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From the Green Valley News, Sunday January 31 2010, page C5

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

You Can't Have One without the Other

The third and fourth steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) fit the line from that old song about Love and Marriage: ". . . you can't have one without the other."

Step three, Analysis and correlation of the collected information and step four, Resolution of any conflicting evidence are done in tandem when working toward a genealogical conclusion.

The Merriam Webster Dictionary's first definition of analysis is "separation of a whole into its component parts;" the fourth definition is "an examination of a complex, its elements, and their relations." In genealogy, we use both methods to analyze all the evidence collected to solve a particular problem. Correlation is comparing or showing the relationship between two or more elements, or sources as used in genealogy.

Examine each source and the evidence found therein and in relationship to all other relevant evidence. Is the record an original or a derivative? Is the information it contains primary (first hand) or secondary? Is the evidence produced direct (stands on its own), indirect or negative? These factors were discussed in more detail in my December 13 article. Look at each source and its origins weighing it against other sources. Each source is evaluated on its own merits and then compared to the other sources.

Analysis is accomplished by accumulating all sources relative to a particular problem or individual being studied. It may help to create a time line for easier visualization of the information collected. A time line is a chronological list of records that helps in determining what information is missing. Create and maintain a time line as research progresses and when it's time to reach a conclusion, it will represent a comprehensive portrait of evidence collected.

Resolution of conflicts between sources is the natural and necessary next step in analysis. Conflicting or contradictory sources prevent arriving at a satisfactory conclusion or proof. Often two or more records may contain conflicting information.

For instance, an individual's birth record and his death record will both provide birth information, usually birth date, place and parents' names. Each may be an original record but while birth data in the former is primary, birth data in the death record is secondary - provided by someone who was not likely present at the birth event. The birth record carries more weight as it was created at the time of the event and would normally be considered the most accurate in this example.

This is not to say that birth records never contain errors. Examination of both records in light of other available records would help in resolving the conflict. In this particular case, baptism, census, school, church, military and/or social security records among others might provide birth data and help to resolve the conflict.

Conflict resolution is a mental process of deciding which record has the highest degree of accuracy and carries more weight. If a conflict cannot be resolved, additional research may be necessary.

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