Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Trying to be an Evidenced-Based Researcher- Does This Work?

After all of the discussion recently about Conclusion-based and Evidenced-Based research (see More on Conclusion-Based and Evidence-Based Genealogy), I decided to try adding as much information as possible to one of my "brick-wall ancestors."

For this work, I used RootsMagic 5 and added all of the alternate names and alternate birth assertions that I have found in my research for Devier James Lamphier Smith (1839-1894), one of my second great-grandfathers.  I was curious to see how this information would be shown by RootsMagic 5 and listed in a number of reports.

1)  Here is my RootsMagic 5 screen for the Devier Smith family  in the Family View:

As you can see, only one Birth assertion, one Marriage assertion, and one Death assertion is entered for Devier and his wife, Abigail (Vaux) Smith (1844-1931).

2)  Double clicking on Devier's name opens the Edit Person for him.  The list of Facts (assertions) is in date order, and Alternate Names are listed at the bottom.

For each Fact (assertion) listed, I have one or more source citations based on the research I have performed for Devier.  I have added several source comments and Fact notes, in addition to having a long Person Notes section.

3)  Here is the first page of the Family Group Sheet created by RootsMagic 5 for Devier J. Smith:

For the Family Group Sheet, the user seems to have no control over which Facts (assertions) are printed out.  As you can see, source citation numbers are assigned for the Facts, and I chose to add them as Endnotes at the end of the report.  The Family Group Sheet includes information for the children, and the Person notes for Devier and his wife.

4)  An Individual Summary for Devier J. Smith is similar in content to the Family Group Sheet, except for the list of children is minimized.  The Person Notes for Devier and the source citations for the Facts (assertions) are included.

5)  A Narrative Report for the Ancestors of Devier J. Smith contains similar information, but in a narrative format, as shown below:

I've added the narrative from the above report for Devier J. Smith, but not the Person Notes, below so that my readers can see how RootsMagic creates this report, followed by the source citations.  I have not found any way to suppress the alternate assertions in RootsMagic.  Note that while the source citation numbers are superscripted in the actual reports, they did not copy that way here.  I don't know how to do that on blogger, so I'll put them in (parentheses).

 Devier James Lamphier Smith(1) was reported to be born in 1838–1839 in New York, United States.(2–5) He was reported to be born in 1839–1840 in New York, United States.(6–7) He was reported to be born in 1839 in Jefferson, New York, United States.(8) Devier was born on 7 May 1839 in Henderson, Jefferson, New York, United States.(9) 

The birth date of Devier James Lamphier Smith was most likely 7 May 1839.  The date of 7 May is given only in the Smith Family Bible (in Devier's hand) and the Abbie (Vaux) Smith's notes listing the family birth, marriage and death information.  The obituary for Devier J. Smith says May without a day.

The year of birth was probably 1839.  The Smith Family Bible, in Devier's hand, says 1842.  The newspaper obituary and gravestone record say 1842, but were probably derived, by Devier's son, from the Smith Family Bible.  Abbie (Vaux) Smith's  list says 1839, as does the 1889 newspaper article about Devier J. Smith.  All six census records imply a birth year between 1838 and 1840.  No other records imply a birth year of 1842. 

He was reported to be born in May 1842 in Dodge, Wisconsin, United States.(10) He was reported to be born on 7 May 1842 in Henderson, Jefferson, New York, United States.(11) Devier was adopted before 1843 in Jefferson, New York, United States.(12) He died on 1 May 1894 at the age of 54 in McCook, Red Willow, Nebraska, United States.(10–11,13) He was buried after 1 May 1894 at McCook Cemetery in McCook, Red Willow, Nebraska, United States.(14) 

Devier was also known as D.J. Smith.(2–3,6,8,14) He was also known as Devier J. Smith.(4,10–11) He was also known as Devier Lamphier.(12,15) Based on the available personal, public and government records, this person was born with the name Devier James Lamphere, probably in Jefferson County, New York.  His birth parents have not been identified to date.  He may have been adopted by Ranslow and Mary (Bell) Smith before 1848, when the Smith family moved to Dodge County, Wisconsin.

The source citations are:

1. Conclusion drawn from available evidence. Ranslow Smith's will names him as Devere J. Lamphere alias Devere J. Smith.  The Wisconsin name change record names him as Devier Lamphier changing his name to Devier J. Smith.  Several newspaper articles give his name as Devier J. Smith or D.J. Smith.  Census records from 1850 to 1885 consistently name him as Devier Smith or D.J. Smith.  The 1885 United States Patent lists his name as Devier James Smith.  His wife's list of family names lists him as Diver James Smith.  My conclusion is that he was named Devier James Lamphier at birth, and his name was changed by an Act of the Wisconsin Legislature to Devier J. (for James) Smith in 1866.
. 2. "1880 United States Federal Census," Population Schedule, Pottawatomie County, Kansas, Shannon township: Page 243D, dwelling #125, family #125, D.J. Smith household; online database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing National Archives Microfilm Publication T9, Roll 393. D.J. Smith is age 41, born in New York.
3. "1885 Census, Kansas State Census Schedule," Online database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com), citing original data at Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas., Clyde township, Clay County, Kansas, page 35, line 10, citing Kansas State Historical Society Microfilm K-23. D.J. Smith is age 46, born in New York.
4. "1860 United States Federal Census," Population Schedule, Dodge County, Wisconsin, Oak Grove; Page 745, Dwelling #704, Family #701, Ranslow smith household; online database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing National Archives Microfilm Publication M653, Roll 1406. Devier Smith was age 21, born in New York.
5. "1850 United States Federal Census," Population Schedule, Dodge County, Wisconsin, Burnett; Page 43, Line 36, Ranslow smith household, online database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, Roll 996. Devier Smith was age 11, born in New York.
6. "1870 United States Federal Census," Population Schedule, Taylor County, Iowa, Benton township: Page 13, dwelling #207, family #207, D.J. Smith household; online database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com); citing National Archives Microfilm Series M593, Roll 421. D.J. Smith is age 30, born in New York.
7. "1875 Kansas State Census Census, Population Schedule," Online database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com), original data at Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, Kans.), Lincoln township, Cloud County, Kansas, page 12, line 38, citing Kansas State Microfilm reel K-4. D.J. Smith is age 35, born in New York.
8. "D.J. Smith," Wano [Kansas] Plain Dealer newspaper, ca. 1889; newspaper clipping in Della Smith Carringer's scrapbook. "D.J. Smith was born in 1839 in Jefferson County, New York."
9. Smith/Carringer Family Correspondence (Loose Letters, 1888–1902), originals privately held by Randall J. Seaver, [address for private use], Chula Vista CA 91911, 1988 (great grandson). Family letters to and from Abigail (Vaux) Smith, Rebecca (Spangler) Carringer, and Della (Smith) Carringer.  Abigail (Vaux) Smith list of family births and deaths.
10. "McCook [Neb.] Times-Democrat,"  Online database, Early McCook Newspapers, Southwest Nebraska Genealogical Society (http://www.swsgs.org/~swngs/newspaper/1894_democrat.htm), D.J. Smith, obituary, 1894, no date, no page number.
11. unknown, Devier J. Smith, 1889-1920, Devier J. Smith Family Bible [loose pages of Birth, Marriages, Death and Note Pages] (no publication information).
12. Andrew County, Missouri Probate Records, 1841-1918, on 14 FHL US/CAN microfilms, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; original records in Andrew County, Missouri, courthouse., Volume A, 1842-1888, Pages 360-365, court clerk's transcription, will of Ranslow Smith, accessed on FHL US/CAN Microfilm 1,006,205.
13. Smith/Carringer Family Correspondence, Abbie (Vaux) Smith list of family births, marriages and deaths.
14. Robert T. Ray, Cemetery Records for Red Willow County, Nebraska (N.p.: Southwest Nebraska Genealogical Society, 197-). entry for D. J. Smith, 1842-1894 Cemetery #1 (Memorial Park, McCook).
15. Wisconsin Legislature, Enrolled Acts, Resolutions, and Memorials, 1836-1943, Series 188 (259 Volumes), Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison, Wis., Box 80, Senate Journal No. 2, January-March 1866, Devier Lamphier name change to Devier J. Smith, 21 March 1866.

 I put my conclusion about Devier's name in a Source Note (number 1).  I also discussed the birth year conclusion in a Birth Fact Note (in Green).  Note that the Facts (assertions) are listed in order, and that any Fact Note is printed after the Fact.  I edited the paragraphs a bit to help readability.

Is this the way someone using RootsMagic 5 should do Evidenced-based genealogy research?  I'm curious to see how Family Tree Maker 2012 and Legacy Family Tree deal with this type of data entry (assuming I've done it correctly).

Congratulations to anyone who read through this tome... please be gentle with source citation comments!

Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

I'm just proud of your effort and that you shared it. You are an inspiration! ;-)

Sheryl said...

Thanks for all your work on the subject of evidence-based research. I have been looking for some examples and you did it with RootsMagic.

Unknown said...

Great posting Randy. I too have read a lot recently about evidence-based research. After reading a few posts I have been trying to come to terms about how to handle all the alternative facts that I have previously found in my research which have been lumped together to support the information I know to be true. Even though the alternative fact may not give the whole picture. Like a census birth year, I had simply attached to the birth date I do know instead of creating an alternative fact for just the year.

I too decided to "correct" all the entries for a few of the individuals in my tree and it took some time separating all the pieces. I shudder at the thought of revisiting all the individuals in my tree to repeat the process.

I use Family Tree Maker and in the report generator it allows you to "Include only preferred facts." That option is found in the "Items to Include" section when customizing the report.

When I sit back and think about it I understand the importance of making an alternative fact line for a source that only provides a partial piece of the information. Since the program I use allows you to exclude them easily, I can only say I wish I had been more exact to begin with.

Unknown said...

Barry, many of us are in the same boat. No way I'm going back through my 20,000 claims and redoing them. Luckily for me I came upon this approach 10,000 claims ago, so my database is only half munged. I'd suggest, if you like the paradigm, carry it forward from here.

Cousin Russ said...


Great, continuing, discussion on this topic.

I just posted:



Jeff Hodge said...

I like your first citation "1. Conclusion drawn from available evidence . . ." This is how I do it by putting my argument in a footnote. But I especially like the way you make it very clear, after you summarize the supporting and conflicting data, "My conclusion is that he was named . . ."

Tracie LeBeau said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Les said...

As I new user of RootsMagic, I find your posts most informative. I need to try this with my Brick Wall Grandmother.

Harold Henderson said...

Randy --

Thanks for sharing. I have a database with a lot of much worse cited information, so nothing to say about that.

My main question is what is the purpose of the written account that you ended up with? If it is to refresh your mind (or a descendant's mind!) about your work on this fellow's name, it seems pretty hard to follow. I appreciated the parts where you assessed the information but found I wanted more. Sometimes I find that a table works better than anything for comparing and contrasting the reliability of different scraps.

These days I find myself concentrating on particular individuals more, and in fact just spent some time excavating information OUT of my database and into a written narrative that made sense, so that I could continue research on a relative that I dropped three years ago. Right now it seems to me that actually writing it up is more help to me than trying to use a genealogy database at all. But that might just be me.


Ginger Smith said...

Randy, this is how I did mine but using only one birth entry with multiple sources: http://genealogybyginger.blogspot.com/2012/03/am-i-evidence-based-genealogist-or.html

Beirne Konarski said...

This is sad. I switched from FTM to RM a few months ago. FTM lets you limit reports to preferred facts and I just assumed that RM had that option, but I see now it doesn't. I just went to the RM forum and added a feature request to include some form of this. Either Primary-only or perhaps filtering out the facts proven false or disputed would work.