Where does it fit?

By | July 16, 2013

One of the questions I get frequently about Evidentia is “where does it fit in my research process?”. I think this is not only because Evidentia is a new idea in genealogy software, but also because the renaissance of evidence based genealogy is taking off right now. Many genealogist are shifting to a new way of thinking about their research.

For the sake of this discussion, the diagram below presents one way of explaining where in the ‘genealogy process’ different software fits.

Note to readers – I admit up front that this is an over simplification of the current genealogy software environment, and some may disagree with my classifications. I welcome the dialog and in no way mean to minimize the value of any specific program.

3Cirles1

I believe our traditional genealogy programs (Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy, etc..) were originally created to help address the major concerns of the middle circle – Relationships and Reports. These programs allow us to visualize family relationships and manage our ‘facts’.

Notice how the middle circle overlaps the other two – most of the programs that have been around for a while also try to meet the need to the researcher and the story teller as well. I hear people use the term ‘database program’ when referring to these applications, and while almost all software uses some sort of database, I believe what is meant is that the program is used to manage and maintain traditional genealogical information.

At RootsTech 2013 I noticed a lot of presentations addressing the third circle – Story Telling and Presentation. While the traditional software programs attempt to address this area of genealogy, traditionally it has been the realm of word processors and slide show. The number of programs aimed at making story telling easier (Personal Historian comes to mind) is growing, both online and offline.

In fact, the first place winner of this years RootsTech developer contest, Timelines, is just such a program. Add to this the plethora of online scrap booking and photo management software, I think this genre will continue to grow as people experiment with different ways to make their family histories interesting.

So what about the first circle – Information and Evidence? This is where programs like Evidentia shine. Evidentia is designed from the ground up to focus on sources rather than relationships. If we follow the flow model currently presented by many certified genealogist, Source->Information->Evidence, Evidentia helps the researcher take their source material to a place where it can be useful as real evidence.

(See Elizabeth Shown Mills Quick lesson 2 and various other online articles for more on this topic.)

Other programs in this genre include Clooz and GenSmarts, both which help manage research. Philip Trauring at Blood and Frogs has written an excellent blog post cataloging other software the fits into the first circle.

So where do you start with Evidentia? At the beginning, preferably, with the results of what you learn using Evidentia feeding into the strengths of the other two circles.

No one program can truly address every need, and then expect to do it well. Evidentia fills the gap at the beginning of the research process – proper citation and analysis of your source records. It does not try to do the job of managing relations or telling stories. When it comes to assisting you in creating a solid proof, I believe Evidentia does it the best.