Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2009-12 > 1261591563

From: <>
Subject: Re: [TGF] Absence vs. Availability of Evidence
Date: Wed, 23 Dec 2009 12:06:03 -0600
References: <> <a06240800c757d2b17ef4@[]><6C09A2EB93F0481EAEDE45C156C74BE9@acer511eba12df>
In-Reply-To: <6C09A2EB93F0481EAEDE45C156C74BE9@acer511eba12df>

Larry wrote:
>But in these cases, all a researcher can do is to build the argument that
seems to reflect the widest view possible of the material available (or
missing), and let that argument stand or fall on its own merits, while at
the same time noting (or disputing interpretations of evidence for) the
opposing or alternative arguments. Maybe multiple sides can claim to have
each woven a tight argument, but no one side is justified in saying that
their argument is an air-tight one. Doubt is at the heart of all
genealogical research, no matter how strong the conclusions may seem to be.

Well said. And it is for all these reasons that peer review is
important--not "peer review" in the sense that we like to use the word
"peer" today (i.e., those who are our equals) but "peer" in the older sense
of the term (i.e., our "betters"). Many family historians who are not
expert evaluators for whatever reason may agree on a conclusion, while
expert evaluators will see all sorts of serious problems with the

Something that passes peer (expert) review at journals with high standards,
such as the Register and NGSQ, carries weight that unvetted or unjuried
conclusions can't. Even that, of course, doesn't guarantee that a previously
unknown record may one day surface to change the balance of the
argument--and that, of course, points to the reason why research needs to be
as "exhaustive" as possible before a conclusion is reached.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

This thread: