Separate or Together: a change in how I capture claims

By | November 11, 2013

I have a confession to make – I am not an expert in using Evidentia.

When I started working on Evidentia, I was developing a software product I knew I wanted…no, needed.  I needed a better way to manage my evidence, and capture my thought process in drawing the conclusions I was drawing.  However, when I released the software 11 months ago (has it really been less than a year?), I knew that the best way to use Evidentia was TBD, a process that needed to evolve.  I wanted to see how others would use the product, and learn from them.  I needed to use the product from start (capturing a source citation) to finish (creating as proof report), and learn what worked and what didn’t.

One area of evolution is the way in which I capture claims – specifically residence claims.

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Example of multiple family members on a page

Take a page from a census record – one with several family members relevant to my research.  I decided early on to capture claims at a very detailed level, separating each family member:

The 1880 US Census for Abington, MA asserts that:

  • in 1880 Eleazer Dexter Nash was the head of household
  • in 1880 Annis [Reed] Nash lived in the household of Eleazer Dexter Nash
  • in 1880 Elliot Nash lived in the household of Eleazer Dexter Nash
  • in 1880 Hattie H Nash lived in the household of Eleazer Dexter Nash

This method allowed me to create evidence of residence for each family member individually.  It made sense to me when I was cataloging the claims.

However, what I found when I started writing proofs was that the FIRST question I needed to answer for any record in a proof was “how do I know this record refers to MY relative?”  By separating all the “lived in  the household of” claims I was cheating myself of the easy answer to this question.

How’s that?  Well a strong clue to someone’s identity in a census record is who lived in  the same household.  For example, if Eleazer and Annis lived in the same household in 1860, but Eleazer  was living with Susan in 1870, and with Annis again in 1880, it’s likely that the 1870 census does NOT refer to MY Eleazer, and it is easier to build an argument that the 1860 and 1880 census records refer to the same Eleazer.  Include known children, and the argument is even stronger.

So I found myself going back and tuning my claims.

The 1880 US Census for Abingtom, MA asserts that:

  • in 1880 Eleazer Dexter Nash was the head of household, and the household included, Annis [Reed] nash, Elliot Nash, and Hattie H Nash

I can still use this one claim as evidence of residence for each of the 4 subjects separately (Evidentia allows me to attach as many subjects as I want to a single claim), but I can also include this claim as evidence in other proofs that the Eleazer Nash mentioned was the Eleazer I was interested in.

Evidentia let's you attach multiple subjects to a single claim

Evidentia let’s you attach multiple subjects to a single claim

I still create separate claims for birth dates, occupations, relationships, etc… but I find  that by combining the residence claims into a single claim, the building of a proof is a little bit easier, and the comings and goings of family life are a little more obvious.

Evidentia is a flexible tool, so don’t let a concern for “getting it right the first time” stop you from exploring what works for you.  Some users like to collect all their data first, but doing a couple of proofs along the way will help you tune the process that works best for you.

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