SpringBoard is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 5 May 2018.

S441, Stefani Evans, CG®, “Mrs. Jane Harvey and Dr. Lippincott: Triangulation and Indirect Evidence Reassemble a Pennsylvania Family”

Reviewed by Jean Andrews, CG®

Difficult problems of identity and kinship start with reasonably exhaustive research – mining all possible records in not only the place of residence but in adjoining townships, counties, and states (for families in border areas) along with the records of extended family and friends.

Stefani Evans

Stefani Evans, CG®

If we are fortunate, those records might allow us to assemble enough indirect evidence to prove an identity or kinship. But not always; for example, the poor and landless, widowed or never married females, and individuals who simply left few records require additional creative strategies.

Triangulation and material culture are two of those creative strategies, and Evans presents their use in solving a difficult problem of unknown kinship in Pennsylvania.

Triangulation is a powerful technique that validates evidence through cross verification in multiple sources or by applying different research techniques to the same data. It is used in a variety of fields including land surveys, psychology, and social sciences. It is not as commonly used in genealogical research, but it should be.

The lecture case study required examination of evidence for three or more individuals concurrently. By comparing census entries across a sixty-year time span with known life events, it was possible to discover linkages between individuals that were not apparent studying each person in isolation. The weight of the combined evidence makes the case in identifying three additional children for an eighteenth century Pennsylvania couple.

Material culture studies the physical objects made by people which have meaning and reference to them. For archaeologists, surviving physical objects are the main source of information about past civilizations. For genealogists, the presence of similar, but distinctly different objects, can speak to a linkage or relationship which never appears in records.

Evans shows us how material culture supports and adds further evidence to the relationship between Sarah Kelly and Margaret (Kelly) McCorkle through their gravestones. The two stones—of identical size—were worded in the same font, and placed only 8 ½ inches apart. They differ from other stones in the graveyard, being set apart in a row which contains thirteen additional family gravestones.

Triangulation and material culture are valuable techniques worthy of study and inclusion in the tool boxes of researchers confronting difficult problems. In addition to a well–written synopsis of the case study presented in the lecture, Evans provides two pages of resources and references for further study in her syllabus.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Playback Now www.playbackngs.com.

The words Certified Genealogist and letters CG are registered certification marks, and the designations CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.