The Seibel Family -- Life is an Adventure!!

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July 11, 2016
Documented or Wishful Thinking?!

Part of my life's adventure is making sure that what I knew of my family history was correct. We all have our family folklore, tales passed down from generation to generation. But are they all true or are they like the childhood game of "Gossip" we used to play where something is whispered in one person's ear and is continually passed down from one person to the other and when the last person hears it they say out loud what they had heard. More often than not it was not at all like what the original story was. I learned about discrepancies when I asked one aunt about her grandmother and it did not coincide with what my mother knew.

I started researching our family history in 2000 when my father handed me a lot of papers and asked me to organize them for him. They were from his paternal line of the family and had been passed to him from another family member.

I had a legal secretary/assistant background so when I went through his papers I saw that the ancestry had been meticulously documented except the three last generations. These last three generations were mainly added from the memories of the contributors, Bible records, etc.The provider of the oldest generations was very analytical and paid attention to detail, he used the genealogical proof of standard for every piece of information he gave.

What is the genealogical proof standard? It is the standard which the Board for Certification of Genealogists uses to “prove” each conclusion about an ancestor. Proof is the fundamental concept in genealogy research

There are five parts of the GPS:
1. Reasonably exhaustive research;
2. Complete, accurate citations to the source(s) for each piece of information;
3. Tests, through process of analysis and correlation, of all sources information items, and evidence;
4. Resolution of conflicts among evidence items; and
5. A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

GPS fit right in with my legal background. Working for attorneys they were all about “just the facts”. I found that wasn’t the case with all family history researchers. I had the unfortunate experience with one researcher on a popular site. She had attached a document (which had been gotten from my website, without my permission) from a bank loan opened in 1932 in Oklahoma to a person who had passed away in 1850 in Illinois. The two people involved were grandfather and grandson. The grandson had the grandfather’s first name as his middle name. No amount of reasoning persuaded her to correct her mistake. She failed to document or even view all of the facts to ensure she was talking about the right person. Researchers make the fatal mistake of only looking at names and not fully researching the individual to ensure the dates are the same. Do you know how many John Booth’s there are in history?? I almost fell into this trap myself. I was researching a g-g-g-g-grandmother who had the same name as the daughter of Patrick Henry’s brother. Wow, I was related to Patrick Henry, and his brother was no slouch either, he was a supreme court judge in Virginia. It was almost too good to be true - - and it was. Upon further research, I found that there was a 20 year difference in the age of my ancestor and Patrick Henry’s niece. Oh so close! Documentation and reviewing all parts of the information is crucial!

I have always used Family Tree Maker software. It has great features and holds an unlimited amount of people and information. However, one downside is that the documentation is held in the traditional way. First, the subject is inputted, then the “fact” then the source. The only source Family Tree Maker questions is if the parent’s age isn’t sufficient to have a child. Sourcing is almost an afterthought and can be left out altogether. It is also very redundant when inputting census records.

I have found a software that works with any other genealogy software that makes documentation and proving evidence simpler and follows the GSP. It is Evidentia. It was developed by a software developer who has been researching his family history for over 20 years. As Evidentia states on its website, the benefits are:

· Attach each claim to as many people and events as needed
· Classify your sources (original, derivative…) and information (primary, secondary…)
· Easily extract multiple claims from one source
· Copy similar sources for fast entry
· Analyze evidence based on reliability in relation to other evidence
· Resolve conflicts and even reveal possible new directions for your research
· Easily generate coherent proof reports to show how you reached your conclusion
· Over 150 built-in citation templates based on Evidence Explained
· Create additional custom citation templates for quick entry
· Supports the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) by:
· Requiring all claims to have a source
· Fully analyze evidence before reaching a conclusion
· Finally feel confident about your conclusions and know for sure when you’ve done a reasonably exhaustive search.

Just one screen showing a source and everything and everyone pertaining to it

This is only a small sampling of the benefits of using Evidentia along with your usual genealogy software. I recommend it to help keep you from assuming wishful thinking are really facts!

To read more about each line of our family, click on the Family History link above.

“Board for Certification of Genealogists® – The Genealogical Proof Standard.” Board for Certification of Genealogists®. N.p., n.d. Web 27 Apr. 2016.
Evidentia – N.p., n.d. Web.



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