Casefile Clues

03 April 2014

Independent Information Items and Unrelated Origins

I'm still reading Genealogy Standards and I'm still occasionally confused. 

Page 69 of the Board for Certification of Genealogists' Genealogy Standards defines "independent information items" as "sources or information items that have unrelated origins, thus reinforcing rather than duplicating each other."

I'll put aside my confusion with "sources or information items" (from my viewpoint, "sources" provide "information" so the use of the word "or" here slightly confuses me) and focus on "independent" as needing to have "unrelated origins."

What does "unrelated origins" actually mean and are any pieces of information really independent and of unrelated origin?

My grandmother, Ida (Trautvetter) Neill, was born in 1910 in Hancock County, Illinois. Her mother was there at the time; the doctor probably was there; and I'm guessing her father (and five older siblings) were in the general area as well. 

I have quite a few sources that include information on Grandma's birth, but if I group them based upon the likely informant, there's really three groups:

  • Grandma's birth certificate--with information provided by the doctor
  • Grandma's baptismal record--she was five year of age when baptized, with information provided by Grandma's parents
  • Grandma's marriage record, death certificate, obituary, and other records created after Grandma's marriage where Grandma is the informant
Information Grandma provided about her birth is secondary information. She knew it because she was told it. So really there's just two groups sources containing information--the birth certificate with information provided by the doctor being one group and the other group being everything else (where either Grandma's parents provided the information or Grandma did--with all that information actually coming from Grandma's parents). 

It is the "independent" and "unrelated origins" that I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around, particularly the "unrelated origins." The doctor and Grandma's mother are independent of each other. Neither one had to tell the other that a baby was born to Ida (Sargent) Trautvetter on 1 September 1910. Ida (the mother) obviously knew it as did the doctor. Their knowledge of the birth is independent of each other. 

But is it of unrelated origin? 

Wouldn't people's recollections of most events have "related origins," since their knowledge of the event stems from their joint participation in the event? Two scientists working on different continents can have no contact with each other and independently discover the same result. Two people who have first hand knowledge of a baby's birth likely were both there at the time.

I completely understand determining (as best as possible) whether or not pieces of information have the same "points of origin." That's what I did with Grandma--there's her birth certificate with information which came from the doctor and what he remembered and then there's Grandma's christening record and information Grandma eventually provided, all of which likely originated with Grandma's parents (since they told her when she was born). 

But the doctor and great-grandma's knowledge of Grandma's birth does have "related origins" (at least to me) as they were at the same event. Their knowledge of her birth is not "unrelated." 

Maybe I'll just stick with "independent information items" and leave it at that.