Moving along at a snapping pace, we and Dear Myrtle's MPG Study Group have now reached Chapter Six of Dr. Thomas Jones's "Mastering Genealogical Proof". This chapter's lesson is a piece of cake to understand although the practice may not always to be so easy to follow well.
Entitled "Resolving Conflicts and Assembling Evidence", it is neatly straightforward in explaining how to work through the results of one's research with a clear head and to sort out contradictions with intellectual integrity. It is not that far removed from the "Reasoning" section of our children's Quickstudy pamphlet on Essays and Term Papers. (To be honest, an awful lot of Dr. Jones's book seems to be more about how to write a good term paper than about genealogical proof, which -- considering some of the "genealogies" we have seen over the years -- may not be a bad thing at all.)
As with the first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard -- thorough research -- this, the fourth component -- "resolution of any conflicts between evidence and the proposed answer to a research question" is a skill of intellectual rigour that does not vary, whether it be applied to evidence found in American, French or any other nationality of record. We cannot think of any situation in which one would use different conflict resolution standards because of a different language or nationality of documentation.
So, we think it might be more useful to tell of some of the types of conflicts we have encountered in working with French records, which are not many. The majority of conflicts we have found are between the French information about a person and the information found in the documents on that person in another country. In fact, these conflicts are so many and so creatively made that they do, at times, seem to have been intentional. In short, we are not the only one to have changed our name. We have come across:
- A man who got on a ship in Le Havre in 1836 under one name and got off that ship in New Orleans under a new name. (Some years later, he had changed his race as well.) This would seem to fall into the category of one item of direct-evidence conflicting with another item of direct-evidence (using the terms on page 74) if (and this cannot be certain) it were the passenger who gave his name to the person creating the list at both departure and arrival.
- A man whom the family has always thought was a son of the immigrant couple, who went from Audincourt, France to Connecticut, but who turned out to be their grandson. This was a case of items of indirect-evidence and family stories in conflict with items of direct-evidence.
- A family who claim and have documents that seem to prove that their surname indicates descent from Native Americans but whose ancestors in France used the surname in notarial records a good dozen years before emigration, a case of items of direct-evidence in conflict with items of direct-evidence. (Thanks to Madame M for this example.)
As indicated in the previous post, there exists the possibility in French birth registration for a parent to refuse to be identified; this has brought to our notice an odd conflict:
- A man for whom no documentation or evidence of any kind provides a link to a French aviator, but who has the same surname and -- in photographs -- apparently nearly all of the same genes, a case of items of negative-evidence in conflict with niggling suspicions, leading nowhere but intriguing nevertheless.
A number of foreigners seem to have been aware of this possibility of silence in French birth registration and appear to have come to France specifically to take advantage of it, leading to cases of items of direct-evidence in conflict with negative evidence :
- Quite a few cases of a child and mother turning up in a British census around the time of the child's first birthday. The census gives their nationality as British, and the child's place of birth as France, but no record of birth for a child of that name can be found.
- A couple claiming to have been married in South Carolina were parents of a child born in Marseilles, but no US documentation supporting the marriage can be found. (Thanks to Monsieur C for this example.)
On a final note, though this did not come up in the discussion on Chapter Six, but we like very much Dr. Jones's comment that "Not all conflicting evidence can be resolved." How we wish more people would simply accept this and not try to force documentation to say what it does not!
©2013 Anne Morddel
Post Script: Many thanks to Randy Seaver for his kind praise of parts 4 and 5 of this series.
Another Post Script: Many thanks to those who wrote in concern after reading of the destructive hailstorm in the region of our country home. Unfortunately, our roof looks like the Brenner house at the end of "The Birds".