Believing you know the answer before you have collected the data, analyzed the evidence, compared what you already have, and resolved discrepancies between what you thought or believed to be true and what the records actually say?
__constantly question your work: what do you believe to be true?
__constantly gather factual information wherever you can.
__constantly consider new information that may be in conflict with your believings.
Deductive Reasoning–You begin with a belief, you check the evidence which supports that belief, and you prove it to be true. The flaw here, is that when your belief appears to be proven, you often stop your search: you don’t examine all the candidates, you don’t account for all the discrepancies, and you may miss the real ancestor hidden in the evidence awaiting your discovery.
Inductive Reasoning—you search the records; you line up the evidence to see who emerges from the pile. The facts you find, the proof that emerges dictates the pedigree. Fact-finding is a very profitable thing to do because one solid fact, supported by documented evidence, is worth a hundred beliefs. That is, if you set aside your belief in order to use the facts you find. And let the facts dictate the pedigree.
The evidence of belief is quite different from the evidence of fact. Family tradition is belief. And by now, you know that I never discredit family traditions. Kernels of fact lace through reams of belief and, because it is your tradition, those kernels are connectors for you to the truth of your background. Just don’t let traditions lead and determine your research.
Do the Facts Speak for Themselves?
In my genealogy research experience, facts rarely speak for themselves. So I thought it might be useful to present my spin on the relationship of facts to information. Although we often use these words interchangeably, they are different:
- Facts–individual pieces of data. Genealogical facts are usually birth date, birth place, marriage date, marriage place, death date, death place, and a whole list of additional, important items: occupation, name, religion, military rank, and so on. Facts are true; there are no false facts. Consider this about the English language as you review the facts on your pedigree chart.
- Information–pieces of data arranged into meaningful context. You extract the genealogical facts, you combine and compare these facts. You may add your own interpretation of these facts and how they relate to each other.
- Analysis–identifying the specific patterns in these individual pieces of data. You separate the patterns and relationships from the whole. When you match the data for fit with what you already know, you synthesize these facts. Beware, lest you merge data that do not match!
- Wisdom–applying our genealogy experience to the patterns and relationships for decision making–who fits where on the pedigree chart? As you gain experience and mature in research, you may do it automatically.
- Knowledge–formal discovery of pieces of data and the context of clearly understanding the patterns they create.
Understanding the words more clearly, leads to the correct application of the process. Just think, for a piece of data to become a fact, it must be true. There are no false facts. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://arleneeakle.com
PS When you separate the various parts of a procedure or a series of steps, you can apply them more effectively. Try it yourself–when you have a genealogy problem you want to resolve. And please stay tuned for the rest of the process.