Since I wrote the first blog on filtering evidence, two more articles have appeared in my newspapers:
“The Search to End the Scourge of Misdiagnoses,” Wall Street Journal 13 Sep 2017 by Laura Landro. A rather full description of the problem including the twelve leading causes of error from the Archives of Internal Medicine. Such things as delay in diagnosing, delay in ordering tests, reading x-rays and interpreting tests incorrectly.
Errors in the reading of hand-written documents and interpreting of genealogy evidence occupy professional genealogists and those who review their work for accuracy a ton of hours–hours that clients pay for. This review is the beginning of any major attempt to extend a lineage or qualify for membership in a wide variety of genealogy groups.
And, this was an expensive lesson for me. I asked the client if the wife’s family came from the same place that the husband and his family came from. “No,” was the reply. “We have already researched her family and they all come from Virginia.” So I took them at their word, and while searching in New Jersey for the husband’s Quaker lineage, I discovered the wife’s parents being married in the same records in New Jersey!
This bias is caused by searching each family separately, as if they lived in a vacuum, without considering that the two families were acquainted before the couple met and married in Indiana. This kind of assumption has created many errors in pedigrees. I now review the wife too, to determine where her origins may cross or match her husband. They did not live in a vacuum; I don’t search for them in one either.
And Holly Richardson’s “Recognizing and Overcoming Unconscious Bias,” Salt Lake Tribune 16 Sep 2017. Ms Richardson considers the problems of designing tools and apps based on right-hand use, overlooking the struggles made by some one who is left-handed. Right-handers do not have to think to use the devices prepared for them; left-handers have to think about how to use them. Her main thrust is gender-bias and the attempts of women to overcome that bias in the professional world.
Probably most women have encountered gender bias, deliberate and unconscious in their professional careers: the idea that leadership and skill are male by nature.
After a genealogical presentation on occupations, jobs, and genealogy evidence, a woman came rushing up to the podium to speak with me. “I wrote a biographical sketch for my children for Christmas. And I never mentioned anything about my security clearance to work for the Federal Government, nor did I list the jobs I had with the government. I was a wife and mother to them and that was enough. It never occurred to me to include my work history.”
Certainly the United States Census enumerators were unconscious of their bias in not asking nor listing employment for the majority of women who were designated on the census as “housekeeping.” Even in communities where local plants employed mostly women; and occupations where women made up the majority of workers.
Unconscious bias underlies much of the evidence left behind for us who search for ancestors. And while the bias provides a greater chance for identity, it also clouds how much we learn about ancestors’ life experiences. The public discussions from a variety of different settings and sources is thought-provoking. Thinking went out of style a while back. I for one am glad to see it re-emerging in the public eye and interest. Your favorite professional genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS Stay tuned! Genealogy evidence is what you make of it.