Linking Genealogical Evidence: A Method – Part 2

Having the ability to precisely and reliably hyperlink proof from completely different sources to the identical particular person is a key talent which all household historians must be taught and grasp.

Partly 1 we appeared the 5 elements which underpin proof linkage:

  1. Uniqueness
  2. Neighborhood Measurement
  3. Distance
  4. Time Distinction
  5. Contradictory Proof

On this concluding half we take a look at find out how to assess linkage energy and topic it to rigorous assessments.

Assessing Linkage Power

After you have assigned Excessive/Medium/Low assessments to the 5 elements, it’s time to have a look at all of the scores and make an general judgement in regards to the chance that these information relate to the identical individual. I like to recommend a four-point scale:

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4-point Linkage Confidence scale

Within the case of Daniel Usherwood, my desk of linkage evaluation scores appears like this:

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Preliminary linkage evaluation desk for the 2 weddings of Daniel Usherwood

Based mostly on the favourably excessive uniqueness of the info, the low group dimension, the low geographic distance and the small time distinction, this appears extremely possible. Nevertheless, the dearth of direct proof for the dying of the spouse from the 1750 marriage is troubling, so I downgraded this to Possible.

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Accomplished linkage evaluation desk for the 2 weddings of Daniel Usherwood

Testing a Linkage

Within the software program business, the place I’ve spent most of my profession, we use the adage “Nothing works till it’s examined”. What we imply is that even if you happen to assume one thing is working as meant, once you topic it to testing you’ll at all times discover faults; solely after fixing the faults will it work as meant. The identical is true of any evaluation or assertion we make in family tree.

My assertion “It’s possible that the 2 marriage information in 1750 and 1754 relate to the identical man known as Daniel Usherwood”, relies on a considerate evaluation of the 5 elements governing linkage confidence. The following step is to topic it to rigorous assessments. They could discover faults, which can or will not be resolvable. The absence of faults, or the discovering of minor faults which can be resolvable, will go away us with larger confidence that the 2 information relate to the identical individual.

There are 4 sorts of assessments that we will apply:

Optimistic Assessments

Optimistic assessments are these which seek for extra proof which could help the assertion. If new proof is discovered does it help the assertion or introduce worrying extra elements?

Instance: Within the case of Daniel Usherwood my largest concern was the dearth of direct proof for the dying of Mary, the bride from the primary marriage. I looked for burials of Mary Usherwood and located one in January 1754 at St Lawrence, Frodsham, which helpfully acknowledged “Mary, spouse of Daniel Usherwood”. This supported Daniel’s, admittedly swift, remarriage six months later. With the extra proof I used to be capable of downgrade the contradictory proof to Low and improve my linkage confidence to Extremely Possible:

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Revised linkage evaluation desk for the 2 marriages of Daniel Usherwood

Detrimental Assessments

Detrimental assessments are these which seek for proof which could contradict the assertion. If we discover contradictory proof, does it fatally undermine the assertion or is it resolvable? If we’re unable to search out contradictory proof, regardless of attempting arduous to take action, it enhances our confidence that the assertion is right.

Instance: For Daniel Usherwood, I selected to do the next extra searches across the similar time interval:

  • burials of Daniel Usherwood
  • different marriages for Daniel Usherwood

I discovered no related burials however, surprisingly, discovered two extra marriages:

  1. September 1756: Marriage bond and licence, however no precise wedding ceremony, between Daniel Usherwood of Preston-on-the-Hill in Runcorn parish, yeoman and widower, and Mary Oaks of Budworth parish.
  2. April 1757: Marriage bond, licence and ceremony between Daniel Usherwood of Preston-on-the-Hill in Runcorn parish, yeoman and widower, and Ann Wild of Antrobus.

Might it actually be the case that the identical man married (or practically did so) FOUR instances in seven years?

As soon as once more, the individuality of the info was Excessive, the group sizes Low, the distances had been Low, and time variations had been additionally Low. Contradictory knowledge was once more Medium, due to an absence of direct proof for the swift demise of his second spouse, Jane.

So, I looked for a burial of the second spouse between July 1754 and September 1756. In June 1756 I discovered a burial at Daresbury, Cheshire for “Jane, spouse of Daniel Usherwood of Preston”. So he actually had been unfortunate sufficient to lose a second spouse so shortly after the primary.

However what in regards to the third “near-marriage” to Mary Oaks? Had this occurred or not? I looked for burials for each Mary Oaks and Mary Usherwood however discovered none. I searched baptisms of youngsters to Daniel & Mary Usherwood however discovered none. I looked for alternate marriages for Mary Oaks, once more discovering none. In the end, I concluded that, for causes now misplaced to historical past, they merely broke off the engagement earlier than marrying.

All different components of information lined up properly, so I used to be as soon as once more capable of cut back the contradictory knowledge to Low and set the linkage confidence to Extremely Possible. Moreover, my chain of proof had now expanded from two marriage information to 3 marriages, two burials and an aborted engagement.

State of affairs Assessments

Generally the potential methods during which proof will be interpreted go away the researcher with a number of prospects. In situation testing we establish the completely different choices and search for proof in help of every of them. If we discover proof for less than one of many eventualities and an absence of proof for the options, then we will say with confidence which of the eventualities is right.

Instance: For Daniel Usherwood I thought-about that there have been just a few prospects:

  1. There have been two or extra males known as Daniel Usherwood of marriageable age within the 1750s.
  2. There was only one man known as Daniel Usherwood who was very unfortunate with the survival of his younger wives.
  3. I had discovered a serial killer within the household! (Okay, this one is a joke.)

To determine if situation 1 may very well be true, I looked for baptisms of anybody known as Daniel Usherwood (and appropriate identify variants) within the years earlier than 1750, discovering simply:

  • Daniel Usherwood, baptised March 1699 at St Lawrence, Frodsham
  • Daniel Usherwood, baptised November 1730 at St Lawrence, Frodsham

I investigated the 1699 baptism in additional element. This turned out to be a primary cousin as soon as eliminated who, based on a burial in 1700, didn’t survive childhood. The 1730 baptism was for our Daniel, including one other hyperlink to our chain of proof. I concluded that the proof solely supported situation 2.

The White Queen Check

Steered by American genealogist Robert Charles Anderson, this take a look at is called after the White Queen from Alice By means of the Wanting Glass who would consider six inconceivable issues earlier than breakfast. (I like to recommend Mr Anderson’s wonderful guide Components of Genealogical Evaluation, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014.) The White Queen take a look at actually turns your assertion the other way up, asking you to think about what you would need to consider for the assertion to be unfaithful. The extra ridiculous and unlikely the situation required to consider it’s unfaithful, the extra doubtless the unique assertion is right.

Instance: For my Daniel Usherwood assertion to be unfaithful I must consider that there have been two (or extra!) males of the identical unusual identify, residing in the identical geographic space, on the similar time, with the identical occupation, however that baptism and burial information had survived for less than certainly one of them regardless of the wonderful survival and on-line illustration of different close by Cheshire parishes.

Which is extra doubtless: the White Queen situation or that one man misplaced two wives to childbirth or sickness and married 3 times in seven years?

Given what I do know of the 18th century drugs and mortality charges, and from my data of the survival of parish information in north Cheshire throughout the mid-18th century, I’m glad that the one cheap situation is that every one the marriages relate to only one man, my 6x great-grandfather Daniel Usherwood, who misplaced his first two wives after tragically quick marriages.


Linkage of two items of proof to a single, distinctive particular person is a elementary talent for all household historians. You must at all times assess uniqueness, group dimension, geographic distance, time distinction and contradictory data when deciding the arrogance stage to use to a linkage. All linkages must be subjected to rigorous testing to make certain that you’ve thought-about all of the choices and eradicated the wrong ones – use constructive, damaging, situation and White Queen assessments for this. Bear in mind, a linkage is just protected if it has been examined!

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What number of of your conclusions rely upon linkages between two of extra items of proof? What number of of them have been rigorously evaluated and completely examined?