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nounIndirect Evidence Chaulkboard
• circumstantial evidence 1
• evidence that establishes immediately collateral facts from which the main fact may be inferred 2
• probative matter that does not proximately relate to an issue but that establishes a hypothesis by showing various consistent facts. 3

Or using collateral facts combined with circumstantial evidence to establish a hypothesis.

Do we use this in genealogy? If we don’t, perhaps we should be!

In my few short years of genealogical research, it seems to me there are two ends of this spectrum: those who are name collectors. You know, the ones who copy anyone’s tree they can find whether the birth date, place of birth, or even state of residence matches their relatives or not.

And those who simply won’t add a person to their tree until they’ve found a half-dozen sources that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is their relative.

What’s in between these two ways of researching? I say it’s indirect evidence and maybe more people should be in the middle!

What got me thinking about all this was a Family Tree webinar this week entitled: “Where Does It Say That? Learning to Love Indirect Evidence” presented  by Chris Staats from Saats Genealogical Services [StaatsOfOhio].

In his webinar Chris explained how sources provide information, and information provides evidence. Then he went into the types of Sources: (1) Original (2) Derivative (3) Authored work; types of Information: (1) Primary (2) Secondary (3) Uncertain; and kind of Evidence: (1) Direct (2) Indirect (3) Negative. 4

If your head is spinning after reading the above paragraph, mine was too at this point in his webinar. I haven’t studied these standards. And I am not a certified genealogist. Original, Primary and Direct all sound like the same thing to me!

But then he went on to demonstrate it all in a case study, giving examples and showing how you can come to a conclusion based on indirect evidence. That I could get into. It made sense as I watched him make his way through records, and compare names, places of birth, neighbors, relationships, even including an executor of a will that later proved to be a relative.

I recommend watching this Family Tree webinar because it could provide you with tools and new ideas to break through your brick walls. It’s in their archive, and free until April 1st.

1Merriam-Webster Dictionary
2Dictionary.com
3The Free Dictionary
4Where Does It Say That: Learning to Love Indirect Evidence

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