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From: Sharon <>
Subject: [APG] Forensic Genealogy - not for the faint of heart
Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2008 06:05:16 -0500


Definitions are really concepts for practice that may need to include
thought about even the extremes of that practice.

I'd like to go back to an issue that Melinde raised - and amplify it.

In any contentious legal situation, not only would a forensic
genealogist have to have a clue about how to handle Direct and
Cross-Examinations, but many broader issues, including being prepared
for efforts to might be geared towards a downright sabotage of your
personal and professional credibility - no matter what credential you
may be hoping to hang your hat on.

So, not only do you need to do, or be prepared to do


You must -

have a very good sense of what the level of the case cost/benefit is, eg
will it be a VW case (maybe one or two generations of BMD docs), a
Cadillac case (maybe a four generation genealogy) or a Ferrari (by
being prepared to cut every alternative theory off at the pass, no
matter what counter-claim might be raised).

have a really good handle on what it takes to present complex
information in a simple matter of fact way without putting the judge
and/or jury - or anybody to sleep.

be tuned in to what the process is for responding to a "left turn from
the right lane" by the opposition, particularly when the "traffic cop"
part of the legal system doesn't pick up on the maneuver.

strategize right from the beginning by sizing up the case for any
additional experts you may need to call on.

be prepared to "argue" the case with any other experts, as well as the
attorneys, and yourself, before a court appearance, to make sure that
you are all really on the same page, and have resolved any red herrings.

quickly apprise the client when you have any concerns about what your
research will show.

practice your response and ability to maintain equanimity in the face
of tactics that are designed to create self-doubt, confusion and
anything less than a professional manner of confidence.

Judges and juries do NOT fact check. They give "opinions" based on the
"arguments" of the attorneys, the evidence presented, testimony given,
credibility of the testifiers and legal framework of the case.

Law cases can be lost despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary of
the outcome. While the legal process is supposed to arrive at a TERMINAL
decision, there are situations where delays are deliberately introduced
to the loss of the edge you have when you are first doing your research.

Guess why I raise these Issues?

I am working on a case that used a genealogical claim as a sledge hammer
to bias relatively distant (from a code and case law standpoint) legal

However, what I am needing to research is not *just* kinship in the
sense that we often think of for genealogical purposes, but a more
*biographical* standpoint where the merits of the case also rely on
whether the person was in a certain place, at a certain time, doing
certain activities - that are directly relevant to the code and case law
framing the controversy, and even plausible for a broader historical,
anthropological - and conceivably other disciplines to consider.

The reality of a good grounding in genealogical research is that even
though we might use analysis of collaterals, neighbors, co-workers, and
other communities of interest to find the clues and/or actual
genealogical documentation we are seeking, we can also use the same
methods to develop a proof model for the *biographical* validity of the
subject or a group of subjects.

My present assertion about such situations in forensic genealogy is that
you must be able to address many other dimensions than the kinship, but
without the professional kinship and genealogical inquiry model, you
would never be able to sort out the other issues.

Sharon Sergeant

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