Evidence analysis items

This book provides a rigorous and systematic approach to getting at the truth.

 Heraldry and Genealogical Society of Canberra 

Help!

How do I separate fact from fiction?

Australian purchases

RRP: $AUD 22.00

Website discount:

$AUD 19.50

International & Kindle purchases

 

We sit at our computer searching for information about our ancestors and … click … we find something new and intriguing. But wait: it contradicts something else we’ve found. Clearly, both pieces of information can’t be true. So which is true and which isn’t? Or are both untrue? HELP!
    Most family historians are more adept at gathering information than determining if it is accurate. An error can prove disastrous, gobbling up our precious time and money as we search in the wrong place – or worse, as we pursue the wrong ancestral line. So how do we ensure that our conclusions are accurate?
   Help! Historical and Genealogical Truth: How do I separate fact from fiction? is a ‘must-read’ for family history detectives wishing to accurately trace their ancestry. Written in Carol Baxter’s easy-to-read style, it explains how to evaluate our ancestral information so as to determine which is reliable and which is like a virus that corrupts our efforts.

   After reading this book, you too will be able to separate fact from fiction, truth from mistruth. Your ancestors will thank you!

Two-item

discount deal

 

Australian purchases

RRP: $AUD 29.50

Website discount:

$AUD 24.00

Help! 

"Cheat sheet"

(analysis charts)

Australian purchases

RRP: $AUD 7.50

Website discount:

$AUD 6.00

International 

purchases  

Book reviews

These reviews have been published in full because they are good reviews of the book (obviously) but also for the following reasons:

  • The top review is a great example of a well-written genealogical book review, for those interested in learning how to write them.
  • The bottom review is a great example of storytelling, a subject that is discussed extensively in these courses. 

  • Carol Baxter has been engaged in family history research and writing since a teenager. She worked extensively in colonial document interpretation, editing and transcription before establishing her own successful business as the 'History Detective'. Her career now is as a professional writer, author of true-crime thrillers and family history how-to books, conducting seminars along with a very useful and informative website.
        The purpose of this book is to assist family historians to develop skills in accurately interpreting the information that they have collected about their ancestors. Many people spend considerable time and money gathering information, so it makes sense you would want to be confident that this information actually relates to the correct (usually your) family and the conclusions that are drawn are accurate and defensible. This book provides a rigorous and systematic approach to getting at the truth.
        As set out in the book, this process of getting at the truth is divided into principles – the foundations of evidence analysis, and practices – typical strategies which may be used to put the principles into practise, aided by the use of conflict resolution skills. These strategies are illustrated through a series of case studies involving family identity, family lore and how misinformation can take on a life of its own. The case studies are drawn from her records and research pertaining to the Nash, Drew and Douglas families, the Bank of Australia robbery, and her extensive work on Fred Ward, later known as the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.
        The book is divided into 27 short chapters, plus a Summary Check List, Endnotes and a Bibliography. The principles' chapters comprise about half of the book, with the practices occupying the other half. The principles’ chapters cover the key concepts: the nature of their systematic application and the reliability of various types of evidence, including family stories. The diagrams illustrate and emphasise the key points of several important concepts, including the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) on page 15 and Evidence Analysis Models (pages 39, 52 and 63).
        The diagrams and the case studies worked well as they helped me to understand the theoretical concepts such as the GPS particularly in the first half of the book. Some of the diagrams would be useful in a larger format. I could see them being used as a handy A4 cheat sheet to remind researchers to apply ongoing checks to the robustness of their genealogical journey and the accompanying paperwork. [NB. Evidence analysis cheat sheet published as requested.]
        In terms of the practices, each chapter illustrates typical complications of evidence and an appropriate practical strategy to deal with it. For example, the author refers to Ockham’s Razor (p.73) in the context of developing theories to explain inconsistencies, glitches and oddities in family history records. Basically, this means among competing theories, first go for simplicity. By way of simple explanations of record oddities, people may make mistakes because they are tired or distracted, or have protected a reputation, or put too much faith in someone else’s recollections.
        Chapter 15 struck me as particularly interesting coverage of people’s unmovable belief in a certain historical result or outcome which is virtually impossible to shift regardless of the weight of evidence to the contrary. This is clearly an important theme for the author. We will inevitably encounter people like this and may need to have our own strategies to deal with it. I have had the experience of a person demanding that my claims to a certain female ancestor (an assisted immigrant) cease as he had claimed her first. My impression was that he had a strong ongoing belief that his ancestor was a free settler. The only alternative ancestor was a convict and that this person had never considered a convict woman as an ancestor and wasn’t planning to start now.
        The two-page Summary Check list at the end of the book is useful for historians at all levels of skill and experience. I found it a useful device to run over a recent article that I thought was just about finished. It really helped the tidy-up pre-publication.
        As a bookshop shelf browser and buyer, the book cover would not immediately attract my attention. However, I expect that a lot of Carol’s books are distributed via other means. Overall, this book is easy to read, with short chapters broken up with diagrams and case studies. The case studies are detailed enough to illustrate the lesson and very interesting in themselves. Further information on the Drew, Douglas and Captain Thunderbolt case studies is available on the author’s website.
        When you first start out with family history, you are pretty keen to accumulate your very own collection of documents, websites, transcripts and sometimes new relatives. It is only when you have a critical mass of stuff are you able to start recognising the gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies. There are plenty of books and websites out there to assist people with the accumulation phase, roadblocks and brick walls. This book fills an important need around the quality control of your information, write-up and conclusions, by providing theoretical principles, practical exercises and lessons in understanding historical context and human motivation.

    Eleanor Vardanega, Journal of the Heraldry and Genealogical Society of Canberra

  • Carol Baxter has been engaged in family history research and writing since a teenager. She worked extensively in colonial document interpretation, editing and transcription before establishing her own successful business as the 'History Detective'. Her career now is as a professional writer, author of true-crime thrillers and family history how-to books, conducting seminars along with a very useful and informative website.
        The purpose of this book is to assist family historians to develop skills in accurately interpreting the information that they have collected about their ancestors. Many people spend considerable time and money gathering information, so it makes sense you would want to be confident that this information actually relates to the correct (usually your) family and the conclusions that are drawn are accurate and defensible. This book provides a rigorous and systematic approach to getting at the truth.
        As set out in the book, this process of getting at the truth is divided into principles – the foundations of evidence analysis, and practices – typical strategies which may be used to put the principles into practise, aided by the use of conflict resolution skills. These strategies are illustrated through a series of case studies involving family identity, family lore and how misinformation can take on a life of its own. The case studies are drawn from her records and research pertaining to the Nash, Drew and Douglas families, the Bank of Australia robbery, and her extensive work on Fred Ward, later known as the bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.
        The book is divided into 27 short chapters, plus a Summary Check List, Endnotes and a Bibliography. The principles' chapters comprise about half of the book, with the practices occupying the other half. The principles’ chapters cover the key concepts: the nature of their systematic application and the reliability of various types of evidence, including family stories. The diagrams illustrate and emphasise the key points of several important concepts, including the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) on page 15 and Evidence Analysis Models (pages 39, 52 and 63).
        The diagrams and the case studies worked well as they helped me to understand the theoretical concepts such as the GPS particularly in the first half of the book. Some of the diagrams would be useful in a larger format. I could see them being used as a handy A4 cheat sheet to remind researchers to apply ongoing checks to the robustness of their genealogical journey and the accompanying paperwork. [NB. Evidence analysis cheat sheet published as requested.]
        In terms of the practices, each chapter illustrates typical complications of evidence and an appropriate practical strategy to deal with it. For example, the author refers to Ockham’s Razor (p.73) in the context of developing theories to explain inconsistencies, glitches and oddities in family history records. Basically, this means among competing theories, first go for simplicity. By way of simple explanations of record oddities, people may make mistakes because they are tired or distracted, or have protected a reputation, or put too much faith in someone else’s recollections.
        Chapter 15 struck me as particularly interesting coverage of people’s unmovable belief in a certain historical result or outcome which is virtually impossible to shift regardless of the weight of evidence to the contrary. This is clearly an important theme for the author. We will inevitably encounter people like this and may need to have our own strategies to deal with it. I have had the experience of a person demanding that my claims to a certain female ancestor (an assisted immigrant) cease as he had claimed her first. My impression was that he had a strong ongoing belief that his ancestor was a free settler. The only alternative ancestor was a convict and that this person had never considered a convict woman as an ancestor and wasn’t planning to start now.
        The two-page Summary Check list at the end of the book is useful for historians at all levels of skill and experience. I found it a useful device to run over a recent article that I thought was just about finished. It really helped the tidy-up pre-publication.
        As a bookshop shelf browser and buyer, the book cover would not immediately attract my attention. However, I expect that a lot of Carol’s books are distributed via other means. Overall, this book is easy to read, with short chapters broken up with diagrams and case studies. The case studies are detailed enough to illustrate the lesson and very interesting in themselves. Further information on the Drew, Douglas and Captain Thunderbolt case studies is available on the author’s website.
        When you first start out with family history, you are pretty keen to accumulate your very own collection of documents, websites, transcripts and sometimes new relatives. It is only when you have a critical mass of stuff are you able to start recognising the gaps, overlaps and inconsistencies. There are plenty of books and websites out there to assist people with the accumulation phase, roadblocks and brick walls. This book fills an important need around the quality control of your information, write-up and conclusions, by providing theoretical principles, practical exercises and lessons in understanding historical context and human motivation.

    Mim Regan, Journal of the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory