Genealogy Do-Over Week 6 – Evaluating Evidence

Genealogy Do-Over Week 6 Topics

  • Evaluating Evidence
  • Reviewing Online Education Options

Evaluating Evidence

I read a comment that Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote on a post in our Do-Over, that sources come in all shapes and sizes and it’s important to obtain as many sources as possible to do a good evaluation.

Although I take a lot of time to get as much information as possible from each record I find, I have not taken the time to properly ‘evaluate’ the evidence. Thomas MacEntee provided us with the link to the Board for Certification of Genealogists – Guidelines for Evaluating Genealogical Resources. Here Elizabeth Shown Mills explains the process of analyzing evidence in a simple model.  She also explains it very well in her book Evidence Explained.

Let’s take my grandmother, Anna Marie Kappes Doerr as an example. She was born 8 Dec 1893. I’ve obtained this date from two family history books, written in the early 1970’s (neither had sources listed). Her findagrave.com memorial also has this date and the years in all of her census records match. I had no reason to doubt the information, so moved on. However, none of these records are

  • Original – first written statement of the event
  • Primary – written by an eyewitness or participant of the event OR
  • Direct – information that answers the question or problem by itself

Consequently, I failed to properly evaluate the evidence and obtain as many sources as possible. I need to go the next step and attempt to obtain her birth record. This week I will write to the Iowa Dept. of Public Health for certified copies of both my grandmother Anna, but also my grandfather Theodore Peter Doerr. Although I already have his birth ‘index’, I need to obtain a copy of the original.

Another quick story is about my dear mother-in-law, who was adopted when she was several months old. She was always told that her birth date was May 22, which is when her birth day was always celebrated. At some point, she needed a copy of her birth certificate. When she received it, she was surprised to see that she was actually born on May 21. Her husband then began giving her a gift on both days. 🙂

Reviewing Online Education Options

Before last year when I decided to write a book about my ancestors, I worked ‘on my own’ on my genealogy projects. I learned as I went along my merry way. I was oblivious of the many educational resources available. Last year, I started taking advantage of many of the online education opportunities. including you-tube tutorials through ancestry.com and some online webinars. I also signed up for many genealogy facebook groups. Budget and time is always a consideration, unfortunately, but I have learned more in the last year, than I had in all the years prior to doing it ‘on my own’.

Thomas MacEntee has provided us with a wonderful list of Free Online Genealogy Education Resources. Thank You, again, Thomas!


The Genealogy Do-Over journey is a 13 week challenge from Thomas MacEntee, of GeneaBloggers.

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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