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How I Became an Evidentia User

I want to start my first post here by saying that I am in no way an Evidentia Expert.

I have been using Evidentia for about 7 months, and like many of you, I am still learning the ins and outs of the software.

However, I know that many of you out there are Evidentia Experts, so I invite you to offer your tips and suggestions so we can all learn together. 🙂

Here is my story of how – and why – I became an Evidentia user.

A few months ago, I pulled a genealogy all-nighter. After 25+ years of searching, I was determined to find the parents of my great-great grandmother Nellie (Coyne) Delaney.

Now, Nellie is not what you would call a “brick wall.” Nellie is a ghost. Nellie lived a short life and left so few documents behind that it is almost as if she never lived. In fact, I have often joked that this branch of the family must have been called back to The Mother Ship because they appeared, and then vanished, with barely a trace.

Pulling out my research binder, I began reviewing the few sources I already had for Nellie. I paused at a newspaper article from The (Lincoln, Nebraska) Evening News[1. “City in Brief,” The (Lincoln, Nebraska) Evening News, 16 November 1894, ( : accessed 7 May 2016).] which I had found about 8 years ago, and had used as evidence of Nellie’s marriage to Dennis Delaney.

I read – and re-read – the article several times over before it hit me: in the middle of the page, plain as day, was the name of Nellie’s brother.

It was a classic “duh” moment.

Evening News Lincoln NE Edit

How on Earth had I missed this vital piece of evidence?

The truth is that I hadn’t missed it. I just didn’t know what to do with the information at the time.

Why? Because there was no Henry King in my genealogy database.

Who was he? Was he a brother? A half-brother? Was this an error on the newspaper’s part? Was there another Nellie Coin?

I had no idea.

So I recorded the evidence of Nellie’s marriage, filed the source away in my binder… and then forgot all about it.

Had I properly interpreted the information when I found it, YEARS might have been shaved off of solving my research question.


I decided that there must be a better way.

After doing a little software research and chatting up a few genealogy colleagues, I decided to give Evidentia a try.

I documented the newspaper article as a source, and in the interest of being thorough, extracted ALL of the claims that could potentially be useful in the future. Did I miss anything?

Catalogued Claims2

Since my research question at this time is “Who are the parents of Nellie Coin/Coyne,” I am focused on the top claim, that “Henry King is Nellie Coin’s brother.”

You might notice that I added a custom claim type of “sibling” when tagging the subjects. I did this because I couldn’t think of any other way to tie the subjects together using this one piece of evidence. Plus, it will be easier to find the information again in a research report.

Analysis3 edit

After evaluating and analyzing the evidence from this newspaper article, I came up with a summary conclusion:

“Based on this one piece of evidence ONLY, Nellie Coin and Henry King could be half siblings if Nellie’s mother had divorced or been widowed, or full siblings if Nellie had been married prior to marrying Dennis Delaney. More evidence is necessary in order to determine the specific relationship between Nellie Coin and Henry King, and to find Nellie’s parents.”

So if Coin/Coyne was not Nellie’s maiden name, and she had previously been married to a man with the surname Coin/Coyne, she and Henry could potentially be full siblings.

If Coin/Coyne was Nellie’s maiden name, then she and Henry could be half-siblings, assuming that her mother was widowed/divorced, remarried a man with the surname King, and then had a son named Henry.

And this all hinges on the assumption that this article is about my Nellie.

Of course, there could be other, more complicated possibilities. But I am wagering on one of these two as my working hypothesis.

Next time, I will add more evidence to see if I can build on the relationship between Nellie and Henry, and work towards finding her parents.

So… how did I do? 🙂



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  1. This is exactly the reason I am sold on Evidentia. It’s comforting to know that a professional genealogist also missed information that was in the source the whole time – I felt foolish when I went back and read something that answered a question I’d had and the info had been in my possession the whole time. I have found so much more information in sources I have had for years just by using Evidentia to comb through them. Great post, Elizabeth!

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann! Everybody misses something once in a while, especially when you have a busy toddler waddling around the house, as I did when I first found the newspaper article. On the rare occasion when I get to work on my own genealogy, I am much more thorough now! 🙂

  2. I too am sold on Evidentia as an essential genealogy tool, for exactly the same reason. Our brains tend to skip some things, for whatever reason I don’t know. Using Evidentia to tease out each and every claim makes it possible to recognize every detail AND to see patterns. Very cool stuff!

    1. Very true, Catherine! I’m glad to hear that you are also having success using Evidentia! 🙂

  3. I would focus on studying Henry KING. My curiosity led me to poke around and I found Nellie and Dennis in the 1900 census, in NE. I note he is Irish, and she is half Irish. Have you looked into church records? Probably Catholic. Have you found her burial? Her funeral home record?

    I have the advantage of using a genie software program which included most of the same features as Evidentia (it is no longer available) – I have Evidentia as a means to continue this precise sourcing method.

    1. Hi JoAnn – thank you for commenting (and for your curiosity)! I have actually done quite a bit of research on Nellie and her family, and believe I have found Nellie’s parents (spoilers!). But for the purpose of this “how I got started with Evidentia” post, I wanted to go back and retrace my steps, and even reveal my “duh moment.” To be honest, I have not found any church records yet, although I do have the address of the church that handled her funeral service. I have written about some of my Nellie research on my personal blog at

  4. I’ve had several of those moments! And I’ve been transcribing every source for years, but still I occasionally miss a vital clue and I don’t even have a toddler as an excuse. How do you integrate Evidentia into your family tree? Or is it a completely separate system? Do you also use Evernote?

    1. Hi Schalene! When I decide that I’m “finished” analyzing evidence for a particular research question, I export the report and attach it to whatever I’m trying to prove in my genealogy database. For instance, when I’m done analyzing the evidence pertaining to Nellie’s family, I will compile the report, import it into RootsMagic, and attach as a source to all involved. This way, if I’m ever looking at information in the future, and can’t remember WHY I came to a certain conclusion, I’ll have my Evidentia report to remind me! Plus, I’ll keep a digital copy in my genealogy files, and a hard copy in my binder (because I’m old school like that).

      I do use Evernote, but mostly for collecting information “on the fly,” that I need to come back to later. But you could also keep a copy in your Evidentia binder, if that’s how you choose to store your data. How about you?

      1. I have been trying to wean myself off of Ancestry and FTM because of all the synching issues I’m experiencing. So I’ve started using Google Drive to store records, Evernote for transcriptions, and Evidentia for source citations. Right now I’m still working out the kinks in my new research process and struggling with how to bring all the information together.

        1. Hmmm, that does seem a bit disjointed. I would advise against relying too heavily on “the cloud” for your data storage. It is helpful to use as one form of back-up, but any number of issues could cause your cloud data to go POOF and vanish. But whatever you choose to do, be sure you have a local copy, either on your hard drive (internal or external), or do it the old-school way with paper copies. Personally, I do all three (cloud, hard drive, paper), just to be safe! 🙂

  5. Glad to know that I am not the only one who prints out everything on paper as well. I use Ancestry as my working program, sync everything to Family Tree Maker, save all copies of all documents and sources to my computer genealogy files, and print out family group sheets and individual reports on every person as well as all documents and sources and file my paper copies in binders. Any original documents such as birth or death certificates are photocopied, also filed in my binder and the originals are filed in a fire proof safe box. I believe that paper will outlast digital records-I’m just ‘old-school’. I had not heard of Evidentia software before reading your post. Thanks so much for the actual examples. I will check it out and see how it works for me.

    1. Oh no, you’re not the only one who still uses paper. Time has proven that paper lasts – for a while, anyway, if it’s properly cared for. Give Evidentia a trial run, and let us know what you think! 🙂

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