Linking Genealogical Evidence: A Method

Having the ability to precisely and reliably hyperlink proof from totally different sources to the identical particular person is a key ability which all household historians must study and grasp. However there may be little or no writing on the market to assist individuals discover ways to do that – and the huge variety of poorly reasoned linkages in member bushes at Ancestry and elsewhere is testomony to the necessity for broader dialogue on this subject.

Linking proof from two totally different sources to the identical particular person is a kind of duties in family tree that’s elementary, it underpins the gathering and collation of all proof and is important for turning a physique of proof right into a genealogical proof. It’s so elementary that we regularly do it with out devoting an excessive amount of thought to how we do it. When is it okay to simply accept that two data relate to the identical particular person and when is it not?

Components Underpinning Proof Linkage

Within the early years of my household historical past analysis I had developed a form of unconscious framework when deciding whether or not two items of proof had been referencing the identical particular person. A lot of my analysis was centred on small, rural communities within the north of England, so it was not tough to determine that Daniel Usherwood, a husbandman, who married in 1750 was the identical Daniel Usherwood, a yeoman, who married a second time in an adjoining parish 4 years later, his first spouse having succumbed to the perils of 18th century childbirth. Nevertheless, it was way more tough to tease out the data relating to a different relative, James Inexperienced, who was baptised, married and buried a little bit later that century within the close by market city of Warrington, Lancashire. There gave the impression to be a number of males by the identify of James Inexperienced, all of whom had been labourers. It was tough, verging on the unattainable, to tell apart between them, so doubly tough to hyperlink proof collectively right into a significant story for my analysis goal.

So why was one case a lot simpler than the opposite?

I feel there are 5 principal components that outline the benefit or problem of linking two items of proof collectively:

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

Let me clarify in a little bit extra element:

1. Uniqueness

Everyone knows that it’s simpler to analysis an unusual identify than a standard one. That’s as a result of the extra unusual the identify the higher its uniqueness. In my instance above, within the mid-18th century Daniel Usherwood was an unusual identify, however James Inexperienced was not.

Uniqueness is outlined by extra than simply an unusual identify although. When evaluating two data we should always extract all of the widespread info that seems in each data:

Marriage 1:

Title Daniel Usherwood
Date 28 June 1750
Location St Lawrence, Frodsham, Cheshire
Occupation Husbandman
Abode Parish of Frodsham
Age 21 years and upwards
Literate Sure (signed bond and marriage register)

Marriage 2:

Title Daniel Usherwood
Date 19 July 1754
Location All Saints, Runcorn, Cheshire
Occupation Yeoman
Abode Parish of Frodsham
Age 21 years and upwards
Literate Sure (signed bond and marriage register)
Marital Standing Widower

The widespread parts are: Title, Abode, Approx. Age, Occupation (husbandman and yeoman are each small-scale farmers), Literacy.

The mixture of identify, abode, age, occupation and literacy symbolize a powerful, distinctive “signature” for this particular person. On a score scale of Low, Medium and Excessive uniqueness, we must fee this as Excessive.

2. Neighborhood Measurement

As all household historians know, it’s simpler to hint the lifetime of an individual who lived in a small neighborhood, like a rural parish, than somebody who lived in a big neighborhood, like a metropolis. The probabilities to confuse two totally different individuals multiply quickly in bigger communities. With bigger numbers of individuals there are a lot higher possibilities of two individuals sharing comparable names, born at comparable occasions, who held comparable occupations.

Within the case of Daniel Usherwood, resident of the parish of Frodsham, Cheshire, the neighborhood measurement is Low.

Different relations of mine residing within the close by market city of Warrington, Lancashire, had been in a Medium sized neighborhood. But others, within the close by, booming metropolis of Liverpool, had been in a Excessive sized neighborhood.

3. Distance

The geographic distance between the 2 data you are attempting to hyperlink can also be an element. Our confidence to narrate two data in the identical rural parish, or maybe an adjoining parish, will naturally be greater than when the recorded occasions had been separated by tens or a whole lot of miles.

Within the case of Daniel Usherwood, who married first in Frodsham, then within the adjoining parish of Runcorn, the space between the occasions is Low.

In my case research The Girl Who Fell From The Skies (see https://familyhistory.car.blog/2019/09/15/the-woman-who-fell-from-the-skies/), I traced the motion of Mary Jane Hyland who married and lived her grownup life in Warrington, Lancashire, however had been born 20 miles away in Liverpool. That distance would depend as Medium. Her dad and mom, William and Margaret Hyland, had migrated from Eire to Liverpool, so the space between data for them can be Excessive.

4. Time Distinction

The time distinction between two data we are attempting to hyperlink is one other key issue. We are going to naturally discover it simpler to hyperlink collectively two data that happen a small variety of years aside than data which might be, say, 30, 50 or 70 years aside.

Within the case of Daniel Usherwood, who married first in 1750 and secondly in 1754, the time distinction is Low.

5. Contradictory Proof

Regardless of the distinctiveness of the info, the neighborhood measurement, the geographic distance or the time distinction, if the info between the data is sufficiently contradictory then we’re prone to conclude that they don’t relate to the identical particular person.

In Daniel Usherwood’s case, his occupation in 1750 is given as a Husbandman, whereas in 1754 he glories within the (barely) grander title of Yeoman. They’re distinct however associated phrases for small-scale farmers – a yeoman is mostly thought-about greater standing than a husbandman as he owns his personal land. These aren’t incompatible phrases for Daniel, he might have acquired land since his first marriage in 1750 (maybe in his marriage settlement) or might merely have given himself a grander title out of self-importance. For Daniel the contradictory proof of subtly totally different occupation titles throughout the 2 marriages would fee as Low.

If one report mentioned he was a blacksmith and the opposite report that he was a carpenter, then the contradictory proof would have been Excessive – these will not be interchangeable phrases and are each trades that required coaching by way of an apprenticeship.

Nevertheless, I’ve a priority about two marriages in swift succession. On their very own, these two data present solely slim proof of Daniel’s first spouse having died in such a short while window, between June 1750 and July 1754. The second report says that Daniel is a widower, which is probably oblique proof for the primary spouse’s dying, however I really feel the necessity for one thing extra concrete. As such, I’ll fee contradictory proof as Medium.

Write Down Your Assessments of the 5 Components

After assessing the 2 items of proof in accordance with the 5 components above, listing your leads to a small desk:

Linkage evaluation desk

Subsequent Time: We’ll have a look at easy methods to assess linkage energy and topic it to rigorous exams.