Recently, I’ve been trying out Evidentia, a new-ish program to aid in the analysis and proof of genealogical problems. I’m not going to explain how the program works & it’s terminology. If you haven’t heard about Evidentia yet, you can read about a review here that goes into a bit more of the background.
I am going to share my experience with analyzing one document, including some suggestions that would make the program more user-friendly.
As others have stated, Evidentia really forces you to slow down. A death certificate is usually relatively straightforward, and the one I analyzed is no exception, but it took me several hours over the course of two days to enter and analyze all the information. By the time I finished, I had entered and analyzed 15 “claims” for four “subjects.” Slowing down is a good thing. It’s been said that “we have to slow down to reach our destination.”
Here is a screen shot of some of those claims; they won’t all fit in one view.
And here’s my first suggestion. See the bottom of the screen shot where it says “Save Citation?” I did not realize I had to click that in order to save the claims. I had already clicked it after saving the citation. I lost a number of claims and had to reenter them. Since the name of the screen is “Catalogue Claims,” I think it would be more consistent to have the button say “Save Claims” or maybe just “Save” if its purpose is to save both the citation AND the claims.
After cataloguing all the claims, one moves on to “Analyze Evidence.” Although, really, the analysis process starts on the Catalogue Claims screen when the information is classified as primary, secondary, or indeterminable. (I’m just splitting hairs here – not suggesting a change.)
There were times when I found the analysis process extremely tedious. For the most part, I think it’s a good idea to analyze each item of information. However, some things are just so straightforward that no analysis is required. For example, the residence of the informant. It’s original, primary, and direct and I’ve already input that in the required fields. He would know his own address. I really don’t know what else to say about it. I have no suggestions for change here – maybe I’m just overthinking this. Most of the time, analyzing the claims was fun and interesting; it’s just those really simple facts that bogged me down.
I also found it difficult to stick to analyzing only the document that I was working on. I wanted to incorporate information from other other sources, which I suppose should wait for the proof argument. For example, this document says that the deceased’s mother was born in North Carolina. Since I know that she was not, I wanted to include that in the analysis of that claim. (I’m reading Tom Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof and he says to analyze one source at a time, so I’m trying hard to do so. Evidentia helps.)
My second suggestion is on this screen. See the little check mark next to the analysis text field? You are supposed to click on it after entering the analysis and it changes from gray to green, so you know that you’re finished with that bit of analysis. Maybe it’s my monitor or my eyes, but the difference between the gray and the green is so subtle as to be almost indistinguishable. Maybe red would be a better color than gray? I guess that wouldn’t work for people who are red-green color blind. However, some color combination with more contrast would be an improvement.
Also, clicking on the check mark next to analysis doesn’t actually save the analysis. You still have to click on “Save Proof” at the bottom of the screen, even if you haven’t written a proof summary yet. Yes, I learned this the hard way – by losing the analysis that I had entered and having to do it again.
I haven’t written a proof argument using Evidentia yet, because I haven’t entered claims from enough sources to form a solid conclusion. In the meantime, I would like to be able to prepare a document analysis report. Evidentia has two documents reports available – Claims by Source and Subject by Source — but neither one includes the analysis.
I’m working on a sample of what I think a document analysis report should look like. Check back next week for details.
The bottom line on the program is that I like it and plan to continue using it. I think it will help me be a better genealogist.