Unsupported conclusions for B/M/D?


I've been using the Barbour Collection to find B/M/D records from Connecticut.

I've just come to the realization that I've been drawing conclusions from it that it doesn't actually support.

For example, Dan Hill is listed in the Wallingford records as being born 14 January 1734 but is also listed in the Goshen records.

From other records I can show that it's probable that the Wallingford records are the original birth record, so I concluded that Wallingford was the birth location.  I now think that conclusion was wrong.

The Barbour records show the date of an event, names associated with the event (parents/child, husband/wife, clergyman) and where that event was recorded.  I don't think they really show the actual location of an event (from the Goshen duplication, if nothing else).

Would it be appropriate to conclude that Dan Hill was born 14 January 1734, probably in or near Wallingford, or should I find other information before making any conclusions (even probable) about the location.

I guess I'm now wondering how one draws conclusions from old records that may not have supporting information.



Submitted byEEon Wed, 04/11/2018 - 10:18

Brian, you ask a very important question. Given that it deals with evidence analysis rather than citation, I've moved it here from the Citation Issues Forum so that others in the future, who are specifically interested in evidence analysis, won't miss it.

The short answer to your question is this: It is folly for historical researchers to "draw conclusions" from any one record. We may form an hypothesis from one record, but then we test that hypothesis through reasonably exhaustive research before we reach a conclusion.

Definitely, absolutely, you need to "find other information before making any conclusions ... about the location." Have you thoroughly researched all surviving records for both Wallingford and Goshen—not for this child but for every record his parents created? Doing so is likely to present you with other interesting surprises that you'd never get from b-m-d records.


Submitted byEEon Thu, 04/12/2018 - 11:10

Brian, in retrospect I realize that I did not answer your final question: how does one draw conclusions from old records that do not have supporting information?

In one sense, I did answer it by pointing out that conclusions can't be drawn from a single record. Hypotheses, yes. Conclusions, no. Beyond that, I would say that "supporting information" can be found if we expand our view of what constitutes evidence. So often, when looking for evidence (i.e., supporting information), researchers look only for direct evidence—explicit statements of fact. That misleads us because, even if we find direct evidence, it can be wrong, as you are beginning to suspect with your Wallingford record. Most evidence is indirect, which means we need to sharpen our skill at recognizing this type of evidence and using it to correct erroneous direct evidence or build a case when reliable direct evidence does not exist.

If you have not had time to study our QuickLesson 8 (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-8-what-constitutes-proof), it may help you. Also you might type "indirect evidence" into the search box at the top of each EE page for many more QuickLessons (which often include a sample case), QuickTips (our blog postings) and forum queries that address this subject.