Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lightbulb: Proof and Citation

And suddenly a light bulb went off in my head and I said Eureka! What's this about? Well, my genealogy pal, it's about my coming to a fuller understanding of this business of proof and citation.

Oh, I understand it OK. It's not about simple comprehension as much as coming to a deeper understanding of the problem of researching my ancestors, keeping track of where I find stuff, being sure I've done all I can to look under every rock, and then putting it all together in a way that's useful to others.

But just now, while reading a very cogent blog post by James Tanner at Genealogy's Star, I "got it". Find the post at

So this is what I got and let me state it as bullet points so that I can clarify my own thinking... cause for this newbie, that's one of the reasons that I blog:)

In a nut shell, it boils down to two take-away items for me. First I need to record where I found that info, and most call it "citing sources". Then, second, I do need a logical methodology for finding out stuff. Otherwise I'll back-track and stumble all over the place (often, as I've found, falling on my face.)

Here are my take-aways about citing sources:

* Pick a way to record where I find this stuff. Pick a style, any ol' style at all. And then be consistent. What I learned in school long ago was: author's name, title, publisher, date. Kinda like that. If it's an electronic source, check resources for help on modifying that basic style to fit the source cited.

* Did I say I need to be consistent? Oh right I did. But I needed to hear it again.

* The important part is to do it in such a way, including all the parts and pieces, such that I or anyone else, can find their way back to it. Like breadcrumbs.

* Then with a consistent way to cite sources that is useful to me and others, and that can be adapted to fit new media, don't sweat it. Get busy working, Diane!

On to working method

What James Tanner pointed out to me about proof standard was the following:

"Yes, you do have follow something that at least approximates the Genealogical Proof Standard in order to have any confidence at all that what you are writing is correct, but on the other hand, you do have to move along down the road and should obsess with details that have no probative value."

Yeah, see I run into that all the time and I bet I'm not alone here. So I have to give it my best and most logical thought and working method and then, as he says, move on down the road.

Here's my take-away about a working methodology:

* Look everywhere I can think to look. Ask Mom and Aunt Betty too for advice on where to look. I'm still wet behind the ears so I can and do miss sources.

* Identify conflicting data as soon as possible and dig down deeper to test each.

* Compare and contrast all the data surrounding a presumed fact and try to resolve this conflict.

* State clearly and logically what I've found.

Yup, I can do this.

I printed out this page covering the Genealical Proof Standard:

Photo of the day from my archive:

Enoch Clise (1843 - 1896),
married two Whetstone sisters, namely Susan Emily and then Elizabeth Jane,
 and served in the Civil War.

No comments:

Post a Comment