The Dangers of Judging Reliability by Source Presence

Relying on sources as a soundness indicator in genealogy is like trying to understand a court case, but only having the witness list and the verdict. Sure you’ll know the outcome and you’ll know who was called to testify, but you won’t be able to understand why the decision was made. You won’t know what was asked nor what answers were given by whom. You won’t have a sense of the veracity of the testimony. And you won’t be able to get your own sense of whether the right decision was made. It’s the same thing with genealogy.

A list of sources and a conclusion tells you what documents were reviewed and conclusion was drawn. However, you won’t be able to determine whether you agree unless you analyze the same artifacts, determine what evidence is there, how believable it is (its quality), and resolve any conflicts.

Okay it’s better than nothing because at least you can look at the witness list and determine whether the right people were called but still it doesn’t help you understand the reasons for the decision nor decide whether you agree or not. And most importantly it results in rework. Each researcher needs to repeat the same process instead of working on research that’s not yet done.

This opportunity to clean up the polluted genealogy data pool and break through more brick-walls is why I’m such an advocate of capturing and sharing the entire chain of evidence and a proof statement with each conclusion. It’s why I’ve created and why I’m going to create the next version for Mac and PC.

I’ve got some specific ideas for accomplishing these big goals and I’d like to know what you think; two heads are better than one.


  1. says

    From examination, I already know that Lineascope is “the way to go” for all genealogists but this post explains WHY it is so important. Without Lineascope, all a genealogist has are “maybe’s” instead of proof. Versions for MAC and PC will be “must-have’s” for all serious genealogists!

    Thanks for all you are doing and creating to make our genealogy investigations proof positive!

  2. Linda K. McNeil Wilky says

    I agree with Coralie.

    It would also be nice if the Mac and PC versions were synced with the now free online version, so the work could be accessed when I’m away from my computer. Also, I’m a Mac user, but my children are PC users. When I die, I would like them to be able to access the work I’ve done and continue it through the online program – without having to purchase genealogy software. There are free genealogy databases online available for downloading that my children could use to import my Reunion database when I die. But unless they could also access my Lineascope data, they wouldn’t have the proof to back up my statements. They would only be carrying on my work reluctantly as it is. Having to buy software would probably deter them.

    I realize you have to make a living, and I’m asking for the moon and the stars here, but I’m dreaming. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to this project. You make the world a better place for genealogists!

  3. Mycroft says

    Very interesting, and I would absolutely use it in a Mac version. I don’t think I would want to use in an online version, though, at least not at present. But I think it would be great as Mac (preferably for me) or PC version. Also, for Linda’s comment, it would be great if the material could somehow be transferable to the one branch of my family that uses PCs. Maybe the issue of transferring or linking the data to users of different platforms could be done by using the online version as a transfer vehicle? Not a programmer, so I don’t know. Thanks for this work.

  4. says

    What a terrific idea! I have been attempting to establish a more thorough process, and you are thinking it all through for me!! Thanks for the work;I can’t wait to test this lineascope out.

    Also, welcome to the geneabloggers community! I look forward to using this blog to support my research.

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