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 Lineascope.com 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.