The Importance of Context

We can not just take a record at face value. We must always study the context of the information. Never mind this document that seems to say Moses Hornsby married again about 1797. He didn’t. When we put this one-line entry about Moses into the context of all the other entries on this page—their construction and their wording—we’re left with a totally different interpretation of the record.

Do You Know?


There's a rumor circulating that researchers need Evidence Explained because it provides models for citing historical sources. But there's more to EE. Much more. That's why it is named Evidence Explained rather than Cite Your Sources. 

Understanding Courthouse Records: Originals vs. Duplicate Originals

Many of the records maintained in America’s courthouses—records that historians and some other fields generically call “primary” sources—are duplicate originals or record copies rather than true originals. Does it matter? For the next several postings, we’ll consider the processes that created these legal records, the reasons why differences matter, and characteristics by which we can recognize the type of record we are using.

Does This Call for a Source Discussion or a Proof Summary?

Mary is perplexed. As a family researcher, she has found a derivative source (a newspaper account) that mentions an original court record. But diligent efforts to find the original have been fruitless. How does she report this? she asks, in another forum. As usual, she received a variety of opinions. As usual, there were substantial contradictions between them and some confusion over concepts. Let’s try to iron out a few of them.

Quality vs. Quantity

It never fails. When I publish an article or present a case study in an educational forum, curious souls ask the same question—over and again. How long did that research take? The answer often triggers a gasp—or dead silence—followed by ... The answer often triggers a gasp—or dead silence—followed by, “But if I spend that long on each problem, I’ll never get My Project done!” So? What is the goal of historical research? ...