Evidentia Cousin Research Tracker

I am excited about the new Cousin Research Tracker in Evidentia, perhaps because it solves a problem for me.

Anytime someone introduces a new tool, that is the question you should ask – “what problem does it solve?

Why do I Need a Cousin Research Tracker?

Anytime someone introduces a new tool, that is the question you should ask – “what problem does it solve?

What do I do with a shaky leaf when it takes me to someone else’s family tree? Often I find that it takes me to someone who was led to MY family tree by there own shaky leaf.  That’s fine, they may have other evidence that will help me with my research.  Sadly, odds are good that their family tree is under cited. Are we related?

I took an autosomal DNA test and, EUREKA a match! If the match was kind enough to share a family tree, AncestryDNA might actually identify a potential Most Recent Common Ancestor (MCRA), showing where our trees cross.

 

Both use cases above require me to

  1. keep track of these possible relationships
  2. verify the document trail to confirm what the DNA evidence is pointing to.

And to do that, I need to

  1. identify the MCRA, the closest ancestor we share
  2. clearly identify my lineage back to the MCRA
  3. clearly identify the match’s lineage to the MCRA
  4. make sure that each link in the two paths has solid evidence to back it up.

That is why I need a Cousin Research Tracker

What is the Cousin Research Tracker?

The Cousin Research Tracker in Evidentia allows me to create a “Possibility Tree”, an unproven graph displaying the possible link between myself and the matching “cousin”, whether that match comes from a shaky leaf or a DNA test.

It then tracks my progress in providing evidence and proofs for each link in the tree. Once all links are proven, I can declare with confidence that I have indeed discovered a new cousin.

The Cousin Research Tracker

To access the Cousin Research Tracker in Evidentia, open the List Menu, and select the tracker.  This will take you the the main Screen.

If you have Cousin Tracker entries already, you can select from the drop down list. Entries with a green check mark are complete.  Entries with a yellow check mark were completed at one time, but you have entered new evidence at some point, requiring that you review your conclusions.  All other entries are in progress.

To create a new Cousin Research entry, select New Cousin.

The New Cousin screen provides 3 fields to start:

  • A field for the Most Recent Common Ancestor
  • A field for you (or the main person of interest)
  • A field for the possible cousin you are trying to prove (or disprove) a relationship with.

Unfortunately, Evidentia does not provide any tools for discovering who the MCRA might be – some good old fashioned detective work will be required.

If you wish to add a new person, simply input the name (last name first) and hit enter. Evidentia will add the subject, and a notification will appear at the bottom letting you know you should update that entry with a gender.

After populating these three fields, you will want to start filling in the descendants of the MCRA that lead to you, then the descendants of the MCRA that lead to your “cousin”.

This is not a traditional tree that shows both parents – you only want to establish the direct lines.

 

Once you have created the “Possibility Tree”, click save and you will be returned to the main Cousin Tracker screen.

A few things to note:

  • The pencil icon next to the title will allow you to edit this cousin tracker entry
  • If gender is known, the names in the tree are color coded, making it easier to identify DNA testing opportunities
  • A green check mark between links indicates a completed proof exists for the relationship
  • If evidence exists but no proof has been created, an “In Progress” label will be displayed in place of the green check mark
  • Clicking on a green check mark or an “In Progress” label will take you to the Analyze Evidence screen for that proof.

What Evidence?

In the Cousin Research Tracker, Evidentia is letting you use your own proof reports as cited sources.

To understand this better, we will look at the Proof Report generated from this screen.

Cousin Proof Summary Report

The Cousin proof Summary Report summarizes the relationship we are trying to prove in the title. Then it shows the graph of the two lines, followed by the final conclusion if one has been written.  This is the overall conclusion written on the Cousin Research Tracker main screen.

In this example I have yet to write my final conclusion.

Next, the report summarizes the first line we are trying to prove – the one between myself and the MCRA.

Since I have a proof of lineage between myself and my father, that proof is cited as evidence, using the conclusion written for that proof.  (Please excuse the poor conclusion statement. I need to fix that…)

I also have a second proof for the relationship between my father and my grandfather.  That is a separate document that I am citing.

Since no proof exists for the final two relationships in the line, the report notes that.

Next the report summarizes the second line we are trying to prove – the one between my “cousin” and the MCRA.

You may have to work with your “cousin” to create the supporting proofs.

Finally you have the citations for the proofs you used in THIS proof.

Cousin Proof Detail Report

The Cousin Proof Detail report is similar to the Cousin Proof Summary Report, except that it appends a copy of each supporting proof at the end of the cousin proof.

Summary

I see a lot of possibility for this tool, and in fact plan to build other tools on top of it.

There is one more tool in the Cousin Tracker that I think will be valuable, and that is the Summary of Cousins Log.  This report summarizes the current state of ALL your cousin research.

Before leaving I want to note a few issues with the Cousin Research Tracker as of this writing:

  • The MCRA should be a couple.  While a single ancestor is appropriate in proving a DNA relationship, in general users will want to trace a true heritage, and for autosomal results the matching DNA most probably comes from two people
  • Evidentia does not help in determining MCRA. This requires comparing two trees, and Evidentia does not maintain a full ancestry tree in its database.
  • I may want to track other evidence related to my DNA results.
  • The PDF User Guide needs to be updated to include this new tool

Rest assured we are working to address many of these issues in a  future release.