You Can Trust a Genealogist Relative, Right?


Short answer – not always.

As I was working on my latest project – inputting all of my sources and claims into Evidentia – I ran across a “transcription” of Louis P. Lanctot’s (my paternal great grandfather) obituary that was done by my great aunt, who was viewed as the family historian until her death in 2009.  Fortunately, I had also obtained a copy of the obituary from the South Dakota State Archives.

As I read through her “transcribed” version of the obituary, I noted a glaring discrepancy.  Here is her version:

Transcribed obit

Here is the original:

Actual obit

Now – I’ve never heard of a brother named William.  He never appears with the family in a census or on any other record that I have found (there was a brother named Leo, but he died about 10 years earlier).  Apparently, my great aunt noticed the same thing because she just decided to leave that part out.

There are two lessons to be learned here:

First, if you can get your hands on the original (or as close to the original as you can get), DO IT!

Second – and most importantly – we cannot change the evidence to fit what we believe – we have to follow the evidence where it leads us, and resolve any conflicts along the way.  Clearly, this is conflicting information and it must be either confirmed or refuted.  Either way, I have to deal with it somehow.  I think “negative evidence” and I are going to become BFFs in the near future.

Do we share any ancestors?
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

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3 thoughts on “You Can Trust a Genealogist Relative, Right?

  1. Jenny,

    How true. NOW we have a tool that really encourages us to revisit our documentation. For me, it goes beyond the “Cite Your Source” that I have heard for years and implemented when I started.

    Evidentia gets us to 1) Evaluate our Sources, and 2) document our conclusions.

    Our genealogy database management programs to get us there. At least mine doesn’t. The ability to look at ALL of the Claims (an Evidentia term) for a Fact or Event, evaluate each one, then draw a conclusion for that fact. Oh, and have a pretty nice way to document our conclusion, based on the evidence to date.

    Then, if that Fact or Event is update from another source, the evaluation and conclusion are done again. Up ’til now, its just been data entry.

    Thank you for your post.


  2. I agree, Russ. For me, the ability to see all the evidence I need to analyze IN CONTEXT in one place – without being distracted by all my other evidence – is crucial.

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