Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2010-10 > 1286668787

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Subject: Re: [TGF] EE Discussion - Section 1.15 - Proof Arguments -Addressing Conflicting Evidence
Date: Sat, 09 Oct 2010 16:59:47 -0700

Laurie wrote:
> Back to my pondering though...I've seen proof arguments that address
> conflicts with published family genealogies or what was found in the
> IGI. I liken these public trees to the IGI for submitted
> records; they contain clues to follow. Now that publishing our
> "research" can be simply done through venues like's public
> trees which attract people with a wide range of experience and interest,
> with the results being far-reaching, how far do I need to go to address
> contradictions and conflicts in my proof arguments? Do I need to include
> something like I've described in my example above when it is clear that
> a reasonable amount of scrutiny would have revealed that a mistake was
> made before it was published to the public tree?

< snip >

> So, where do we draw the line on addressing conflicting evidence? Is it
> up to us personally? Are we tarnishing our researching respectability if
> we don't now argue that online trees have attached the wrong records to
> our persons of interest, especially when there was no contradiction
> apparent before the trees were published? Can I relegate it to a
> footnote? Can I ignore it? I have this haunting thought that after I've
> shared my work and did not address the issue like above, people will
> find the Ancestry trees and wonder why those claim the same record for
> their person of interest that I'm claiming for mine. I'd appreciate any
> thoughts on this.

Laurie, I share this question.

A year or so ago the question arose for me because an author for one of
the NGSQ discussion articles made some statement regarding the
conflicting info on public trees. It was a fairly general statement, no
specific trees were identified nor treated in any detail, and I really
did not (and still do not) see the point. It was one of those "people
say" type sentences and I viewed it's purpose to be primarily one of
setting the stage. I was fortunate enough to be able to ask someone
close to the editing process and the response was along the lines of
your "haunting thought," that the purpose was to let readers know that
those sources were viewed, and the author is aware of the
views/conclusions presented by others in those venues.

I understand that goal on an abstract level. However, I question the
inclusion of public trees in a literature survey. I also question how
much time these "sources" deserve in any analysis.

I know public trees are derivative and that they cannot possibly meet
GPS standards. Most are poorly documented, if at all. There is
absolutely no written analysis, discussion of conflicting evidence, nor
anything resembling a soundly reasoned conclusion. They seem to be
equivalent to un-sourced print genealogies. Why one would acknowledge
the existence of any of these sources? One reason might be if one were
verifying that work. Another reason might be to criticize their use by
another researcher to justify some conclusion.

My current approach is to decide on a case by case basis. I'm very
selective choosing whose work I spend time verifying. I don't do very
much of that. Usually when I evaluate someone else's research, in
order to determine it's usefulness to me, I would just identify the fact
that such-and-such fact was undocumented. For my "original" research,
if I have lots of other ("better") sources then I don't bother looking
at trees and such. If I don't have much, I take a look to get ideas.
For my own writings, I don't report more than I looked (if I did) and a
brief statement of what I observed. If I did look then I record the
specific trees, etc in my notes, but I don't automatically treat them as
a "real" source (enter them into my source database). They become a
"real" source if I end up using info from them. But this is for my
own purposes. Not for a client. not for a journal article.

This may not be the correct approach, but I have enough to do trying to
treat more worthwhile sources properly, and public trees are way down on
my priority list. along with undocumented genealogies. The older
undocumented genealogies present a dilemma. It's difficult for me to
assess which are "worthy" of consideration. Seems to depend upon the
researcher's reputation, an area where I have very limited knowledge, so
it's hard to assess.

I also would be very interested to hear from others how much analysis
time & report space they give to public trees and similar sources in
their research reports and/or journal/book publications.

Linda Gardner

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