In my last post, I wrote about how to add information from a city directory into Evidentia.
Ahem. Did you notice my error?
I the claim that “In 1931, Bessie McGraw appears to be separated from her husband Thomas. Bessie is listed by herself as “McGraw Bessie Mrs.”
While this information may or may not have been true, it is important to note that the city directory did not make this claim. The city directory listed Mrs. Bessie McGraw all by herself but did not say one peep about her marital status.
I inferred the rest. Shame on me. 🙁
Just the Facts, Ma’am.
What I should have done is stick to the facts and leave my opinion about them for the Analyze Evidence section.
For instance, it is a fact that Bessie is listed by herself in this directory. It is also a fact that Thomas McGraw is not listed in this directory.[1. Seven people with the surname McGraw are listed in this particular directory, but none are named Thomas, Tom, Thos., or anything closely resembling those names. There is a Thos. McGrath, but he is listed as a student. It is unlikely that he is the same Thomas who was married to Bessie.]
But it is impossible to know for certain – based solely on this information – whether or not Bessie and Thomas are separated.
Perhaps the building owner provided incorrect information for the directory. Perhaps Thomas was inadvertently left out of the directory. Perhaps Thomas works in another town and stays with his family on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays in months ending with an even number.
Whatever the case, this city directory alone does not answer those questions.
That’s a Big Negatory, Good Buddy
What we have here is a perfect example of negative evidence, or the lack of evidence where we would expect to find it.
Bessie and Thomas were enumerated in the same household in the 1930 U.S. census,[2. 1930 U.S. census, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, population schedule, Oklahoma City, ED 142, sheet 11B, dwelling 12, family 12, Thomas & Bess McGraw.] so I would expect to find them together one year later in a 1931 city directory.
But they are not.
As you can see, I have now added my speculation about Bessie’s marital status to the Analysis of the city directory claim. I have also noted in my Summary Conclusion that more evidence is required.
The Moral of This Story
The important thing to remember is that the Claims section is not the place to offer opinions about what a source is saying. Let the source speak for itself.
And mistakes are ok, as long as we fix them. 🙂