Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013). [Book available from the publisher at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/r/mastering_genealogical_proof , also available
in Kindle format through Amazon.com]
GPS Element 4
Resolving Conflicts and Assembling Evidence
What is conflicting evidence in genealogy? It is when 2 or more pieces of evidence (usually in different sources, but not always) do not agree. For example the death certificate lists a different birth date than the birth certificate.
Why does a genealogical proof require us to resolve conflicts with a conclusion?
If we want an accurate record for our families, than we have to resolve the conflicts. If we want to share our work with others and have it stand the test of peer review, then we need to write down our thought process when resolving the conflicts. This written down thought process is called a genealogical proof.
The rest of the homework is using the proof summaries in the back of the book. Instead I will try to provide examples from my own research, as I learn what to do with what I have gathered.
Dr Jones mentions 5 ways that evidence can be assembled or grouped.
1) All records provide direct, primary evidence and nothing conflicts. The simplest way to assemble the evidence. In my research that would be for my birth, using my birth certificate.
2) Resolving conflicting direct evidence. First you would have to decide if any of the evidence is primary or secondary. An example of this would be my grandfather's birth. His Birth record states he was born in 1905, but his christening certificate states he was born in 1904. Upon reviewing the 2 records you realize the birth record itself had conflicting information. The birth record stated he was born in Oct of1905, but it was registered in May of 1905. This is easy to resolve by stating that it was so far into 1905 the clerk just made a mistake and wrote the current year and not the previous year.
3) Resolving conflict between direct, and/or indirect, and/or negative evidence. Again you would have to identify which sources are primary, secondary or derivative. For example: A published book containing Will abstracts list Phebey Coulton as a grandchild of William Coulton. However, the will itself lists her as a daughter. In the Will she is treated the same way as the other daughters that were listed in the abstract as daughters. Further research found a church record (made about the time of Phebey's marriage) also states she is the daughter of William Coulton. The conflicting evidence here is the abstract which is an authored, unknown informant record. Therefore, baring any more evidence the conclusion is that Phebey Coulton is William Coulton's daughter and not granddaughter. The person making the abstract apparently made a mistake.
4) Indirect or negative evidence or both that do not conflict, and no direct evidence. In this case there is no conflict and everything agrees. For example a person ages 10 years every census. Or every record on a person you have indicates the person's father was born in Ohio.
5) Indirect or negative evidence or both that does conflict and again no direct evidence found. For example my ancestor Delaplain Ridgway in family records and authored works is listed as having died in 1803. However, I have found land records (buying and selling land) for him after that date and he is listed as an executor of his father's estate in 1809. I have yet been able to locate his death record or will or probate. I have narrowed down is death to around 1813 and either in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.