The Reliability of Oral Histories–The Forensic Approach to Evaluation

Part 2 of a three-part series.  Part 1 is here. When last we met, we explored the issues associated with the reliability of “eyewitness testimony” in court and applied similar concepts to first-person accounts of historical and genealogical events. We discovered several issues that might make “eyewitness testimony” unreliable. Now we explore the 21st century approach to eyewitness testimony and …Continue reading →


The Reliability of Oral Histories Considered

[Music; loud with fast, heavy beat] [Baritone voice with emergency pace and tone]:“Eyewitness News! The [Valley’s][Metroplex’s][Tri-State Area’s][Ark-La-Tex’s][Bay Area’s][Central Coast’s][Middle Tennessee’s] Most Reliable Newscast! With the entire Eyewitness News Team! This is Eyewitness News at Six [o’clock]!” That voicer (or words and music to that effect) has been heard on television stations all over America at one time or another in …Continue reading →


I Say Tomato, You Say Pearl Onion

Resolving Conflicting Data North Carolina?  Arkansas?  Alabama?   In the last post, we saw that all of these had been offered as possible birthplaces for my gg-grandfather, John Wesley Bowie.   I said I’d bet on Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.  Why? What does one do when confronted by multiple conflicting data?  Let’s start with the fact that the researcher at first has no …Continue reading →


A Commentary on the Quality of Sources

Read this. Then for the spot-on rejoinders, read Chris Dunham and Tim Agazio.


There’s No Such Thing as Proof

If, as a genealogist, you believe that you can “prove” something, well, you need to be re-educated. . . . In genealogy, we talk about evidence and data sources, and the Genealogical Proof Standard.  We don’t talk enough about what is meant by “proof” or how “proof” is distinct from evidence,or about the multifaceted nature of proof (which means our …Continue reading →


Will the Real Julia McDavid Please Stand Up?

Some Issues Concerning the Evaluation and Analysis of Evidence We’ve been playing a genealogical version of To Tell The Truth in which Julia McDavid, born in the nineteenth century and with a daughter named Helen, has challenged us to find her on the 1880 and 1900 censuses. The problem is that there are several persons with the name “Julia McDavid” …Continue reading →


Evidence, Hypotheses, Analyses

This week we resolved the question of whether I’d been researching “wrong Longs” as the parents of my great-grandfather, James William Long. I said that in an upcoming post we’d show how we did that. Out here in the hinterlands, the NGS NewsMagazine arrived a couple of days ago. As usual, it’s got a number of excellent articles. One that …Continue reading →

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