Over the years DearMYRTLE here has hosted several groups studying Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013). The book is available from the publisher at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof , also available in Kindle format through Amazon.com. Below find the embedded video of MGP Study Group 3 in playlist format, from DearMYRTLE’s YouTube Channel. Below the viewer is the list of chapters with links to the previous two study group series.
Dr. Jones’ book also includes the following:
Appendix A – Pritchett Article
Appendix B – McLain Article
Reading and Source List
Answers to exercises (Yup! The answers are at the end of the book.)
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
Follow along with the four weekly hangout sessions.
Incorporate the principles Dr. Jones presents in Chapter 7 as mentioned above.
Compose a written conclusion based on your own research.
Make sure to include your name on the top of the page.
Include reference material as follows:
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 (http://ow.ly/dmhX30dhvOS : viewed July 2017).
Publish your conclusion in blog or public Google Doc format.
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.)
The fifth element of the GPS is a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion that according to the GPS:
Eliminates the possibility that the conclusion is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence
Explains how the evidence led to the conclusion
A proof statement is perhaps the easiest to compile. It may only take a sentence to describe what is directly stated in a document from a “credible source” as Dr. Jones puts it.
It seems to me that a written conclusion is just like sitting down together with something like a church or court record and “talking it through” with Ol’ Myrt here. Write it up like we’re talking over a cup of herb tea. Explain it in simple terms. And with a proof statement there are no nuances, no need to question the motivation of the creator of the document. We aren’t using a compiled genealogy book where so-called facts have no citations.
Another good example might be a death certificate, signed by the physician. Ol’ Myrt’s proof statement for this document is:
From the Idaho Bureau of Vital Statistics for Twin Falls, Twin Falls County, Idaho Death Certificate #55994 for Chas. [Charles] Switzer Weiser died on 29 Dec 1926 due to chronic intestinal nephritis, signed by the attending physician.
Note I put his full name in [square brackets] since the document lists my paternal great-grandfather as Chas. I couldn’t read the doctor’s signature.
I haven’t touched the other information – about his wife, age, occupation, parents, residence. Ol’ Myrt here is only making a proof statement to support the fact of the man’s death.
Happy family tree climbing!
Your friend in genealogy.