion would be just that - speculation.

Were I to write a report, I would place a little more credence on his opinion of his date of birth, but could not state a firm conclusion. Thus my home genealogy program is frustrating in its insistence on a primary conclusion.

I'd like to hear from Louis Kessler about how his program handles this problem, as well as from others with possible alternatives.

Louis Kessler said...

Missed Geolover's comment originally, but I see it now that I come back (almost 2 years later).

For certain events where only one is possible (i.e., Birth, Marriage (for one pairing of people) and death), GEDCOM allows multiple entries. The first is the primary/preferred entry, and the others are alternative entries.

That said, my personal preference is to either pick my most likely date, or else use a date range, and link all the contrary sources to it and include a note describing the conflicts and my current conclusion.


Emily said...

The links to Tim Forsythe's articles appear to be broken. Are they still up on the web but in different locations?