So, with out further ado, let me introduce you to: Evidentia
Evidentia is an easy to use, inexpensive ($19.95 as of this post) way to capture EVERY piece of evidence something holds. My research is no longer about my genealogy database, my digital files, my physical files, my photos and ephemera. It's all about the evidence they hold. That is NOT to say that I'm not seeking the story of my ancestor's lives: quite the contrary. I genuinely want to ensure that the ancestor's I'm writing about are MY ancestors, and not someone else that I made fit based on my own incomplete research or faulty analysis of the research I have.
Here's how it works: each item that you have that holds evidence about your ancestor (remember, I made an argument that a Brazilian coin helped solidify my argument that an ancestor of mine had been to Brazil in the mid-1800s) can be entered into the database as a Source. There are a large number of templates that you can use, so you don't have to know how to do this exactly in order to get it right. Once the Source itself is entered - for this example, let's say it's a page in a book (each individual page can be entered to narrow down each piece of evidence; not as time consuming as it might seem!) - the database automatically creates the Source Citation for you. *Cheering* But, the best parts are to come.
Welcome to the world of "Catalog Claims". That's right: Claims. Because, as we all know, the 'information' that we find may or may not be accurate. Death records and documents always pop into my mind regarding this because far, far too often what's on them is only partially accurate. So, while the document is helpful, it can cause hours of going down the wrong trail. And don't get me started about oral history. I loved my Grandmother, but she was a prevaricator barre none. However, in Evidentia, you can enter 'oral history' as a Source!! ANYTHING can be a Source. Love that flexibility. And did I mention the database creates the Citation for you?
Going back to our page in the book: let's say it's a family history book with a small genealogy of your family. Every single item in that genealogy - names, dates, relationships, places, events - are Claims. And every single one is entered into the database. Yes, THIS is time consuming, I will admit. But it's not just 'Laura L. Greene was born 03 Feb 1837' that you enter. Each Claim has a Subject attached to it! In this case, Laura Louisa Greene is my Subject. Oh, but wait! I also have 'Date of Birth' as a Subject. And, this is where it gets SO good: each Claim with Subject gets 'Info Quality' as well. This is the place where you attach to the Claim within the Source whether the evidence is Primary, Secondary or Unknown. That's right. The database will hold this information for later, and trust me, the icing on the cake is coming.
So, your Source is entered and you've entered lots of Claims. You've attached Subjects to the Claims and provided Info Quality to each individual Claim. Now comes the fun part:
This simple little Screen has two pull-down fields at the top:
Subject and Claim. In this case, I chose the Subject 'Laura Louisa Greene' and 'Date of Birth'. The screen then populates an 'Assertions' column with all the evidence that's been entered associated with these two Subjects. No rifling through paper to recheck dates, no going back and forth between your database and research notes; every single claim that is associated with 'Laura Louisa Greene' and 'Date of Birth' is listed. What's more, here's the icing part: for each and every Claim, you MUST select 'Evidence Quality'. This is the place where you decide whether the evidence is qualified as Direct, Indirect or Negative. There's also a box to enter your own analysis of each item individually. What's incredibly cool about this step is that you genuinely get to think critically about the evidence you've entered, about the quality of the Source, the Claim and the Evidence as a whole.
An additional and very important aspect of the 'Analyze Evidence' screen is that there is a tiny little icon you can click that opens up a Research Notes log, allowing you to enter notes, tasks, etc. as you're doing your analysis. So, if you realize that you've forgotten to get that birth record from the Index you found while you were online last week, you can add that Note in your analysis.
In the end, there is a 'Summary Conclusion'. After looking at all the evidence together, analyzing the quality of that evidence, comparing and contrasting contradictory evidence, evaluating negative evidence, when all that is done - or at any point you wish in between - you get to write a summary conclusion about your Assertion. And, you've just gone step by step through the Genealogical Proof Standard!
Does this sound intriguing to you? In the few days that I had a chance to kick the tires on this software, I realized just how much information I have around that I have NOT used as evidence, that I have more evidence that I need on some people and almost none on others. I re-evaluated the quality of my own analysis and found that though on some claims I have strong evidence, there are others where the evidence is so very, very weak and in one case I have NO evidence at all! That's not a bad thing: this software helped me to refocus on the aspects of my research that need my attention first.
There are numerous reports that can be run: too many to discuss in this post.
So, what do you think? A lot of work? Perhaps. But, as a budding Professional Genealogist and an avid researcher of just about everything, this is a tool I can see myself using to ramp up the quality of my work exponentially. The ways in which I can use this software in other ways is very wide.
As I mentioned several times, I'm just kicking the tires on this, but was so excited by it I wanted to share it. Check out the website, or the videos on YouTube that show the software in action. I know this won't be right for everyone, but I'm guessing a lot of you may find it very helpful. If you do, please pass it on to those you think might be able to use it also. And for the current cost, what do you have to lose?