02 April 2015

Assuming Negative Lessons from a Photograph

1930-1931 Basco, Illinois High School Basketball Team,
Scan made 2000 from photo in possession of
Michael John Neill taken from collection of
John H. and Dorothy A. Ufkes
I wrote briefly about this photo in 2010 ("Basco Basketball Team 1930-1931").

Five years later, a correspondent located someone who was able to identify the individuals in the photograph.

That's lesson 1: answers take time.

The picture was in the personal effects of my grandfather, John H. Ufkes (1917-2003) and I assumed he was in the picture. He wasn't.

That's lesson 2: assumptions are not always right and people can have pictures in which they are not shown.

My grandfather may still have been on the 1930-1931 Basco High School basketball team. His absence from the picture does not mean he was not on the team. His absence from the picture means he was not in the picture. He could simply have been absent the day the picture was taken.

That's lesson 3: think about what sources say and what they do not say.

Genealogists sometimes use the phrase "negative evidence." This picture does not present any negative evidence in the sense in which that phrase is typically used in the genealogical literature.

We'll save a discussion of negative evidence for a future post.


For those with an interest in this picture: I do have a higher quality scan of it with the identified names (and the identifier) listed. Email me at mjnrootdig@gmail.com if you have an interest in the picture.