Reveals how your approach to sources, plus a bit of detective work, can help you uncover the truth about your ancestors
It is often necessary to carefully examine the evidence we collect during our family history research in order to break down a brick wall, or to prove relationships. The work of gathering all available evidence and weighing it up can be just as painstaking as good science or police work.
Those who are the best genealogy detectives solve mysteries and smash down brick walls by working at a very precise level with original documents to build up a case for proof. Making out a strong case includes weighing up the evidence according to the type of document, thinking about who gave the information or wrote it down, checking all details using documentary sources, making sure each ‘ fact’ about a person has a source, and looking at a variety of different sources for each fact.
the documents Here’s a step-by-step guide to ensure you tease every clue out of you have gathered during the course of your research certificates, including marriage witnesses and household members from the census. If you add information that is uncertain into the chronology, try using a different colour to differentiate it. Then you can easily tell the stronger evidence from the weaker. Finally, look for supporting facts. What events are missing and what has not been confirmed from an original document. Compare address information from certificates, census and parish registers. Do they match or are there conflicts? Are witnesses family members? Think about any other sources you could use to find the same information. Gather records and documents together, and get ready to analyse what you have. Put any documents or information where you can’t answer the question ‘where did it come from? ’ or ‘what is it? ’ to one side. These are clues, but not evidence until you can verify the source. Write out a chronology of events in a person’s life, using your records, and noting the source. This will highlight any records that conflict, for example, someone in two places at once. Put in the full date of each event along with the place and the name the person was recorded with at the time. Add all the people who appear on live in many different parts of the country and changed occupation frequently, or all of the above. These types of scenario can leave you scratching your head. Why are there so many mysteries and does all this evidence even relate to the same person? How can you build an evidence case to enable you to get to the truth about someone’s life, or at least feel happier that you have ident tified the right person?
There are ways to achiev ve this. First, review all your existing evidence. Despite the fact that much of what we collect is held electronically, it is very worthwhile getting all your paper documents together, including notes yo ou have, and also printing out records that are stored on youry computer. Most people read things more easily once they are printed. Examine it all thoroughly and analyse what you have. Is your work based on trees given to you by other people? Have you taken their word for something? Have you relied on indexes