Using Memory Keeper for your genealogy research

Research involves the collection of evidence from sources in order to write assertions.

Evidence is an observation that something exists, something occurred, or is true. Evidence can be a single piece of information or a collection of information observed in source documents.

Sources come in various forms. The accuracy of a source is based on numerous factors. However, when numerous sources provide the exact same evidence there is greater confidence in the assertions.

An assertion is a strong declaration, a confident and positive statement, based on evidence from a collection of sources. A Memory Keeper (MK) assertion is a specific type of MK tiddler—tagged as an assertion.

A well-researched conclusion is an entry that is based on one or more assertions.  Examples of MK conclusions are person, place, and event entries.

MK enables the researcher to capture various types of sources. When a source has been added the state field of the source will be set to “new”. Leave it in that state until you find yourself fully engaged in capturing all the evidence from this source. At that point change to state field to “under review”. There are sidebar menu items you can use to list all sources by state. This will help you stay focused on given sources and research.

The more evidence you capture from a given source the more you will appreciate the significance of a source. Capture ”all” evidence, regardless of the importance or relevance. It will prevent you from missing information from the source.

Researchers have well-defined goals. Therefore, when a source is found, one has a tendency to draw immediate conclusions with the information found in the source. We all do it. We find a marriage date and marriage place in a source and immediately generate the event, associate the event with the various individuals and the place the event occurred and link it all to the source. Done. But, are you? Not really. You have not told the reader what evidence from the source(s) you used to draw your conclusions. In this example, it will likely be obvious, but still, you have not told the reader how you concluded what you did.

I have seen conclusions with full dates and sources that only provided part of the date–such as just a year. The researcher provided no other sources and told me nothing about how they concluded the full date.

Using this simple example, create an evidence record: “1897-09-08 – Evidence – Marriage certificate date and place – John Smith – Sally Good” and associate it with the source. In the body of the evidence record, provide whatever verbose details you would like. It is recommended that you do not mention any conclusions about the evidence. You can mention how readable the evidence is, but I would not mention anything about how it may or may not conflict with other evidence. Write that bit in your assertion.

Perhaps you have more sources, like a newspaper article.  Add that source.  And added a separate evidence record for it, like: “1897-09-08 – Evidence – Newspaper article – John Smith – Sally Good”.

If you have more sources associated with this event add them too.

When you are ready, i.e. you have all the evidence you need to draw a conclusion, create an assertion record: “Assertion – Marriage date and place – John Smith – Sally Good”. This is where you write about your conclusions. Associate this with all the evidence that cross-references all your sources needed for this assertion.  Now when the reader is reviewing the marriage event, the reader can review your assertions. In addition, the reader can also see a complete list of sources that were used in that one conclusion.

In the future when you go back to look at this marriage event conclusion you will immediately know what sources were used to draw that conclusion. When you find more sources and evidence, simply add them and if necessary update your assertion.

This is time-consuming. However, so is re-researching because there are no written assertions.

Let’s look at a real example using Memory Keeper.

The link above is to the source entry in Memory Keeper of Winston Churchill’s baptism record. On this source click on the “Research” tab and then the subtab “Evidence” to review the evidence collected from this source. Each evidence entry will have at least one assertion. From here you can click on either to view those entries.

These assertions are linked to Winston Churchill and some are either linked to his birth or his baptism event. If you navigate to either of these events you will find on the “Research” tab assertions and sources that are associated with that event.

Try Memory Keeper. The download is free and free to use. There is no software to install.