TIM'S TERRIFIC TIPS ON STANDARDS OF EVIDENCE

Copyright 1996
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STANDARDS OF EVIDENCE

Standards of evidence: When I started out, I rejected a lot of obvious information because I didn't know what to look for and what was important. At least I wrote it down!! I think as you gain more experience, you know what leads to a conclusion and what doesn't.

The old rule of thumb was to have three sources of information to draw a conclusion. Well, that's a good rule, but if you have the dates from a tombstone, and the birthdate matches a baptism, and he was in that area at the time - wait, that's three records. Anyway, it's a good starting point. If you're not sure, challenge your idea and explore the alternatives. Check the records on other people who could be the parents just to rule them out. It will save a lot of time in the long run.

Always go back to original source material, not just someone's family history. These second generation documents, while generally good intentioned, include the author's interpretations, biases, etc. and need double checked to the same standard as original data. You might feel good that someone 'proved' your ancestor was the child of kings, but just because someone wrote it down doesn't make it a fact.

I'd like to come up with some type of weighting scheme to refine the three sources of material. Some data is pretty solid like land records and wills. Other data is sort of incidental like baptisms and tax records. A mountain of the incidental evidence starts to approach the solid data. Wait a minute, I must have been watching the OJ trial too much...

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