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RootsMagic 4 Citation Quality Gotcha #2

Wednesday, 8 Jul 2009 | by Mark Tucker

In gotcha #1 we looked at the issue of having the Source quality associated with the Source Details instead of the Master Source.  In gotcha #2 we look at issues dealing with evidence.

Source, Information, & Evidence

According to Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, ”sources are artifacts, books, digital files, documents, film, people, photographs, recordings, websites, etc.” (see page 24)  Information is the content of the source.  Evidence “represents our interpretation of information we consider relevant to the research question or problem.” (see page 25)  So in order to classify evidence we need both information and a research objective.  Even though the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) does not include a step to define research goals, I’ve included it as part of the Genealogy Research Process Map because it is implied.  Step one of the GPS states:

“We conduct a reasonable exhaustive search in reliable sources for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question.”
The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, page 1.

How do we know which sources to search if we don’t have a research objective?  The definitions of direct and indirect evidence also points to the need to have a defined research objective:

Direct evidence – relevant information that seems to answer the research question or solve the problem all by itself.
Indirect evidence – relevant information that cannot, alone, answer the question;
Negative evidence – an inference we can draw from the absence of information that should exist under particular circumstances.
Evidence Explained, page 25

Even the definition for negative evidence hints at a research objective.

So how can we set the citation quality value for evidence in RootsMagic or any other genealogy software unless we have a research objective?

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RootsMagic 4 Citation Quality Gotcha #1

Tuesday, 7 Jul 2009 | by Mark Tucker

I applaud the work the RootsMagic team has done to bring professional-quality research practices to the most recent version of RootsMagic. The work that they (and others) are doing is truly innovative. Just the other day, I awarded RootsMagic 4 an Innovator award for the implementation of research analysis around their citation quality feature.

I strongly encourage users of RootsMagic to use this feature, but in its current implementation there are a few gotchas and workarounds that need to be followed.

The Genealogical Proof Standard & Evidence Explained define research analysis classifications for a source, information, and evidence. A source is an object (or person) that contains (or has) information. A source can be classified as original or derivative. An original source is in its first oral or recorded form. Everything else that comes from an original (or another derivative) is a derivative. For example, a book is an original. Let’s say that it is a census enumerator’s book that he carried from house to house to take the census. Now let’s say that book is microfilmed and stored at an archive. The microfilm copy is a derivative. The digitization of the microfilm is a second generation derivative of the original. Without getting into the special cases of image copies, duplicate originals, and record copies, it is relatively easy to start uncovering the provenance or ancestry of the source you are using for your research back to the original source. The classification of a source as original or derivative helps to answer the question “Is there a better source?” and helps in your analysis as original sources usually carry more weight than derivative.

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ThinkGenealogy Innovator Award #4

Saturday, 4 Jul 2009 | by Mark Tucker

Writing about this next innovation has been on my backlog for many months (at least 3). In a previous innovator award, I spotlighted one of the first genealogy software packages to support source citation templates following those found in Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  These templates help the beginning and professional genealogist to accurately cite sources as part of their effort to do professional-quality work.

As early as the 1997 book, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, Elizabeth Shown Mills has covered the topics of citation and analysis.  It is this second item, analysis, that is the focus of this innovator award. In Evidence! we start to see the formation of the current classification for sources (as original or derivative) and evidence (as direct or indirect).  The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual published in 2000 supports the classification of sources (as original or derivative), adds a classification for information (as primary or secondary), and continues the classification of evidence (as direct or indirect).  These classifications remained unchanged in Professional Genealogy which was published in 2001.  By 2006 as seen on quick sheet, Evidence Analysis: A Research Process Map by Elizabeth Shown Mills we see the formation of a new evidence classification so in addition to direct or indirect we can classify evidence as negative evidence.  When Evidence Explained was published in 2007 it restated these same classifications for sources (original or derivative), information (primary or secondary), and evidence (direct, indirect, or negative).

The winner of the next innovator award not only supports Evidence Explained citation templates but has coded these professional analysis practices into their software in a way that is approachable to all.  So a big congratulations goes out to Bruce Buzbee and his RootsMagic team!

Innovator Award - Thinker's PickRootsMagic logo

Let’s look at the implementation in more detail.

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