Break Down Brick Walls With Circumstantial Evidence

I had the awesome pleasure of listening to an incredible free webinar offered by Legacy Family Tree.  The webinar, called “Building a Family from Circumstantial Evidence” and was presented by Judy G. Russell, CG. Judy “is a lecturer, educator and writer who enjoys helping others understand a wide variety of genealogical issues, including the interplay between genealogy and the law.”

From Legacy Family Tree – Building a Family from Circumstantial Evidence. Most genealogists learn very quickly that it’s a rare family where direct evidence supplies all the proof needed to connect one generation to another and tie brothers and sisters to each other. In most cases, it’s necessary to build the case for family relationships from bits and pieces and hints and clues gathered from a wide variety of sources. Find out more about how to build a family from circumstantial evidence.

Betty Bormer, ex-slave, Ft. Worth. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
Betty Bormer, ex-slave, Ft. Worth. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

What made this webinar so incredible was the fact that Judy’s case study was not one that was easily wrapped in a nice bow tied around an amazing box. No, that was not the case at all!  Russell provided a thorough presentation on how to exhaust every single option and successfully apply the Genealogical Proof Standard.  This presentation is applicable to all types of genealogy research, not just those that are ethnically specific.

The Genealogical Proof Standard(1) has five key elements:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

A researcher who is familiar with African ancestored genealogy research understands how difficult it is to complete a reasonably exhaustive search when researching people who were born before the brick wall of 1870.  The number of documents can be scant, but that doesn’t mean that there is nothing available.  It’s then that a researcher has to become creative in where they seek out documents and that’s when the fun begins!  Russell provided a very good glimpse into the number of options that any researcher has available to them.

The recording of the webinar is available for free until September 10, 2012.  To view it, please click this link.

A CD recording of the webinar is also available on the Legacy website.  To order it, please click this link.

(1) “Board for Certification of Genealogists – The Genealogical Proof Standard.” Board for Certification of Genealogists. Board for Certification of Genealogists, n.d. Web. 29 Aug. 2012. <>.

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