TMG-L ArchivesArchiver > TMG > 2002-09 > 1032702793
From: "Darrell A. Martin" <>
Subject: Re: [TMG] Master Source List
Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2002 08:53:13 -0500
At 04:26 AM 9/22/02 -0600, Stuart Armstrong wrote:
>I like this way of thinking about it. The genealogy model some have
>developed has two elements. The first element is the EVIDENCE. All
>evidence comes from a source. The source citation describes where you
>found the evidence, and, optionally, details what the evidence is. (You
>should keep a record _somewhere_ of what the evidence said so you can
>refer to it again later). The purpose of the research process is to
Quibble: I was with you right up until "The purpose of the
research process is to uncover evidence." Either I must
disagree, OR, which I prefer, I think you need to put a
variation of the ASSERTION before the process of uncovering
evidence. Without a HYPOTHESIS, the prior step, I can
uncover more "evidence" in one trip to the National Archives
branch in Chicago than I will ever be able to enter into TMG
-- and little or none of it will be useful to me.
The good researcher *begins* with a HYPOTHESIS. That is, a
tentative ASSERTION for which there is inadequate, or no,
supporting evidence. For example, say I have no clue where
my ancestor William LOWER originated (which is true). My
research HYPOTHESIS may be that he came through Canada from
Germany. I would then begin my search in places where, in
the past, other researchers had found evidence relating to
persons who came to Vermont from Germany through Canada,
and continue with other places where such evidence is more
or less likely to be found.
>The second element is your ASSERTIONS -- what you assert to be true or
>likely based on the evidence you have found and your evaluation of that
>evidence. Generally speaking, the assertions are what you put in the tag's
>date, place, and memo fields (and the tag sentence).
Here is the problem. The transition from HYPOTHESIS to
ASSERTION is *not* always a clean break. There is, in my
experience, a frustrating tendency for some HYPOTHESES to
just "ease on down the road" into ASSERTIONS with no rite
of passage whatever. I go from wondering about it, to
believing it possible, to thinking it likely, to believing
it is true, to believing I have *proved* it true. From
time to time, I even regress [grin].
This is one of the reasons that TMG has sureties.
It is my practice, and I know it is the practice of many,
to create an entry -- a Tag -- at a point in the process
that is well before "believing I have *proved* it true".
With proper use of evidence citations, and disclaimers if
it seems necessary, I do not deceive my readers/viewers.
Nor do I deceive myself. There are few things more
unsettling to the careful researcher than an output page
for a crucial link in an important chain, if that page
has no supporting evidence ...
>Actually the memo field is a sort of catch-all -- you can use it to make
>assertions or talk about the evidence or both. A good example of using the
>memo field for evidence might be quoting an obituary. By implication you
>are asserting that the subject of the obituary is properly identified.
>If you have two different birthdates for an individual, there are two
>popular ways to do it.
> One way is to make a tag for each birthdate, and cite the source for
> each. In this method, the tag is truely a report about what the evidence said.
> The other way (which I prefer) is to make one tag asserting what I
> believe the most likely correct true birthdate is, and cite all of the
> sources (evidence) I used to come to that conclusion, including
> conflicting sources if any.
This is my preference as well, unless there is a balance of
likelihood between or among the options that does not allow me
to make a choice, in which case I use the other way. Until I
have enough evidence.
>Maybe my best-guess assertion of the true birthdate doesn't precisely
>agree with _any_ of the sources, but is a sort of composite or synthesis
>of all of them, giving some of the sources more weight and others less. If
>explanations are appropriate I may discuss my reasoning.
This is precisely why the model of a Tag as being merely a
container, or organizer, of what a Source says is, in my
opinion, inadequate. The researcher / TMG user is a crucial
part of the process.
>Or (usually) I let my assertions stand without comment. If new evidence is
>found, I may re-evaluate all the previous evidence and change my assertions.
> I don't like the word _facts_ because facts suggests something that
> is immutable or beyond reconsideration. In genealogy, most of our
> assertions are subject to change if more evidence is found.
Aha!! Now the cat is out of the bag. You change and delete
Tags! And this, even though the sources that you had before,
you still have; and what those sources said before, they
Some of the discussion of this issue seems to imply (I do not
say that anyone actually works this way) that one must be so
certain of one's "facts" that one never changes, or deletes,
any entry once it is made. And I would suggest that it is
perfectly appropriate, under the right set of circumstances,
to create Tags for which the evidence is so scant that no
self-respecting researcher would ever consider them to be
recording "facts" at all. The Tags in such cases are
"containers" for elements of a HYPOTHESIS, for which evidence
(to prove or to disprove) is sought.
If a Tag exists in TMG with a surety of "0", and no supporting
evidence whatever is cited, it may still belong there. The TMG
4.0d help file on "Surety" says, "A '0' is given to information
judged 'possible' -- in other words, merely a guess." The Tag
still makes an ASSERTION, but neither you -- nor I -- believe
it, just yet.
> How you implement all this is a matter of preference. But it is
> important to keep in your mind that Evidence and Assertions are two
> different things. You should never confuse them. Keep them separate in
> your mind and you will think more clearly. (Just My Opinion).
Not "just" YOUR opinion [grin].
>web page: http://cgi.aros.net/~stuarta
Darrell Allen MARTIN
a native Vermonter currently in exile in Addison, Illinois