The case of the mystery "Aunt"

(1) An Unknown Aunt

My Mom (M), her sister (MS) and I were looking through an old photoalbum. The album belonged to my granddad (GD), the father of M and MS. He took most of the pictures himself.
There was one picture of an old lady in front of a car. When I asked who she was, M and MS told me it had to be "Aunt Bertha" (AB). They remembered her surname as "J.". They told me that we were related to her, but they were not sure about how. One daughter of AB was a godparent to MS. They lived quite a distance away.

(2) A Similar Name

So I tried to look for hints about the relationship of AB to the rest of our family. I looked through my papers and photographs, and found a photo of a gravestone in GD's home village. It read

(3) An Interpretation

"Bertha" wasn't a common name in this branch of our family, so the "Bertha" on the gravestone warranted a closer inspection.
The death date of this Bertha might fit with the estimated date of the photo, I thought.
From the gravestone's other inscriptions I inferred that
I knew that Elisabeth N, née K is connected to the rest of my tree.

(4) An Unsure Connection

So I asked M and MS if they thought it possible that these two Berthas were the same. They weren't sure, but thought it not very likely. They told me there was often an "H Aunt" at the farm of GD's dad, and they thought she might be the Bertha H in the grave. After a bit of thinking, we also thought it would be strange to have a married woman buried with her maiden name only on the gravestone.

(5) A Final Repudiation

I've since found out that the picture of AB in front of the car must have been taken after 1954, probably in 1956. So this would definitely prove that my initial guess was wrong.
(MS still wants to ask another relative about this, to see if they know how AB is connected to the rest of us.)

Now – how could a genealogy program record this case, with the evidence and the first assumptions and the thinking and reasoning for the latest conclusion?
How would you do it in the program you're using now?
How would it look in GEDCOM?
How might it look in a BG?
Say I didn't know about (5) yet, and wanted to give a snapshot of my train of thought to someone else – could BG do this?


testuser42 2011-03-06T16:05:51-08:00
The mystery Aunt
This is a real-life example which might benefit from a software that supports the evidence-conclusion model.

I'll try and recall what I did in my software in that case:
I made a new person for Aunt Bertha, with the infos that I had.
I added a husband with the surname J.
I added the daughter and her relationship as a godparent to MS.
I went to Elisabeth N, née K (she and her husband Wilhelm were already in the database).
I added the daugther Luise and her husband Friedrich.
I added their daughter Bertha H.
I nearly decided to merge both Berthas - for a while I thought it was a "slam dunk" (ouch. I must have been tired.)
Luckily, I just wrote Notes for both Berthas where I put down my idea that these might be one and the same.
Now I was happy I still had both persons seperate. I rewrote the notes to remind me that these two most probably were not the same person.
I also added a nickname "H Aunt" to Bertha H.
I changed my notes again to show the "disproof-statement" for my idea...
Until I find the real connection of AB to our family, I will leave the notes in both Berthas. So that in the future, nobody makes the same mistake as I did, not even me, if I forget this story.
GeneJ 2011-03-06T17:09:10-08:00
The Mystery Aunt -- GeneJ
(1) I'd take a digital image of the photograph, and then write a citation for it and include that citation on the digital image. That citation would report the photograph was in the grandfather's album,; would improve supplemental comments that M or MS provided about the both the album and the photograph, including that the identification was made by M and MS (I'd say when and where).

(2) I'd enter "Aunt Bertha" as an unrelated individual to my family file, citing the photograph, citation I'd written earlier. Other than the name "Bertha," I'd probably have only one tag, and that tag would be about the photograph. I'd link that same tag to my grandfather.

(3) When I found the second photograph (gravestones) in my "papers," I'd take a digital image of it and write a citation for it. Using that second citation, I'd use one of my "who's this" research tags and enter a note about same to that unrelated "Aunt Bertha" person in my file.

(4) I'd NOT "infer" any relationship between "Bertha" and the others. (If there was a relationship, cemetery records or obituaries would confirm that. For me, information in a research note would be enough.)

(5) When I learned the original picture of AB was later than originally thought, I'd update my citations (digital image and database); ditto the date on the photo tag. Depending on the notes I'd made about the gravestone image (who's this tag), I'd update that information also.

I work from the known to the unknown. Bertha would still qualify as an unknown to me. I'd invest my time learning more and more about my grandfathers family, believing that research would ultimately lead me to a more complete record of his relations.
GeneJ 2011-03-06T20:42:58-08:00
P.S. I'd try to get a copy of MS baptismal record. I assume MS is alive, so if she doesn't have that record, she may be able to obtain same from the church.
testuser42 2011-03-07T15:32:08-08:00
Thanks for sharing this!
This is a very good and thorough process.

In the case of the gravestone, I thought it wasn't too risky to speculate that these people were related in that way. But of course, I would not have put a high "surety" on my speculation, and would still look for documents that add weight to this hypothesis. But it might be a long time until I'd come around to doing that. And if in the interim, somebody else would take my GEDCOM and take the relationships for granted, that could be problematic.
I see the value in being more careful!

Does your genealogy software store all the research notes and research tags?
If so, can you export these?

I don't think this is possible with current GEDCOM. It would be interesting to try and construct a BG file that holds all the information and thought processes of a simple case like this.
GeneJ 2011-03-10T08:57:33-08:00
Hi TestUser.

I do have custom tags (for "facts"), so yes, I have a tag called "Research Note"; "Who's This," "Conflict," etc. I can attach sources (as many as I want) to the tag: I can associate the tag with multiple persons.

The tags do export. While the citations end up looking a little like spaghetti, the sources also export. My associates, generally speaking, aren't supported by current GEDCOM.