Book, Book, & Book – Plus a Wee Glimpse of a Tale of Using Indirect Evidence

Thanks so much to Amberly, The Genealogy Girl, for her generous words about my book Pacific Street at the end of this lovely post about books. If you aren’t following Amberly’s blog, check it out. It’s wonderful.

the genealogy girl


I have loved books for as long as I can remember.  I probably even loved them before that.  When I was a teenager there was a certain book I checked out from the library several times.  I loved it so much that I asked my mom if I could say that I “lost it” and pay the lost book fee so I could keep it.  I was only joking.  Mostly.  You see, it was out of print and I really wanted my own copy.

That is definitely not the only time I have longed for an out of print book.

A few years ago I solved a long-standing brick wall using indirect evidence.  It was a lot of work.  I was nervous to call my conclusion solid.  The whole concept of indirect evidence was new to me.  I didn’t even know that phrase until well after I had drawn my conclusions.

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19 thoughts on “Book, Book, & Book – Plus a Wee Glimpse of a Tale of Using Indirect Evidence

    • I am not sure exactly what Amberly meant, so you should probably ask her. Her blog is wonderful, if you aren’t already reading it. But to me as a lawyer, indirect evidence is like circumstantial evidence. Not an eye witness or a signed document, but other evidence that supports the inference that a fact is true. For example, a family story or a photograph or even a newspaper article is indirect evidence proving that an event happened.

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    • I think in the context of my book, it refers to the fact that many of the stories in the book are not backed up by actual evidence but more by indirect evidence—social history, family stories, etc.

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      • I think this is so very true for many of us. My Mom shared a family story with me that I might have had a niece or nephew and for many years I looked in vain. Before my Mom passed she told me the rest of the sad story. Many of the events she elaborated on point to the truth but we do not have documentation and also did not go further since the mother of the child was already hurt enough. So that would fit in with the definition.

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      • Also, it’s a case of taking what you have and being satisfied with it. It might be incomplete but the present is not always the best time to go digging deeper. At least there will be clues for the next family member who inherits the title of family historian to take it further.

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      • I always find it a tough line to draw between accurate reporting and sensitivity. I have a set of rules I try to use to ensure I am not hurting anyone still living.

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      • Yes, that is the best way. It is also important to have permissions from the relatives involved. I find it they have a hand in the crafting of their contributions to the narrative it goes well. If permission is not granted or disclosing is not advisable (as in the case of estranged relatives) it’s best to let it go. I find people respond much better to stories that emphasize the positive so it’s best to stay focused on that. I think you do that well, Amy. You always work for a balance.

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      • I do try—if someone’s grandchildren are still alive, I try to get permission IF I think they already know. And it depends on the issue. If someone’s great-great-grandfather was a murderer, I don’t worry about it too much. It’s public record. If someone’s parent or grandparent had an illegitimate child, that would be different (though I’ve never discovered that in my tree yet). Issues like suicide I find more difficult. There should be no stigma, but some people might feel it’s a private matter (and it might only be known through a death certificate that most people wouldn’t have seen). Those are the ones I’ve found the toughest, and I either get permission if it’s recent or I draw the line if it’s more rent than 75 years ago.

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      • You are so right about the public records. In the end one has to consider all sides, as well as the way in which the descendants interact with you. I have had nothing but good results and if a branch family requests a way to handle the situation I respect their wishes.

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