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Evaluating Facts and Solving Problems

After planning and research is underway, one will quickly gather a large number of facts.  The purpose of facts such as names, dates, places and events is to identify an individual, establish their relationship, and place them in a particular family.  Facts fill gaps in a genealogy, solve problems and point the way to future research.  It is necessary for you to learn to evaluate the facts you discover and decide if they are of use in your research project.  You have to prove all your conclusions by stating facts used to arrive at those conclusions and these facts have to be carefully established.  To be certain of a child-parent relationship more than just a surname and place is required.  The genealogist must establish positive identification! 

Examine each fact in light of record type (primary or secondary), the location of the document the record was in and the date created.  Logic can determine if a fact is accurate, and if it is worth placing in a genealogy.  If a fact supports a conclusion, or establishes a truth, it is useful.  If you make an educated guess based on circumstantial evidence, carefully explain your reasoning processes.  Double-check and footnote facts obtained from primary or secondary sources.

Problems sometimes arise in interpreting data where there are conflicting facts.  Conflicting data must be reconciled.  For example, an obituary notice, a parish record and a tombstone inscription may not agree on the birth or death of a person.  In such cases, you must decide which source is most likely to be accurate.  To resolve conflicts there is an absolute necessity of getting back to the primary sources. 

Make sure ancestors are not marrying too young or bearing children too late in life.  Do not skip or merge a generation. 

Keep in mind that a couple may have adopted the child, an honourable practise among First Nation people, and claimed the child as their own.  There is rarely any adoption documentation in such cases. 

Note that the names given to children in each generation might provide clues to establishing family relationships.  Children may be named after older relatives so repeated names have to be carefully researched.  First Nation children may have been given names that reflected First Nation culture, traditions, lifestyles, current trends, or occupations.

In some First Nation families, there is evidence of a naming pattern:  the first son was named after the father's father; the second son was named after the mother's father; the third son after the father, and the fourth son after the father's eldest brother.  The first daughter may have been named after the mother's mother, the second after the father's mother, the third after the mother and the fourth after the mother's eldest sister.  Although this naming pattern was not a common practice among First Nation people, it is worth investigating.

In some families if a child with a certain name died, the next child of the same sex would be given the same name. 

First Nation lifestyle in the past was nomadic and covered a broad geographical range.  This puts more emphasis on little details from baptism or wedding records (where godparents or witnesses can be found) to research a person's ancestry than on other types of genealogical records.  Actual government censuses themselves may be deficient but are nevertheless most useful in data verification.  Census documents not in the main stream, e.g. parish censuses, are much more useful in establishing any continuity in ancestral lineage.