Since I completed the original Genealogy Do-Over I have been using the following questions to guide me in evaluating evidence. Last week I talked about the differences in my modus operandi pre-Genealogy Do-Over and what has changed in my modus operandi since finishing the Genealogy Do-Over in March.
When presented with a piece of evidence you will need to ask the following questions. Only after you have gone through the evidence you can then make your analysis of all of the information gathered then and only then do you determine if proof can be established.
There many ways to evaluate the evidence of any ancestor. These are the things I keep in mind when evaluating evidence. If you would like to see the whole list click here.
The following questions should be asked every time you are examining a piece of evidence.
- Is it clear and readable
- Handwritten or typed?
- If handwritten, is it legible?
- If typed, do notice if there any characters that are used in place of another? ie: Lower case “L”’s in place of the number 1 because the key is broken.
- What is the clarity?
- Is it clear?
- Is it smeared?
- Is it legible?
- What is the condition of the document?
- Is it intact?
- Is it damaged?
- How badly damaged?
- Are there any conflicting evidence?
- Dates, Names, Place Number inconsistencies?
- In the image? Or on the document?
- Are there any alterations on the document?
- Handwritten notes?
- Certificate numbers changed?
- Determine the type of source you have
- Original - the first time the information is recorded
- Derivative - information that has been copied, transcribed, abstracted etc.
- Authored/Narrative - a hybrid of work by someone who gathers all avaiable information, reads it, makes an analysis then develops a new piece of information.
- What type of source do you have?
- Primary - first hand knowledge
- Secondary - second hand knowledge
- Unknown/Undeterminded - you don't know who, what or where the information came from
- What type of evidence do you have?
- Direct evidence - explicit, answers all of your questions
- Indirect evidence - is not explicit & his generally combined with other information to answer questions
- Negative evidence - where your research doesn't answer your questions and perhaps brings forth additional questions
The Evaluation Process
This is the death certificate for my children's 3rd great paternal grandfather. The death certificate to the left is from Ancestry.com, click here.
Questions I want to answer first:
1. Is it clear & readable?
2. What is the clarity of this document?
3. Is it legible?
4. Condition of the document?
5. Is there any damage?
6. Determine what type of source.
7. What type of source is this?
8. What type of evidence is this?
It gives me the place of death: Corryton, Knox, Tennessee & date of death: 14 April 1916. It lists his gender as: male, lists his race as: white and his marital status: married. His name, Henry Kitts. It gives me the month and year he was born: August 1824, place of birth: Grainger County, Tennessee and his occupation is listed as farmer. His cause of death is listed as pneumonia due to asphyxia. There is also a contributory cause listed: carcinoma. His father is listed as Peter Kitts and his mother as Amy Adkins. His daughter Hattie Kitts Mynatt is listed as the informant with her address also being in Corryton.
Anomalies I found in the death certificate from Ancestry:
- The lines for the burial information are empty.
- There is conflicting information in regards to Henry's mother as I know it to be.
I have chosen to use both of the death records I found at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com for Henry. I consider this to be a derivative copy of the original document with direct, primary information.
The anomaly I see is that there is no cemetery information listed. However, I know from my children's 2nd great grandaunt, that her great grandfather, Henry Kitts is buried in the Kitts Cemetery in Grainger County, Tennessee.
There is also conflicting information about Henry's mother. Henry's father, Peter Kitts, Jr was married twice. According to Tennesse Marriage to 1825 at Ancestry.com. Peter and Amy were married on May 11, 1812 in Grainger County. Amy died prior to March 1821 as stated in Peter Kitts' War of 1812 pension files because that is when Peter married Elizabeth Nicely. If this is true then Henry's mother should have been listed as his mother. However, what if Henry was born before 1821 and his mother died after his birth?
After carefully researching my options I have decided that (1) I want do the home study course offered by the National Genealogical Society; (2) I will continue with free webinars offered with Legacy Family Tree, Ancestry Academy and at Family Tree University; (3) I want to go through the ProGen Study Group and finally I want to become a certified genealogist. I plan to start the home study program at the end of January 2016 and if all goes according to plan, then perhaps I can start with a ProGen Study group in early 2017. If you have been through either of these education opportunities and have any advice please drop me a line via this post or send me a message via Facebook. Thanks!
1. "Tennessee Marriages to 1825", database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 8 November 2015) entry for Peter Kills, Spouse: Amy Bird, 11 May 1812, Grainger County; citing Electronic transcription of marriage records held by the individual counties in Tennessee.
2. "Tennessee, Death Records, 1908-1958, database with images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : 8 November 2015) entry for Henry Kitts d. 14 April 1916; citing Tennessee State Library and Archives; Nashville, Tennessee; Tennessee Death Records, 1908-1959; Roll #: 51.