6. Learning and Practicing the Genealogical Proof Standard

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We continue today with another key part of the Genealogical Proof Standard, "we resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question".

Here are some cases a class might study.

CASE ONE: The parish register of the imaginary English village of Burham contained the following entry,

"11 April 1811, James Dixon, age 33, son of John and Helen Dixon, of this parish married Jane Castle,27, daughter of William and Eliza Hogben of Northburn, by licence"

You are delighted to find Jane but confused by the contradictory information. How can Jane be a Castle and her parents be surnamed Hogben? Your first challenge is to identify all possible explanations for this oddity, then propose research to eliminate all but one hypothesis. Think about it, all hypotheses need to be tested just in case all are wrong!

CASE TWO: One of the contiguous parishes of Burham is Greater Sedley. The following problem emerged from the parish registers. Among the baptisms were found

  • 14 February 1796 Ann daughter of John and Margaret Rigden
  • 21 August 1798 John son of John and Margaret Rigden
  • 04 January 1800 Richard son of John and Margaret Rigden

No further trace of any Rigden is found among the baptisms, marriages and burials of Greater Sedley. However in Burham the following baptisms turn up

  • 18 April 1801 Catherine daughter of John and Catherine Rigden
  • 24 March 1803 Richard son of John and Catherine Rigden
  • 30 June 1805 Edward son of John and Margaret Rigden
  • 28 October 1807 Ann Elizabeth daughter of John and Margaret Rigden.

Among the burials in Burham are found these

  • 16 August 1802 Richard Rigden age two years
  • 4 August 1807 Ann Rigden age eleven year. Drowned.

Your believe is that Catherine and Margaret are the same person. Ken tell you to dig deep and identify all possible explanations, and suggest research plans to test each hypothesis.

So there you are, a couple of problems involving conflicting information that you can play with. Rewrite them to suit your own needs in teaching in Roger Mills county, Oklahoma or somewhere in Bavaria in a century and decade of your choice.

What do you think?

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2 responses to “6. Learning and Practicing the Genealogical Proof Standard

  1. Hi Ken,

    You went to all that trouble to postulate the cases – so I’ll bite on Case 1.

    A. HYPOTHESES

    1. Jane Castle may be the base-born daughter of Eliza Hogben (Castle may be one of the names they used for base-born children).

    2. Jane Castle may be the daughter of Eliza Hogben by an earlier marriage, and have married a Mr. Castle prior to this marriage to James Dixon.

    3. Jane Castle may be the natural daughter of William and Eliza Hogben and married a Mr. Castle prior to this marriage to James Dixon.

    4. Jane Castle may be an adopted daughter of William and Eliza Hogben and married a Mr. Castle prior to this marriage to James Dixon.

    5. Jane Castle may be an adopted daughter of William and Eliza Hogben who didn’t change her surname when adopted prior to this marriage to James Dixon.

    B. RECORDS TO BE SEARCHED

    1. Review the LDS Family History Library Catalog for library holdings for the parishes of interest and the Manorial and Probate records. Visit the County Record Office for the County of Cockupshire in Prick-on-Thames to review any records not found in the FHLC. If you can’t visit there, hire a professional to do the work for you – I recommend a Mr. Hiram Chamber-Potts who’ve worked with before in Cockupshire.

    2. Obtain and review Northburn Anglican church parish records (and Bishop’s transcripts if available) for baptisms of children with surnames Hogben and Castle in the years 1780 to 1790. If none are found, widen the search to surrounding parishes, especially those between Northburn and Burham (but including the parishes in Prick-on-Thames, Little Pigden, and Upper Lowe for obvious reasons). If there were non-conformist churches near Northburn, consult those records also. A search of the IGI may help focus the search, if the records of these churches were extracted.

    3. Obtain and review Anglican and non-conformist church parish records (and bishops transcripts if available) of marriages in Northburn, Burham and surrounding parishes for the marriages of all persons named Hogben or Castle between 1800 and 1811. Again, the IGI may help focus the search.

    4. Obtain and review Anglican and non-conformist church parish records (and Bishops transcripts if available) of burials in Northburn, Burham and surrounding parishes for all persons with surname Castle and Hogben between 1780 and 1811.

    5. Obtain and review Manorial records for Northburn and Burham, and perhaps surrounding parishes, in hopes of finding where a possible Mr. Castle worked, where William Hogben worked, etc. Review labourer and tenant farmer lists for each year, if available.

    6. Obtain and review Church vestryman’s records (if they exist) in Northburn, Burham and surrounding parishes that might indicate a base-born situation, an adoption, or the church membership of the Hogbens and Jane (and her possible Mr. Castle).

    7. Obtain and review Probate records for any persons with surnames Hogben and Castle that might provide relationships between parents and children. Use Phillimore’s Atlas to determine the correct Court jurisdiction.

    8. During this search process, join in and ask questions about the locations and reliability of the records in the parishes and Cockupshire on the mailing lists and message boards available on the Internet. Try to find other researchers who may have the same family or solved the same problem.

    C. EVALUATION OF EVIDENCE

    1. Having collected the above information, create family group sheets and pedigree charts for all Hogben and Castle families found.

    2. Evaluate each hypothesis to determine if there is any evidence that supports the hypothesis as stated. Consider whether the information is primary or secondary, the source original or derivative, the evidence direct or indirect.

    3. Hopefully, the following records will be found: a marriage record for William Hogben and Eliza ????; baptism records for the children of William and Eliza Hogben; perhaps a baptism record for Jane Castle or Jane Hogben; perhaps a marriage record of a Jane Hogben to a Mr. Castle; perhaps a burial record for a Mr. Castle; the possibilities are endless, but these would be required to really prove one of the hypotheses.

    4. If there is sufficient primary information in original sources that conclusively proves a hypothesis with no other negative evidence, and no other hypothesis is proven in this way, then the proven hypothesis is correct.

    5. If more than one hypothesis is shown by the evidence to be possible, then no conclusions can be drawn.

    6. There is a high probability that the parish records in some of these places are incomplete or illegible, based on my experience in Wiltshire and Somerset. If so, then no proof of any of the hypotheses may be possible.

    ———————

    Good exercise! — Randy

  2. Ken,

    I was a bit cavalier with my first hypothesis – I should have said that Jane Castle may have been a foundling who was given the name Castle – and perhaps the Hogben’s adopted her. My first hypothesis was unrealistic…

    I also forgot to mention that the towns of Prick-on-Thames, Little Pigden and Upper Lowe should have special attention because they are market towns, where they hired workers on Lady Day in late March (or was it April?).

    Cheers — Randy (blogging occasionally at http://randysmusings.blogspot.com), the blogflogger.

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