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Archiver > APG > 2006-12 > 1165984776

From: "R_J_S" <>
Subject: Re: [APG] Analyzing evidence
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2006 20:39:36 -0800
References: <005401c71e65$94937390$e876124c@win2000a141573>

This has been a fascinating discussion so far, and I hope it continues as
more people weigh in. Thank you all for the wisdom and experience. Here
are my two cents:

As I collect information from sources, I enter the VR data into the right
places in my program (FTM in my case) and I enter non-VR data into the text
notes section, usually in a timeline fashion. I then make a genealogy
report (usually a descendants report - I prefer the NGSQ format since I
don't have to go to the next generation to see all of the details) and print
it out (including sources). I can proofread it and edit it by hand (I proof
and edit much better with a paper in front of me than on the screen), then
add the changes to the text notes in FTM. I discuss the evidence quality in
the notes, and I form hypotheses when needed. I keep the database updated
with each bit of information I obtain.

When I am searching for the parents of a person and don't know their names,
the results of my search to date is in my database under "Mr. Smith" or
whatever, as the father or mother of the particular person. When I make my
genealogy report, I start with this unknown person so that I know what I
have already searched.

For the "brick wall" problems, I use four forms of my own creation:

1) What information I have already found according to type (vital, census,
probate, land, military, etc)

2) The books, journals and databases I have already reviewed (and the
libraries, archives, genealogical or historical societies that hold them)

3) The Internet databases, web pages, message boards, etc. that I have or
need to search in an organized way

4) A to-do list for the particular family or surname, including type of
information, specific resources to look for and repositories that may hold

This system allows me to identify what information I do have and to evaluate
its quality, what information I don't have and need to search for, and
where I need to search. If the type of record is not extant after
searching, I note that too, so that I don't revisit a source, repository or
a database without a good reason.

The forms get stapled to the genealogy report and I put the whole package in
my research notebook that goes to the repository with me. The database and
the forms are also on my laptop computer, but I usually write on the paper
forms at the repository.

All of the above is evidence gathering and analysis. Classifying the
information as primary or secondary, the sources as original or derivative,
and the evidence as direct or indirect helps focus the effort and drive to a
solution. I have a lot of experience in gathering and analyzing, but there
have not been definite solutions to many of my "brick wall" problems - yet!

This is what works for me. I choose to not use the real "word processor"
until I am ready to do a final report. I find it easier to write plain text
in FTM and print out the results, proof it, edit it, modify the text, rinse
and repeat. I have not used a spreadsheet like MS Excel to analyze
genealogy problems, nor a program like Clooz (which does some of this well,
I think). Perhaps someone could comment on their experience with Clooz (are
there other programs of this nature?) - does it help with evidence analysis?

One thing that also helps me with my "brick wall" problems is sharing them
with other researchers and asking for advice. Our local society has a
monthly research group where we share our problems and their solutions when
we find them. I read some of the journals (NGSQ, NEHGR, TAG, TG) for
problems (and their solutions) similar to mine. I have posted several of my
problems on my genealogy blog.

Gathering information and analyzing the available evidence are the really
fun part of the genealogy treasure hunt for me.

Just my two cents -- Randy Seaver/Chula Vista CA (still genea-blogging daily
at Genea-Musings -- http://randysmusings.blogspot.com, come visit on

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