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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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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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Confusion with the Various Definitions of Original Source

Wednesday, 18 Feb 2009 | by Mark Tucker

What is the real definition of original source?  Four authoritative references, four answers.  Depending on which reference consulted, you will get a different answer as to what criteria is used to determine if a source is original.

 

Earlier today I posted the following to the APG list on RootsWeb:

There exists confusion in the current genealogy literature on the definition of an original source.

For this discussion I would like to focus only on the definition of original source and not derivatives, common derivatives (transcript, extract, abstract), or derivatives that can be treated as originals (image copy, record copy, or duplicate originals). I want to focus on the source – the container, the person, the paper, the stone, the object. Not the information contained in it (as much as possible) and its classification as primary or secondary. Also I don’t want to focus on how that information relates to the research question (i.e. the evidence and whether it is direct, indirect, or negative).

The 4 main sources that genealogists can turn to for a definition of original source are: Evidence! (1997), The BCG Standards Manual (2000), Professional Genealogy (2001), and Evidence Explained (2007). But using these sources can be contradictory and confusing. Is this due to the refinement of the definition over the years?

Let’s look at some specifics.

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Brief Timeline of Genealogy Evidence & Citation

Sunday, 15 Feb 2009 | by Mark Tucker

As part of revising my presentation, Navigating Research with the Genealogical Proof Standard, I decided to create a timeline of some key milestones in the development of current evidence and citation standards.

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Meeting with Legacy. Wow!

Thursday, 21 Feb 2008 | by Mark Tucker

A few weeks ago I met with members of the Legacy Family Tree team and saw a preview of Legacy 7.  I am very impressed.  They have really taken source citation seriously and have done a remarkable job digesting the citation models in Elizabeth Shown Mill’s “Evidence Explained.”  With the amount of time and effort that Geoff has spent understanding that hefty volume, he is probably one of only a few experts on it.

I am excited for the chance to take if for a spin myself and see how it does for day to day use.

The Future of Genealogy Software is not “Hard to See”

Thursday, 29 Nov 2007 | by Mark Tucker

Many years ago I was (incorrectly) singing the words to the song, “Que, Sera, Sera” and my wife pointed out my humorous mistake.

Instead of singing:

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see

I sang:

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not hard to see

This personal joke has been used many times since then and has never failed to deliver a cheerful effect.

I think that the author and design leader, Bill Buxton, would agree that the “future’s not hard to see.” In his book, “Sketching User Experiences: getting the design right and the right design,” Bill stresses the importance of looking at least 5 years down the road when designing user experiences and adds:

Now most people say that you cannot predict the future, much less five years out. They use this as an excuse for not making the effort, or even contemplating it. I believe that this reflects a lack of training, technique, or responsibility on the part of design or management. (page 209)

He then goes on to quote William Gibson from an NPR interview on 30 November 1999:

… the future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.

Buxton gives two examples. The first computer mouse was built in 1964 but didn’t reach widespread use until about 1995 – 30 years later. The idea for the CD came around 1965 but it wasn’t until 25 years later in 1990 that the industry reached $1 billion. From idea, to design, to prototype, to first production, to ubiquity takes time.

Bill then makes this statement that I would like us to consider:

If history is any indication, we should assume that any technology that is going to have a significant impact over the next 10 years is already 10 years old. (page 215)

Innovation Future Timeline

 This made me wonder if this could be applied to genealogy software. What has happened over the last 10 years that could affect the design and innovation of genealogy software over the next 10 years?

At first nothing came to mind, but then I thought of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book, “Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian” which was published in 1997. In 2007, the much expanded “Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace” was released. We are now beginning to see specific examples of Elizabeth’s work showing up in genealogy software. In a podcast interview by Dick Eastman, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens indicated that the software Clooz version 2.x was influenced by handouts she received from Elizabeth Shown Mills. Another example is from a podcast by DearMYRTLE where she interviews Geoff Rasmussen about Legacy version 7. In this interview, Geoff gives a sneak peek of one of the major new features which is source citation following the standard set by Elizabeth Shown Mills. There is still much work that needs to be done in this area such as online databases providing better source citations. I talk about this in my previous post about Jumping Curves. So you see, the future is not so hard to see.

Another area that I want to point out is the Genealogical Proof Standard which was also created in 1997 by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. Other than its use in the certification process, you don’t hear much about it. But this standard is useful to researchers of all levels to help them get as close to the truth as possible. At some point genealogy software designers and developers will realize this and incorporate it into future genealogy software.

There are probably many more examples of ideas, technology, and methodology that exists today that will help us better see the future of genealogy software.

What things should be added to this list?

As a genealogy community, I hope we aren’t thinking:

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see

Share your thoughts as the future is ours to see.  I hope that is not hard to see.

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