This month Evidence Analysis was the topic for my Progen Study Group. Our assignment was to take the records gathered for one individual and analyze them using the following criteria:
A source is either:
Original- first form
Derivative-made from the original (index, transcription, abstract etc.
The information is either-
Primary-First hand account
Secondary-Second hand account
Undetermined-not known who gave information
The evidence is either:
Direct-answers the research question itself
Indirect- implies and answer but more needed
Negative-absence of information that should have been there
Why should you take the time to look at your sources and determine each of these criteria? Because not all sources are the same. The accuracy of the information contained in them depends on the type of record, who gave the information and how close to the actual time period it was made. A record that has been indexed, or transcribed can be flawed due to human error.
Going through the analysis process will help determine if the information collected provides enough to come to a reasonable conclusion or if more research needs to be done.
My analysis of the records of William J. Dorrity, my maternal 3rd Great Grandfather contains these types of sources.
Census Records from 1850-1880 are categorized as Original (digital copies), the information they contain is secondary (taken by the census taker but it's not known who gave the information), and they contain direct answers to the questions (whether they are true or not). The 1900 census showed negative evidence of William Dorrity. He was not listed in the census and his wife was recorded as a widow. This "negative" evidence helps to pinpoint a year of death.
Recorded as Widowed
1900 Sumter County Census
Image from ancesty.com
Military Records from the Civil War are Derivative (records made from copies other records), with primary information (made at the time of the event), and Direct evidence of military service and other information provided by the record.
Co. G, SC 20th Infantry
Image from Fold3.com
Newspapers provide Original (digital copies) information. Usually, a newspaper article was written about an event that recently happened and it can be classified as primary. This was the case with the newspaper accounts of William J. Dorrity's land being adjacent to another piece of land in a legal notice and the listing of his wife Martha in a Widow's Pension list. The legal notice is direct evidence that William owned land and where it was, and the Widow's Pension list is indirect evidence of the year of his death.
Widow's Pension List
Watchman and Southron
26 May 1897 pg. 7
Image from Newspapers.com
Records can have more than one type of evidence. Usually, a death certificate is primary information of a person's death, cause, and burial, with the birth date and place being secondary. This is due to the fact that the death information is recorded near the time of death but the birth information is supplied many years after the fact and depending on the informant, it is at best secondary and often not reliable.
A family Bible can be primary information if each event recorded was done at the time it happened. It can also contain secondary information if births, marriages and deaths were written years after the fact.
If you haven't done so, take a look at your documents and other records. Analyzing the types of information they contain will help determine whether you have good solid evidence or if you need to continue searching.
For more information go to: Cindy's List-Evidence Analysis
And for software that can help put it all together, I recommend using Evidentia.
Are we kin? Please contact me. Together we can find our people.
Thanks so much for stopping by.