Gaps in children: negative or indirect evidence of missing children?

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MichaelMcCormick's picture
Gaps in children: negative or indirect evidence of missing children?

Are gaps like 5-7 years in known children negative evidence or indirect evidence that there could be a missing child? Please explain. I think it fits the definition of negative evidence, but an associate of mine suggested it is indirect evidence.

EE's picture

Michael, negative evidence is the absence of what should have occurred given the set of circumstances that exist. ("QuickLesson 13: Classes of Evidence—Direct, Indirect, and Negative")  But, of course, we have to do thorough research to counter all other logical explanations.

In a pre-contraceptive, nursing society, it is a long-established pattern that a wife typically bore children roughly two years apart—with fluctuation in the exact number of months. When we can establish that a couple stayed together across a period of years, with children born before and after a sizable block of years in which no known children were born, we have negative evidence that one or more children were likely born in that time frame.

The Editor

yhoitink's picture

I've also used such a gap as negative evidence that the husband was in jail. This was in a time and place (19th century Netherlands) where births and stillbirths were meticulously recorded. When I noticed a three-year-gap between children for a mother who otherwise gave birth every twelve to fifteen months,I suspected the husband was absent and might have been in jail. I then searched the court records and found a matching conviction and prison sentence.

Yvette Hoitink, CGSM, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services