ARCHIVED: AmericaGen Study Group Chapter 4 “Evidence”

AmericaGen Study Group

Shelley Murphy and Chari Hudson Passey served as coordinators, compiling panelist homework and co-moderating this discussion about evaluating evidence.

Val Greenwoods bookSYLLABUS
The Researchers Guide to American Genealogy 4th Edition by Val D. Greenwood, 2017 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.) Available in paperback.

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DearMYRTLE’s AmericaGen Study Group – Chapter 4 combined homework

The conversation continues HERE – 



10:00:49 From Cousin Russ : Researchers Guide to American Genealogy 4th Edition by Val D. Greenwood, 2017 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.). This week we’re discussing Chapter 4 “Evidence” with examples from panelists’ research.
10:00:51 From Sheri Fenley : Good Morning everyone from sunny California!
10:01:20 From Lisa Gorrell : Good morning everyone from sunny Salt Lake City.
10:01:59 From Cousin Russ : DearMYRTLE’s AmericaGen Study Group – Chapter 4 combined homework
10:02:04 From Melinda Culpon : Good morning from not humid Texas!
10:02:12 From Jack Gracey : Good morning to all from cool, rainy Massachusetts
10:02:39 From Sir Leprchaunrabbit : good morning from a snow-free (finally) Alberta; sound issues, BRB
10:02:40 From Diana Watson : Good morning from NW Pennsylvania.

10:06:17 From Cousin Russ : See Helen F. M. Leary, CG, CGL “Evidence Revisited: DNA, POE, and GPS,” OnBoard 4 (January 1998), published in paper and online by the Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : Viewed 25 April 2018.)

10:07:33 From Cousin Russ : [Subscription site-well worth the $]
10:08:31 From Lisa Gorrell : Plus when you are a member, you get the handout with the webinar.
10:09:08 From Irene : Love these webinars. I keep adding to my subscription every time they offer a discount, sometimes 1/2 price. I think up to expiring 2021.
10:09:46 From Cyndy Bray : Also, there are many webinars for members only
10:10:29 From Lisa Gorrell : Good point, Cyndy.

The Legal Genealogist

10:13:20 From Cousin Russ : Judy Russell’s webinars about genealogy and the law.
10:13:36 From Cousin Russ :
10:14:49 From June Butka : In New Hampshire You can now go to your local town clerk for 1930 births, 1965 marriages and 1960 deaths, early ones are at state level.
10:15:05 From Roxanne Basey : Confusion: ESM says information is primary or secondary and evidence is direct or indirect. Greenwood says evidence is original/firsthand or secondary. And their definition of direct and indirect are different. This was my confusion and I’m still not clear.
10:15:28 From June Butka : PS. If those records were in any New Hampshire town without traveling to the town.

10:17:33 From Liberty Evanko to All panelists : I am here but I caught the end of Shelley covering my stuff. Sounds like she did great. Thank you.

10:18:09 From Roxanne Basey : But the definition of direct and indirect are different too. That is a big difference to me.
10:18:45 From Roxanne Basey : ESM says direct is relevance to question and indirect in inadequate relevance.
10:19:26 From Randi Patrick : Keeping in mind with the investigative process, sources, records, documents and/or evidence is considered to be from a primary or secondary source. Better definitions could be found in a legal dictionary
10:19:31 From Roxanne Basey : Greenwood says that direct is evidence that standing alone it answers the question.
10:20:43 From Roxanne Basey : That’s not quite right. Because direct evidence per ESM can be inaccurate
10:21:14 From Roxanne Basey : Direct per ESM does not have to be accurate and does not have to answer the question. The relevance question is different.
10:21:29 From Roxanne Basey : But according to Greenwood it CANNOT be inaccurate. It MUST be correct.

10:21:34 From Jackie Wilson : Could “collateral” refer to collateral people aka FAN? [Friends, associates and neighbors]
10:22:49 From Danine Cozzens : I thought that “collateral” was a legal term which Greenwood applied to genealogy. But it’s a rich source for FAN evidence!

10:28:56 From Cyndy Bray : What do you do if your conflict comes from unsourced trees?
10:30:06 From Roxanne Basey : How did you verify that the list was in land order?

10:30:46 From Danine Cozzens : My very question being answered, Lisa! Knowing how the parcels relate is important.
10:31:18 From Deb Andrew : When did they go, Alabama and Mississippi’s state line changed.
10:31:27 From Molly McKinley : I have found probate records for the same man in Alabama where he died and in Arkansas where his sons moved to.

10:35:13 From Irene : Cyndy, if I use a tree for info on one of my brick walls, I add the person, any dates and places, and a note that it came from this tree and why I think it’s appropriate to add on a temp basis. Then I start looking for the records to verify myself. I only do this when I have a good reference back to the match/tree and think I can find the proof.

10:37:20 From Lisa Gorrell to Roxanne Basey and all panelists : I was seeing the whole book and could see it listed by Township and Range.
10:39:37 From Shelley Murphy : Judy Russell when worlds collide
10:40:37 From Lisa Gorrell : It’s trying to figure out the motivation of the informant is important.
10:54:04 From Lisa Gorrell : Sometimes parents raise the children of one of their children as their own.
11:08:10 From Jackie Wilson : I use online trees as hints only!
11:08:41 From June Butka : Some trees have the source in comments. they don’t know how to add the new source.

11:08:51 From Valerie Lisk : Does Judy have When Worlds Collide online?
Judy Russell’s “When Worlds Collide” webinar

11:09:25 From June Butka : Trees are turned off for my searches. unless I have no other hints.
11:09:27 From Valerie Lisk : thank you!
11:12:14 From June Butka : Don’t forget to date your comments or notes. Also if a web page, save the page. For example, RootsWeb is down, but I have the screen capture from when I found it.

11:12:44 From Cousin Russ : The Written Conclusion – a DearMYRTLE Genealogy Study Group
11:13:12 From Shelley Murphy : great point June, I have to remember that
11:13:34 From Lisa Gorrell : The conclusion is what you’re using to answer the research question.
11:14:12 From Lisa Gorrell : I put my conclusions in the notes section of each event in my RootsMagic.
11:14:53 From June Butka : If there is a diary of the doctor on the field, you may have another source to view.
11:15:49 From June Butka : Same here, DearMyrt.
11:16:49 From Shelley Murphy : on my timeline there is a column for notes and questions and then what’s next.
11:17:33 From Shelley Murphy : get a genealogy buddy can help too
11:19:57 From Cousin Russ : OUR CONVERSATION CONTINUES


The all-new Professional Genealogy was announced this morning by Genealogical Publishing Company.Professional Genealogy PPS

11:21:42 From Deb Andrew : Yes. I ordered the new one. DH said I could keep the old one I just received.
11:21:54 From Roxanne Basey : I am so excited. I got invited to join Pro Gen with this new book.
11:23:31 From Cousin Russ :
11:23:57 From Molly McKinley : Great class
11:25:38 From Jackie Wilson : I have family in Columbiana county, OH!
11:25:51 From Lisa Gorrell : Gotta run. Great session!.

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Myrt’s Musings

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The Written Conclusion – Proof Argument

The Written Conclusion – Proof Argument

Close-up of busineswoman's hands doing paperwork.Our final type of a written conclusion is the most complicated – the dreaded Proof Argument. Why ‘dreaded’ ? Well as Ol’ Myrt said – it’s complicated. A researcher arrives at a conclusion when analysis of multiple documents appear to provide information about a fact in an ancestor’s life. But it isn’t as cut and dry as a Proof Statement or a Proof Summary.

You’ll want tocontinue following along with DearMYRTLE’s “Don’t Panic! Review The Written Conclusion Study Group instead” posted at my old blog, this is the week to be studying Chapter 7 from Thomas W. Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013). [Book available from the publisher here and in Kindle format, described here.] Dr. Jones refers to the GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) summarized at the Board for Certification of Genealogists website here: 

You’ll begin your study on page 87 in Dr. Jones’ book where he says “Proof arguments are documented narratives in which genealogists explain why the answer to a complex genealogical problem should be considered proved.” Find out there why the author also recommend three major sections to your proof argument. Here is our study group session to assist you with composing a proof argument.



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I’ve had to write this sort of complicated narrative with pen and paper on occasion, instead of just typing things up. The dining room table was cleared, and I was able to work through every relevant document I collected. There is conflicting evidence to be resolved about of the birth year of my grandmother. Ol Myrt here must consider an old family story provided by my mother. It is her mother, Frances Irene (Goering) Froman McDonnell that we are once again studying.

To begin with, I’ll need to explain the family tradition that our grandmother lied about her birth year because when she met her second husband, she never wanted him to know she was three years older than he. Grandma Frances made mother promise if she died before her husband, mom was to keep the secret going. That’s why the funeral card isn’t a reliable source for the birthdate.


I’d spend much time writing about each document, indicating how I weighed the evidence. I’d insert a table to keep track of things. I’d have to present documents to explain her change of name due to two marriages. I’d include census records, her 1st marriage license, and her delayed birth certificate. The latter is the most significant, since it was signed by the physician attending her birth. Of course, I would appropriately cite each item, as this gives me the opportunity to consider the motivation of each informant.

I particularly like the delayed birth certificate since the attending physician signed it, most likely having looked at her files to verify her findings. I remember my father had two rooms of patient files where he kept copious, though sometimes cryptic, notes during each examination – but I digress.

Then having lead my reader ‘down theeach garden path’ I’d restate my premise that Frances Irene (Goering) Froman McDonnell was born 22 Aug 1905.

Before I found this precious document, I had settled on a slightly different year. See DearMYRTLE’s WACKY Wednesday – How old WAS she? (video)

GOERINGFrances_1905Delayed Birth Certificate 1940

That’s the thing about written conclusions. While we do our very best to ‘get it right’ there is always the possibility that our hopefully very educated guess is incorrect. I was glad when new-to-me, more convincing evidence came to light.

How is your “complicated’ Proof Argument coming along? 

Extra Credit

Aside from learning it’s all about explaining your thought process in narrative format, participants may compose written conclusions based on each session’s topic.

  1. Follow along with the four weekly hangout sessions.
  2. Incorporate the principles Dr. Jones presents in Chapter 7 as mentioned above.
  3. Compose a written conclusion based on your own research.
  4. Make sure to include your name on the top of the page.
  5. Include reference material as follows:

    Reference Material

    Jones, Thomas W., “The Written Conclusion” Mastering Genealogical Proof,  (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013).

    Richley-Erickson, Pat. Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group, DearMYRTLE’s YouTube Channel ( : viewed July 2017).

  6. Publish your conclusion in blog or public Google Doc format.
  7. Submit only 1 conclusion per week as follows:
    Week 1: Proof Statement
    Week 2: Proof Summary
    Week 3: Proof Proof Argument
    Week 4: Clear Writing (take one of your previous proofs and rewrite following Dr. Jones’ advice.)
  8. Register each week’s write-up here:

Each entry makes the participant eligible to win a $100 Amazon Gift Card to be awarded during our next Mondays with Myrt #genealogy hangout, 7 August 2017. WOW! 

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     🙂
Your friend in genealogy.