as·ser·tion [uh-sur-shuh-n] (n.) a positive statement or declaration, often without support or reason: a mere assertion; an unwarranted assertion.
Evidentia uses the terms assertion and claim interchangeably to refer to a statement made explicitly or implicitly by a source BEFORE that statement is proven. Some refer to these as ‘facts’, but a fact has to be proven.
Here are a few tips, in no partuclar order, for documenting assertions in Evidentia
- An assertion is always a statement. Complete the sentence ‘This source asserts that…‘. This will save you some keystrokes and work out when a report is generated from the claim. Ending with a period is optional (Evidentia will add one to a report if it is missing).
- Do not interpret what the source says; if the source says Rachel Thompson was the wife of David, and you know Rachel Thompson was originally Rachel Brown, do not document the claim as Rachel Brown – that interpretation is the venue of analysis.
- Do not perform calculations in the claim – if the claim is that John was 83 in 1980, do not document the claim that he was born in 1967 – calculations are the venue of analysis.
- If a date is part of the claim, use it in each assertion – it will make analysis easier when comparing sources. (e.g. - as of 1 June 1830 the household of David Thompson included two females between 30 and 39)
- Capturing where one assertion ends and another one starts is more art than science. One rule of thumb is do not combine assertions where the classification of the informant may be different.
- An informant might be a primary witness to where someone resided, but a secondary informant to where someone came from. So do not document the claim as ‘moved from Chicago and lived in Boston in 1940′. Break it up into ‘moved from Chicago’ and ‘lived in Boston in 1940′.
- Make sure to combine enough information in the claim to do the analysis- ‘claims that as of July 18 1820 David Thompson had a wife, Rachel, aged 53‘ combines an age and marriage claim, but in this case the age claim will be used in the analysis to assist in confirming the identity of Rachel, and the informant is Indeterminable for both claims.
- If a name is misspelled in the source keep that spelling in the claim, knowing you can argue for the correct spelling in the analysis. If you feel the need to correct, use brackets [ ] with the corrected text (but still capture the original spelling).
- Use the Mini editor! Let it float on top of your source as you document the claim. Flipping between two windows while documenting a claim is a great way to introduce an error (I was transcribing dates wrong all the time before the mini-editor).
Remember that proving or disproving a claim comes later. These are just a few tips to help document valid (if unproven) claims.