Casefile Clues

04 February 2013

Sourcing My Conclusions

Am I a source for an early 19th century birth? I might be. 

Or I might not be.

I definitely believe in tracking my sources and my analysis as a part of "good" research methods--however, I was not around in the 1820s so how can I be a "source" for a birth in that era? Well, technically I'm not, but I think that there are times when my analysis and my conclusions are my source.

It is the ideal when we have a precise date of an event and a record of perceived accuracy providing evidence as to that date. However, I have many situations (particularly dates of birth), where my conclusion about when an event took place is not a specific one and cannot be tied to a specific document. My conclusion is often that the event took place within a range of years, based upon evidence I have found in several records that are perceived to be reliable. Of course, conclusions are always open to re-interpretation if new information is located. Who is the "source" for that date range when one document does not provide that evidence independently?

Peter Bieger is a simple example. I may never find a record of his birth in Germany. I keep hoping, but it may never happen. For a variety of reasons, I need to have at least an estimate of when he was born, if for no other reason than to help me differentiate him from other German natives with similar names. There are at least three records that provide evidence as to Peter's date of birth. Using those three records together, I have concluded (assuming that all the records are correct), that he was born between approximately 1825 and 1828.

The chart below summarizes the information I have, where the information was obtained, and my conclusion.

There is not one document that points to Peter's year of birth. Taken together, the evidence suggests he was born between 1825-1828. The source is summarized in non-citation form in this chart.

If I really want to have a "published" source for Peter's date of birth, I could cite this blog post as others have suggested.

I think it's easier to include the analysis in my notes.

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