Do you have two documents that state different parents for your Jane Doe? Which document is correct? Or, are both documents incorrect and a third unknown couple are Jane’s parents? This could be a complex evidence problem.
Are there two or more (related or unrelated) John Does living in the same town at the same time? Are you having trouble separating them? This could be a complex evidence problem.
There may not be any record that directly states a solution to the identity in question. In that event we have to build a case based on indirect or circumstantial evidence. It might involve finding every record generated by an individual, by his/her parents and siblings, and possibly by other relatives or neighbors.
This type of research usually involves use of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). GPS consists of five steps used to establish proof of a conclusion:
- Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search
- Collect complete, accurate citations of all sources
- Assess the quality of all evidence
- Resolve any conflicts in the evidence
- Write a soundly reasoned, coherent conclusion
Not all records concerning an individual are stored in his town of residence, or even in the same county or state. Pertinent records may not be filed under her name; information about her may be included in a record created by another individual. A diary or account book created by an unrelated town resident may contain critical information. A neighbor’s deed, probate record, or court record might reveal useful data. Examining records like these is part of the “reasonably exhaustive search.”
Knowing what records to examine, where they are located, and analyzing all of the (direct, indirect, or lack of) evidence are part of the GPS process. Solving this type of problem can be very tedious and time-consuming. Be aware that not all cases are resolvable. Appropriate records may not have been generated or may not have survived. Usually, enough evidence can be located to form at least a tentative conclusion.
Are you stuck on a complex evidence case? Do you want an experienced, credentialed researcher to conduct the research and analysis for you? Or do you want to carry on the research yourself but need a detailed research plan to follow? Contact me to discuss the options.
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