Home > Research Process, Evidence & GPS
Snapshot of the page 11 Apr 2011
Created by Adrian
Snapshot 15 May 2011
Snapshot 18 June 2011
I have been concerned for some time that there is a gap in our analyses between the genealogical research process, the evidence & conclusion model and my aspirations for a "scientifically" robust process and write-up. This page is an attempt to fill in that gap and define more specifically what we need - in my personal
opinion - to be documenting and therefore what I would like to see in my ideal genealogy research software. Ultimately though, the focus of the page is less on the process, and more on driving out what data items are involved in that process, so I can be more confident about what's needed in the BetterGEDCOM Data Model.
As with all my process descriptions, I usually don't mention whether or not software will be used at any point, because a process is about "what" is done, not "how". Where I do mention software, it's because avoiding doing so makes the words harder to read.
It may very well be that this page does no more than document what you, the reader, felt was obvious. If so fine, but I have satisfied myself that I have filled in the gap.
This process researches a specific event, attribute or relationship concerning something or someone. It does not attempt to set an overall strategic direction. As a result, someone writing a family history will go through this process many times. (Note - I have not yet tested this process in my mind against large-scale family reconstruction, but suspect the same steps appear - just more often
Inspiration for this process description has been taken from a variety of sources, credited in the text but especially from Mark Tucker's Genealogy Research Process diagram.
See detail on definitions
See Data Model
1. Set a focussed goal
Set and record a focussed goal
(e.g. “Who were the parents of X?”) (c.f. Tom Jones, "Inferential Genealogy" course handout, 2010, Family Search
- Current conclusions about people, things, etc
- Focussed goal – what things or people are to be investigated? What relationships, events or attributes do we want to know about them?
2. Create or revise research plan
It is likely that you need to take several steps to reach the goal. So, split the necessary work into portions
, each of which contributes a step towards the overall goal. Each portion will have its own specific objective, which is lower-level / more detailed / more specific than the overall focussed goal. Unless the plan is deliberately intended to be only a partial plan (see below), the last step should pull everything together and provide a solution to the overall focussed goal.
From the steps, with their own objectives, create a “reasonably exhaustive” research plan describing what to search for and
how to analyse it. The research plan needs to be broad enough in time, space and people to trap potentially useful information (c.f. Tom Jones, also the Genealogical Proof Standard.) Do not be afraid to include speculative items, e.g. "Anything in Chester Quarter Sessions records for the 1820s?".
This plan starts as an initial plan - it is highly likely that it will be necessary to loop back here and create a revised plan later on in the light of information found - "No plan survives first contact" (Field-Marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder
). Indeed, if you are uncertain of the direction your research may take, the initial plan may be only a partial plan, with the rest being defined only in the light of the first set of discoveries.
- Focussed goal (from previous step).
- Current conclusions about people, things, etc
- Useful data about types of sources to look for when looking for evidence relating to specific attribute / event values (e.g. “parents’ names can be found on Scots death certificates”) (probably this data is held elsewhere in books, magazines, on-line catalogues and research notes from archives and record offices, for instance.)
- Useful data about those types of sources e.g. “pre-1837 marriages in England were always in Church of England parish churches” or “post-1837 marriage certificates in England were created by register offices and / or churches”(probably this data is held elsewhere)
- Where to look for those potential sources (e.g. list of where Cheshire parish registers can be found) (probably this data is held elsewhere)
- List of work portions, each with specific objectives and description of what is intended to be done. This describes "what" is intended and "how". For instance, "What? "Find X's marriage". "How? Look for all marriages in Nantwich, Acton and Wistaston between 1820 and 1840 with groom’s name = X. For each of the couples, are they found in the subsequent censuses? Does the age in the census match X?")
- Location of potentially relevant sources ("where") needed to fulfil the objectives above, forming an initial search log (e.g. "Microfilms of parish registers (PRs) for Nantwich, Acton and Wistaston, at Chester Archives". This log will then be completed in the next steps to summarise what has been found.) (The list of objectives and the initial log, taken together, make up a search plan)
- Assumptions made for each work portion – “As both X and Y live close to where they were born, according to the censuses, it is assumed that they were married reasonably close to there.” Also “It is assumed that neither of N and W were Quaker or Jewish” – these are the two exceptions to the rule about marriage in CofE church.
3. Carry out research
For each of the work-portions in the research-plan, carry out the research according to the current plan. (When searching for paper-based records, this step takes place in Archives, Record Offices, etc
. When searching internet based records, this takes place at a computer terminal and the division between this and subsequent steps might tend to disappear
). (There are personal decisions to be made about how much to record for sources that are close to the search criteria but do not match - if it's been a long journey and you won't be back for a while, it might be tempting to record "close" sources for long-term storage somehow in case they turn out to be for a relative.). Important - if a search does not
find a record - make a note of that as this will save you looking for it in the same place again. Also, the lack of a record where it might reasonably be expected to be, could be significant.
- List of specific objectives, each with a statement of “how” I intend to fulfil each objective (from previous step)
- Location of potentially relevant sources needed to fulfil the objectives above, forming an initial search log (from previous step)
- Documented assumptions (from previous step)
- Contents of the researched sources, documented in such a way as to be understandable (e.g. a series of marriage transcripts for people satisfying the search criteria) and with enough data to enable accurate citations, record provenance, etc.
- Updated search log saying for each source, what’s been searched, what was missing, etc.
- if this work-portion does not contain any research work (e.g. because it is only analysis), then this step is not executed.
3.5 Understand the Records
For each of the work-portions, check your understanding of the records that have been judged to have useful information. Understanding why a record was created will help interpret the information in it (For instance, does the grant of probate say 'Personal Effects' and / or 'Real Estate' - do you understand the difference?
). (c.f. Tom Jones, "Inferential Genealogy"
4. Select & Analyse the Evidence
For each of the work-portions, assemble the research from this work-portion. Assess the quality of the source material. Using your research plan, select the evidence (i.e. the information that's relevant to the objective of this work portion). This evidence can come from this work-portion, previous portions and the evidence already in your database. Look for any patterns, matches, differences, etc. that might be meaningful. (These are not meant to be sequential steps but can take place in parallel)
Can you demonstrate ("prove") that the person referred to in the evidence is the one that the objective needs? Analyse the evidence to see if you can answer the questions posed by the objective for this work-portion.
What are the conclusions for this work-portion? Is there any conflicting evidence? (e.g. this looks like him but it's the wrong father) Any partial progress? (e.g. These are the marriages matching our couple but there is more than 1 match, so we cannot yet tell which is their marriage). Any evidence that contradicts any hypothesis? (e.g. Implication of complete search is that they were not married after all)
If there are conclusions, record the analysis and conclusions for this work-portion in some form of proof summary or proof argument, referring back as necessary to previous conclusions.
- List of specific objectives, each with a statement of “how” I intend to fulfil each objective (from previous steps)
- Contents of the researched sources, documented in such a way as to be understandable and with enough data to enable accurate citations, record provenance, etc. (from previous step).
- Updated search log saying for each source, what’s been searched, what was missing, etc (from previous step)
- An understanding of the nature of the researched sources (probably held elsewhere)
- Evidence relevant to the objective(s), including evidence of identity
- Proof (summary or argument) giving results of analysis and conclusions – if any (See BCG for samples).
- Conflicting evidence – if any
- if this work-portion does not contain any analysis work (e.g. because it is a portion containing only self-education), then this step is not executed.
5. Has the Objective been met for this Work-Portion?
If the objective for this work-portion has not been met, or
if there is conflicting evidence that cannot be resolved, return to create new search plan with revised specific objectives (Some conflicts can be accepted if they can be resolved, i.e. explained away in a plausible manner - e.g. it was 50 years after the marriage and the son giving the information was born long after that marriage
5.5 Record Conclusions
For each specific objective, if it has
been met with no
unresolved conflicting evidence, enter any conclusions into the genealogy application, either
- merging these conclusions into existing people, events, objects, etc, deleting or replacing conclusions that are no longer accepted (i.e. use the "conclusion-only" model) or
- creating new people, events, objects containing the new conclusions plus old conclusions that are still accepted (leaving the old detail there but marked up as "superseded") (i.e. use the "evidence conclusion model")
- if this work-portion did not reach any conclusions (e.g. because it is a portion containing only self-education), then this step is not executed. If this work-portion was supposed to reach a conclusion, but for some reason could not, then review if there are any other conclusions that can
be entered into the database - e.g. "We don't know his parents but we now know his occupation at date X". Ensure that such conclusions can be justified - perhaps creating a new work-portion to do so.
6. Go onto next work portion in research plan
Go onto the next work portion in the research plan.
7. Check overall goal has been met
If all the objectives from all the work portions have been completed and there is no
unresolved conflicting evidence, double check to see if the overall focussed goal has been met (remember, in this way of working, the last portion is meant to provide the answer to that focussed goal
) and that all the conclusions have been entered into the genealogy application, including the final conclusions. If it has, then this research process is complete.
If there is any unresolved conflicting evidence or if the overall focussed goal has not been met, return to create new search plan with revised specific objectives.
I talk of "proof" and "final conclusions". It is unlikely that proof in a complex genealogical study can reach the standard of proof required in a criminal case ("beyond a reasonable doubt") - the Genealogical Proof Standard
exists to provide criteria to judge the standard of proof obtained. Nor is any conclusion really final as the appearance of previously unsuspected information may throw everything into suspicion.
The crux of the matter is this - what do I want to see in an application? And therefore in the BetterGEDCOM Data Model? The answer is - everything
that's recorded as an input or an output above. Actually, there are exceptions denoted above by the phrase "probably this data is held elsewhere" since otherwise we'd end up dumping all the text books into our applications. But after these first steps, I'd really like all that lot to go into my application.
First cut list of entities - excluding those already clearly covered by GEDCOM - i.e. persons, families, etc. This list is somewhat descriptive, rather than specific.
- Focussed goal – what things or people are to be investigated? What relationships, events or attributes do we want to know about them?
- Research Plan -
- List of work portions, each with specific objectives and description of what is intended to be done.
- Initial search log containing location(s) of potentially relevant sources ("where") needed to fulfil the objectives above. This log is later updated completed to summarise what has been or what cannot be found where.
- Assumptions made.
- Contents of the researched sources, documented in such a way as to be understandable, and with enough data to enable accurate citations, record provenance, etc (as per GEDCOM Source-entity but with extra attributes compared to current GEDCOM?)
- Proof argument or summary for each work portion made up of
- Evidence used in the work portion, including evidence of identity
- Results of analysis
- Conclusions if any
- Conflicting evidence if any
- Updated values of a person / group / place etc recorded in database for each work portion
The indented bullets are intended to imply a probable relationship - e.g. the higher level bullet consists of the lower level ones.
cut of data model shown above. Notes:
- Multiple cardinality on relationships is shown by crows-feet (a) because that's what I use and (b) because the (free) modelling tool does it like that.
- Entity "Genealogical Value" is meant to represent any attribute of any person, family, group, place, ship, artefact, etc. entity. Or any event or relationship involving same.
- Entity "Citation PAF style" is meant to refer to the citation structure as encoded in GEDCOM, PAF, etc, etc., i.e. it is a piece of data that (viewed from the value that it justifies), points to a source record. It is the basis of a printed reference note citation - the title, author, publication, etc, come from the source record that this entity points to, while the page-number-with-source, quality, etc, come from this entity. Naturally this entity might need more attributes than are currently encoded in GEDCOM, PAF, etc. Like any entity, it can be reached from two directions - the comment above refers to going from the value to the entity to the source. Conversely, one can use this entity to discover, for any given source, which values are justified by this source.
- I have only resolved one many-to-many relationship - that involving "Genealogical Value" and "Source", which is resolved by the "Citation PAF style".
- "Citation PAF style" remains on the model for 2 reasons - (i) compatibility and (ii) because I feel that it could otherwise be impossible to see which bit of a source contributed to the value of the "Genealogical Value". In other words, I see both this and proof / conclusion in use at the same time.
- Conclusion and Evidence statements are just envisaged here to be free format text. Rightly or wrongly.
- A conclusion statement may justify several values - e.g. "John Doe was born to Richard Doe on 31/1/99" justifies a parent's name and a birth date.
- The text in the Proof, Conflicting Evidence and Conclusion entities will need to be substantial in length.
- A proof gives rise to (potentially) many conclusions. Or even none if it's a disproof(?).
- A conclusion comes from only 1 proof. (No reason that several proofs can't come to an equivalent conclusion).
- A proof must arise from some evidence.
- A piece of evidence comes from only one source. But a source contains (perhaps) many bits of evidence.
It may very well be that this page does no more than document what you, the reader, felt was obvious. If so fine, but I have satisfied myself that I have filled in the gap.
You may note that several phrases deliberately echo the G Proof Std. This is, so far as I remember but then again I'm getting old and forgetful, the first time I've seen the full sequence right down to the entry of data into the application under EITHER the conclusion only or the evidence and conclusion model.
The process, especially the last bit, clearly demonstrates to me that the evidence and conclusion model does not challenge what one might term current formal genealogical processes but supplements it, and that conversely, carrying out those processes is not, of itself, enough if one wants the full science.
I'm not sure I'd create the evidence records at this point. HOWEVER I suspect this has everything to do with practicalities of how good apps are at EASILY loading data. If I'm looking in the 1851 census for a Thomas Taylor, born Lancashire 1829 +/- 10y, with a wife named Mary, there are 18 of them. If I'm doing it the way I do now, the SUMMARY list off Ancestry of those 18 is just copy and pasted into a Note item in my database.
My step 4 asks if short-term objective has been met? Well, no because none of those 18 look like my Thomas. (And that's where I'm stuck with my GG grandfather - I can see him in 1841 and 1861 onwards but not 1851).
Now - I can't convince myself that there's any virtue in loading source records, never mind extracted evidence records, of those 18.
I think this means that I would wait until step 4, the analysis before entering the stuff into the app. That kind of makes some sense to me because step 3 is pretty much what happens at the record office and step 4 is thinking time.
Now, it could be that I'm not phrasing the task right because what I'm actually doing is looking for someone born at Penwortham in Lancs (yes - our census gives the town of birth). But if I do use that as the search criteria, then I get zero records (which is fine) but I've also lost the ability to say 6 months later "D'uh - he could have been born at Hutton, just outside Penwortham - let's go back and recheck"
Now, if Ancestry downloaded everything into BG format, I could load everything easy-peasy. But since it won't I'm reluctant to do the equivalent of typing up 18 evidence cards to shuffle, when I can just summarise them in a few lines and mentally shuffle.
IF my app did that shuffling for me, I'd input it. If it doesn't, I'm unconvinced that inputting the full evidence makes sense. (If it was Pickstock or Pleass, where you'd be convinced that a large number of them would turn out to be related, it would make sense to put them in. But not for Taylor.)
This is a dilemma. I've been doing genealogy for over 20 years now. It took a long time for me to reach the "chasm" you reach when you can no longer discover new ancestors without doing careful reesearch and gathering lots of often conflicting evidence.
My current practice is to create the evidence records whenever I find information that has "high likelyhood" of belonging to a person of interest. Faced with 18 census records for persons with the same name as the person I am researching, where it is difficult or impossible to filter out a significant number of them, I would only create records for those that I decide have any real chance of being the persons I am interested in.
"My step 4 asks if short-term objective has been met? Well, no because none of those 18 look like my Thomas. (And that's where I'm stuck with my GG grandfather - I can see him in 1841 and 1861 onwards but not 1851)...Now - I can't convince myself that there's any virtue in loading source records, never mind extracted evidence records, of those 18...I think this means that I would wait until step 4, the analysis before entering the stuff into the app. That kind of makes some sense to me because step 3 is pretty much what happens at the record office and step 4 is thinking time."
Okay, I now get your point. In step 3 you are deciding whether any of the information you have found could possibly apply to your ancestors. If you decide not you also wouldn't create evidence records for them. I agree with you. I don't either. I didn't see step 3 the same way at first. I do step 3. by looking at the a result from Ancestry.com or FamilySearch or a vital record in a city hall, rejecting it, and moving on to the next one. It's over so fast I don't think about it much.
"Now, it could be that I'm not phrasing the task right because what I'm actually doing is looking for someone born at Penwortham in Lancs (yes - our census gives the town of birth). But if I do use that as the search criteria, then I get zero records (which is fine) but I've also lost the ability to say 6 months later "D'uh - he could have been born at Hutton, just outside Penwortham - let's go back and recheck"
(Aside: I've been into the English, Welsh, and Manx censuses many times for my ancestors -- they are a pleasure to work with).
You hint at the issue of negative evidence here. This issue still eludes me. Where does that info go?
"Now, if Ancestry downloaded everything into BG format, I could load everything easy-peasy. But since it won't I'm reluctant to do the equivalent of typing up 18 evidence cards to shuffle, when I can just summarise them in a few lines and mentally shuffle."
That hits the nail on the head. If we can't get the evidence records from our services, will we ever be able to effectively do record-based work on our home applications? The future of genealogical software may rest on the answer. I don't believe Ancestry.com will open up their interfaces for this purpose, but I have hope that FamilySearch will.
"IF my app did that shuffling for me, I'd input it. If it doesn't, I'm unconvinced that inputting the full evidence makes sense. (If it was Pickstock or Pleass, where you'd be convinced that a large number of them would turn out to be related, it would make sense to put them in. But not for Taylor.)"
So if genealogical software does not support evidence-based records in any meaningful way, what's the point of having the evidence records in the first place? None. I anticipate the next generation of genealogical software that does support it and hope Better GEDCOM will be ready for it. My hope may be completely false. The trend in all software over the past 30 years has been a steady dumbing down of features in order to attract a larger base of less and less capable users. Genealogical software has suffered this trend as much as others. Why should I have any hope that a "research quality" genealogical application will ever exist? I am delusional.
Fortunately I am convinced that it is trivial to extend genealogical models to support evidence records, because of the very simple fact that evidence records are just person records and event records limited that are limited to just hold the facts that can be derived from single items of evidence. The same records we use now for our conclusions are fully adequate to hold evidence. And simply by allowing person records to refer to another set of person records as part of their justification, we get everything I am asking for. So even if the Better GEDCOM model drops back and punts on the evidence question, it will be pretty easy to extend it in the future.
In one extreme a lot of source transcripts comes out of step 3, the user analyses them and existing data in the database, records the reasoning (maybe also a conclusion) in a research note somewhere, and goes on to create conclusion persons, relations etc. Some users will think that it is a waste of time to record evidence persons.
Or, the user records the transcripts and extracts the bits and pieces from each transcript into evidence persons, and then creates conclusion persons, recording the reasoning in the conclusion person, and creates the relations.
The real difference is the use of evidence persons (and low level conclusion persons) and where the reasoning is recorded – together with the objective or in a conclusion person. I think in practice, a mix of both will be used by ONE researcher. If there are several collaborative researchers, as on FS, it makes sense to enforce evidence persons. The choice of where to record the reasoning may depend on what you are researching, I have a difficulty in choosing between the two alternatives. How would the reasoning output in reports if it is spread all over the place (and how do I get an overview on screen of all that reasoning and evidence if it is split into many pieces)?
Also, you can’t record the reasoning about a place, group or ship fact in a conclusion person – we need a general research/reasoning/citation structure.
If we delete a person, where do we record the reasoning behind that?
I think Adrian has done an excellent job. We should try to further develop the text. Update what is done in step 3. Include negative evidence. Taking the two extrems above, could we enter into it the alternatives where we would record info in each step – from step 4 onward. Also, compare this with the Evidence and Conclusion Process – I don’t see a big difference between step 3 onwards in it, and Tom’s E&C model – I need to understand the differences if any. Could we develop names for each step, possibly not a short name in every case.
It would be useful to save dated versions of the model so it will be possible to understand the discussions afterwards - eg. if we change the step numbers.
You wrote, "phrases deliberately echo the G Proof Std"
I practice the GPS differently, at least I think.
The element, "Reasonably exhaustive search," from the GPS contributes to credibility because it (1) "assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources, and (2) minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too hasty conclusion."
I don't associated the "exhaustive search" process with the more narrow, initial or "short term" search.
See Tom Jones, "Inferential Genealogy," 2010
In the example, his "Start with a Focused Goal" is not unlike your "high level objective (his was, "Identify the parents of the Maxfield Whiting who married Lettice Johnson in 1753.").
His step 2, seems quite a bit different though--he is going to search broadly. Note in part, "When you have identified a target ancestor, you should research him or her from birth to death, and then at least a decade before and after to make sure you do not miss some pertinent information."
Do you see that as I do?
The theme continues, in a process I see as building a body of evidence. Your #2 looks a little like the first couple of bullets to his #3--Understand the Records.
His #4, Correlate the evidence--I see as a body of evidence process.
The purpose of his class was inferential genealogy. He writes, "Inferential genealogy is one method of kinship determination."
I appreciate you deal with different record groups and circumstance, and that this process that is comfortable to _you_, how you think and how you like to work.
I'm hoping to see something concrete that deals with a more substantial body of evidence over time, reflecting a good diversity in record types.
Re negative evidence - err - not sure on this yet. I think _negative_ evidence appears only at stage 4, when I'm back "home" and I analyse what I've found - only then am I in a position to say "She ain't there..." (Of course, in reality, it's often actually a sinking feeling in the Record Office as you run off the end of the microfilm and you still haven't found her).
I think you're right - there needs to be flexibility in step 3.
If I'm in a record office, I'll be making full transcripts or extensive summaries of all records that meet the search criteria (depending on the size of the document and the likelihood of the person being of interest either now or later).
If I'm searching Ancestry or FS it'll be a copy and paste of the summary of the records found and I'll _save_ the image or copy the text for a much smaller range because I know I can return to them later.
"If we delete a person, where do we record the reasoning behind that?" I think that would depend on where the person came from and why. There's at least an argument for leaving said person around with big warnings - e.g. the Robert Bruce who fought at the Battle of Hastings is very possibly a myth - at least, there's no real evidence for him. So maybe I might leave him in my database but with the warning that no, he almost certainly doesn't exist. Whatever seems appropriate - otherwise I think the deletion gets recorded in step 8.
"compare this with the Evidence and Conclusion Process" (or E&C Model) - I don't think there will be. Certainly not intentionally.
"compare this with the Evidence and Conclusion Process" (or E&C Model) - I don't think there will be MANY DIFFERENCES. Certainly not intentionally.
"I practice the GPS differently" - yes, this is almost inevitable. I'm sure you're a lot more familiar with it than I am - I think I'm still feeling my way towards it.
""Start with a Focused Goal" is not unlike your "high level objective"
Actually, that's probably a better phrase altogether - "high level objective" can mean anything and in fact the example was trying to show it's a fairly specific objective I was investigating.
The Tom Jones handout is very interesting - in truth, it's possibly a lot closer to what I'm doing with the more distant relatives than what I've written.
_Possibly_ my process could be used to cover an inferential investigation but the examples would look very different. E.g. "search plan" might contain "Look for all family X records in Y-shire in the years...."
I think his Step 4 "Correlate the Evidence" then matches multiple iterations of my 4 onwards. Maybe. Certainly, phrases like "Look for patterns and parallels" cover many, many things in practice. Patterns need to be interpreted and tested, for instance.
When I talk about the evidence and conclusion process, when I talk about multi-tiered models, when I talk about record-based genealogy, when I talk about evidence person records, when I talk about crossing the chasm, I am talking about the paradigm shift in genealogical software required to ACTUALLY PROVIDE REAL EXPERT LEVEL COMPUTER support for the GPS. Supporting GPS was the purpose of the DeadEnds model. Everything I continuously blabber on about is pointed straight in the direction of trying to find the best way to support GPS in computer systems.
What I find most ironic about Better GEDCOM right now is that the key opposition to this paradigm shift comes from a few BG members who most profess the need to support GPS! They are unable to imagine what it might mean to provide real expert level COMPUTER SUPPORT for the GPS process, continuing to believe the current generation of conclusion-based software systems are all that are needed. Crazy, man.
I think it would be useful to start building that example independent of the technical solution. It would be ONE stress test for Tom's model which I think is important.
It is interesting to note that a lot of the steps on the page would be supported by Administrative requirements already included in the Requirements Catalog.
If I can think of a way to do it, we might be able to use little Hannah Preston's family.
We'd have 14 children (Hannah and her siblings) from two marriages. Aside from the Hannah proof, there are two other proofs. In addition, one of the spouses can't be proven to her parents and siblings, but there is enough circumstantial evidence that one needs to report that other family as "loosely linked" (for which I use a "who's this tag"). It's possible all the documents are in the public domain but for one. I'll look more closely at that.
Admin/Requirements Catalog: I am looking forward to hearing from Adrian on his thoughts.
From forth posting above, I understand Adrian didn't record his objective in the software, but Admin Research (research log) would have enabled same see the example at
re: Administration01 - Research Administration Information
theKiwi Mar 8, 2011 5:13 am
I see that step as Tom Jones', "Inferential Genealogy," 2010 http://bit.ly/ev0YId "Start with a Focused Goal" (his was, "Identify the parents of the Maxfield Whiting who married Lettice Johnson in 1753").
I search broadly (see Inferential Genealogy). FamilyHistory Library Catalog, FamilyHistory101 (see the map or listing of States; for any given state, see the list of counties), local libraries and archives, etc. are part of the process to identify available record groups--this collective is the way I begin to define "exhaustive search."
I work with one record group at a time. How my notes look would depend on the circumstance of the record group. (Deed indexes appear differently than Vital Record indexes and probate indexes; library archive catalogs appear differently than newspaper indexes--other than maybe grantor/grantee deed indexes, rarely would I commingle the findings much less create data-base proper records about them.)
If my software had Research Administration features, I'd use that to summarize information about the record group and note which records I'd want to look at further (if any). (Adrian's "SUMMARY list off Ancestry of those 18.") Also, for any record I looked at more closely. (Adrian wrote, " .. none of those 18 look like my Thomas.")
I wouldn't load any of the records into the database proper.
If of those 18 items, say three were interesting, I'd continue the research about those three entries, possibly in another research log entry.--So I'd have devised another set of methods by which I intended to evaluate and determine if either of the three records could be proven to be that of Thomas ... Those methods would involve examining the records themselves and examining yet other records (other records being both those from an existing body of evidence and those I might have to go track down).
As a rule of thumb, I don't want to create two people in my data base who "might be the same person." In many respects, I just see that practice as another form of mis-identification.
From something I write last week, but didn't post--"Where do each of us draw the line between the discipline of genealogy and science? Genealogical research and say, market research? How do we differ in our view of genealogy being unique within the larger discipline of history?
In genealogy, we interpret "evidence" and draw conclusions. In a strict sense, do you see that, however faint, those interpretations are influences or a "changes."
The commingling of evidence and conclusions, as the spirit of the model, as described to me when this project started, challenges how I see genealogy as a discipline.
Even the use of the term evidence bothers me. Here's the original comment from what I think was proposed as the "Evidence and Conclusion Process" page.
I'll post separately about the different steps if it would help, but note the comment, "The terms evidence and conclusion are used loosely here, since even the original event and person records may involve some level of inference as the researcher creates the event and person records from the evidence."
Meeting time. Perhaps more later.
Here's how I see a genealogical computer application would supporting your process, numbered in your sequence.
1. This is the goal setting phase. The results are goal records in your database.
2. You create a list of action/todo items you believe will take you to your goal. These items are also in your database and refer to their goals.
3. You record the repositories visited and the sources inspected as records in your database; records that have sufficient structure that citations can be generated when needed. The sources can be referenced by the action items and vice versa. Your step 3 goes even further, however, in my methodology, to the creation of the first level of "evidence" records, that is, person and event records that contain just the information that can be extracted from items in the sources. These evidence records refer back to the sources with the additional info such as page numbers, so that complete citations can be generated for them.
Note that what I call evidence records are your "contents of the researched sources" put into textual, digital form and stored in the database as records. There is misunderstanding revolving around this idea, and there is very strong objection to this idea from some Better GEDCOM folk who think there is no point in creating these records. (Since the current genealogical industry now consists of applications and services, e.g., FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, who have billions of these evidence person records on file for us to search and use, the lack of imagination behind such obstinacy is hard to understand).
I'll emphasize this once more. Evidence records are digital records in our databases that hold only and exactly the information about persons (and events) that are mentioned in items of information we find in the sources. Some Better GEDCOM folk don't believe these records are necessary. Others, like me, are convinced that they are required for the future of Better GEDCOM. Those who don't want them lack the understanding of how valuable they are, how important they are in supporting the research process, and how important they will be as genealogy continues the current accelerating trend to be more and more records based. These evidence records are the bed rock concept behind records-based genealogy; they are the computer incarnation of this records.
4. Determine if the evidence gathered in step 3. is sufficient to say you have reached your goals. Your computer application should support this by allowing you to group your evidence records (as computer records) into groups that allow you to confidently say you understand the persons whom you were researching. A good computer application would allow you to see all your evidence, group it into conclusion persons, document your conclusions, and so on. Persons who disagree with this believe that all this should be done on paper and in ancillary log files.
5., 6., 7. Iterate on the above until you feel you are justified in making your final conclusions about reaching the goal.
8. And here you show the bias I am concerned about, as this is the first time you mention the computer application. For me the computer application starts at steps 1 and supports them all.
Don't worry: I agree with your view of where the application should go in at... c.f. "what do I want to see in an application? ... everything that's recorded as an input or an output above"
The fact that I don't mention the application in the earlier steps is simply because I'm writing out the process, which stands independently of whether we're using an app or not. That's how I've always written process descriptions - until one gets to the point where avoiding the use of the word "computer" leads to diminishing returns because no-one can understand what the heck you're on about... Which point was reached at number 8. Actually - I feel guilty that point 8 is so brief compared to the others but I really didn't want to rewrite the evidence / conclusion model _again_
Great! Sorry for my misinterpretation.