Identifying the Thought Leaders in Genealogy Evidence Analysis

Who are the thought leaders in genealogy? Who are the "go-to" people when people doing research want to improve their Evidence Analysis skills?

thought leadershipThe consulting company I work for encourages us to be thought leaders in software development. The company encourages us to do more than keep our skills fresh. We are encouraged to find new ways to solve problems using the best tools possible. The goal is to be the “go-to” people for software solutions.

That got me thinking – who are the thought leaders in genealogy? More specifically, who are the “go-to” people when people doing research want to improve their Evidence Analysis skills?  I developed Evidentia to help me organize my information and analyze my evidence, so you can see where my interest comes from.

I reached out to the Evidentia community on Facebook and Twitter, and I asked the community who they saw as the thought leaders. What follows are the folks mentioned for whom I could find published material, video training, or speaking engagements on the topic of Analyzing Evidence.

Robert Charles Anderson

Elements of Genealogical AnalysisRobert Charles Anderson is probably best known for his work with The Great Migration Study Project at americanancestors.org.  He has worked with the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) as co-editor of The American Genealogist and as an editorial consultant to The New England Historical and Genealogical Register.

His book Elements of Genealogical Analysis was first published in 2014.  It includes chapters on analysis standards, analysis techniques, and multiple examples of analyzing evidence.

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Anderson at this year’s NGS Conference in Raleigh but was only able to speak to him for a few moments. He even bought a copy of my book, The Evidentia Companion!  (“I like to review methodology books”). I wonder what he thinks?

Ron Arons

mind maps genealogyIf thought leadership is about bringing new and creative ideas and tools to a topic, Ron Arons has certainly done that with his book Mind Maps for Genealogy.

Mind maps are a tool for brainstorming and organizing ideas and information.  The process is more in line with how the mind works than the traditional list and table methodology we are more used to.

Ron has applied those tools to the process of evidence analysis and proofs.  The book includes instructions on how to use the most common mind mapping tools, as well as a wonderful case study where he uses mind mapping to solve a complex genealogical puzzle.

Ron and I met in 2013 at my first NGS conference in Richmond.  He was exhibiting as part of his Black Sheep Genealogy business. we have had several meaningful conversations on the topic of evidence analysis, and the tools available to assist in the process.

Donn Devine

Professional GenealogyAnyone who has participated in a ProGen study group (https://www.progenstudy.org/) knows the name Donn Devine. Donn has contributed several chapters in the book Professional Genealogy (first published in 2001) including the chapter on evidence analysis.

Over the years Mr. Devine has been an active member of the Board for Certified Genealogists.

I have not participated in a ProGen group myself yet, nor have I met Mr. Devine.  I have seen the positive impact that the proGen groups have had on the genealogy community.  It is my hope to participate in a group in the near future, and look forward to diving deeper into Mr. Devine’s contribution to evidence analysis.

Dr. Thomas W Jones

mastering genealogical documentationOK, no surprise here – Dr. Thomas Jones’ contribution to the field of evidence analysis is extensive, both as a speaker and an author. Among his published works are two books that take the topic of evidence analysis head-on –  Mastering Genealogical Proof first published in 2013, and his newest book, Mastering Genealogical Documentation, published this year.

Many online study groups use his books for their material in hopes of improving the research skills of the participants. When Mastering Genealogical Proof came out in 2013, I postponed an update to Evidentia so that I could read the book and align the software when some of its principles.

My first genealogy conference was RootsTech 2013.  I went to RootsTech to create a buzz about my new software product, Evidentia. When I got there, I was pleased to find there was already a buzz.  I was even more pleased when Dr. Jones stopped by my booth to see what I was about.

Angela Packer McGhie

genealogical speakers guildThe name Angela Packer McGhie was new to me, perhaps because I couldn’t find a book.  Enter her name in Google, however,  and you will find an extensive list of credentials, webinars, and speaker engagements.  In fact, she is this month’s featured speaker at Legacy Family Tree Webinars.  The webinar is free, hosted by the BCG, and you can register here for this July 17th event.  She also hosts a genealogy education blog, https://genealogyeducation.blogspot.com/.

I have not personally met Angela, nor have I had the benefit of her teachings, but I look forward to her presentation on the 17th.

Elizabeth Shown Mills

evidence explainedA featured speaker at many conferences and training events, Elizabeth Shown Mills is also the author of Evidence Explained.  This book is the go-to reference for citation formats in the U.S., so much so that people tend to forget that, as the title implies, it is an excellent resource on the topic of analyzing evidence.  This book was first published in 2007, and the 3rd edition was released in 2015.  I understand now there is a Third edition revised?

Her website, https://www.evidenceexplained.com/, offers up to date insights on citing your sources AND analyzing your evidence and writing proof statements.

I have not met Ms. Mills in person (I keep just missing her at conferences). I have had several discussions with her online. These discussions have led to one or two corrections evolutions in Evidentia’s design over the last 5 years. I also enjoy reading her Facebook posts.

Christine Rose

genealogical proof standardThe first book I purchased on the topic of evidence analysis was Christine Rose’s Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case. Now in its 4th edition, this slim book is packed with insight.  You can read more about Ms. Rose and her speaking engagements at her website, https://www.christine4rose.com/.

I have not met Ms. Rose, but her website indicates she has been an instructor and coordinator of Samford University’s Institute of Historical and Genealogical Research since 1992.

Who Did I Miss?

If I had expanded the list to include thought leaders in DNA evidence analysis, the list would have been much longer. Many new thought leaders are still emerging in this field. I will leave the topic of DNA analysis for another day.

Although it was not my original goal, after writing this article I realize just how many of these thought leaders have influenced me and the development of Evidentia.  I discovered I already had all these books in my library – made me feel better about “doing my homework”. 😉

If I left someone obvious off this list, chalk it up to my own ignorance – and educate me! Feel free to mention them in the comments below. Please mention any books, videos, or classes you have found helpful on this topic.

Until next time!

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11 Responses

  1. Great list of very intelligent and talented people, who so graciously share their knowledge and experience with the genealogy community! One of the credentials for Angela Packer McGhie (CG) that might make her more familiar to folks is that she is the group administrator ProGen Study Groups. I truly appreciate all these people, and have learned so much from many of them!

    1. I knew she was a key player, didn’t know she originated it. Thanks!

  2. Blaine Bettinger deserves to be on this list in my eatimation — for his work as a genetic genealigist. He has made DNA accessible to genealogists.by his writings , his teaching, his blog and his mentoring of others in FB.

    1. I don’t disagree but as noted in the article I excluded SNA analysis for now.

  3. For pushing us to recognize how THE LAW impacts our research and impacted our ancestors’ lives, Judy G. Russell, is a thought-leader for all genealogists.

    1. She has indeed been a thought leader in genealogy research. The article was focused on evidence analysis – otherwise it could be a book 😉

  4. I would nominate Judy Russell to add to your list and her work educating genealogists in legal matters pertaining to document interpretation.

  5. Thanks for this blog posting. I teach a beginner genealogy class for our local society. My December lesson will be on self-education and leaders in our field. I will be highlighting some of these people in my presentation but now I can just add your post to my handout for those wanting more info. Thanks for this nice, short list of “experts” in learning about evidence and proper genealogical research techniques.

    1. Great! Just keep in mind the list was focused on “evidence analysis”. There are many others who provide leadership in other parts of the research process.

  6. Tamura Jones for many insightful articles on genealogy and the creation of the Genealogy Framework, for analyzing your evidence correctly.

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