* Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

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dmcmillan5
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Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by dmcmillan5 » 02 Dec 2020 20:28

Hi, I am just starting out on my use of Family Historian. I was wondering if there is anywhere I can go to see the user perspective on the data structure in a diagram, with supporting text. This would help me determine how I can use the structures to minimise the amount of duplication of data input, and where I have to make pragmatic calls including storing certain information outside of FH, or having more than one type of data in an entity. It will also help me determine what data and metadata I will be able to easily query.

In particular, I am interested in the structures, relationships and other business rules that allow me to have a number of citations relating to an assertion (?a fact in FH terms), where a citation would refer to a specific entry on a digital image/recording which is in a stored location e.g. a location on one of my hard drives. The digital image/recording would be related to a particular collection of images/recordings taken by an organisation/individual, and this collection of images/recordings would be part of a larger grouping, which may be part of even larger groupings etc.

The particular digital image/recording has been uploaded on a particular day from a particular url as a result of a query, where the query is a part of a set of queries intended to help answer a part of a research question; where there is a result of each query undertaken through a particular site on a particular day.

The digital image/recording would also relate to the original document/artefact/conversation, possibly via an intermediate document/artefact/conversation or a chain of intermediate documents/artefacts/conversations. The original document/artefact/conversation might be part of a collection of such things e.g. in a register, a cemetery, a set of conversations, which may also be part of a larger grouping etc. The document/artefact/conversation/collection(s) would be stored in a location. The document/artefact/conversation/collection(s) may be part of a repository which is managed by an organisation/individual/ involved party.

My intention is to understand enough about the user perspective of FH's data structures and business structures to be able to understand how best to use the tool in this area of relating evidence to assertions, and referencing evidence as I see this as fundamental to myself and others understanding the quality of an assertion/?fact.

The statement above of the types of things and relationships I am looking for in the user perspective data model is an incomplete rough overview but hopefully provides enough to give a flavour of what I am trying to understand in relation to Family Historian in order to make some decisions.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by tatewise » 02 Dec 2020 20:56

Welcome to the FHUG.

Can you confirm that you are planning to use Family Historian (FH) to record genealogical family history research or is it for some other purpose? I ask because your questions are not phrased in the usual genealogical terms.
Have you any standard 'evidence' methods in mind?
e.g.
Evidence: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian, by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
Strathclyde University guide for students of Postgraduate Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies.
Referencing for Genealogists by Ian McDonald is based on work at Strathclyde University and the Harvard Style.

There are a number of topics in the Knowledge Base that may help to answer your questions.

See the Knowledge Base > Formal Database Structure.
Examine the diagram closely because the arrow-heads on the links are rather small and easily overlooked.
FH is 100% compatible with the GEDCOM data model if that means anything to you.

See the Knowledge Base > Source Records overview that explains the relationship from Facts/Assertions through Citations to Sources, Media and Repositories.
Any Fact/Assertion can have an unlimited number of Citations.
Each Source record can be associated with an unlimited number of Citations.
Each Source record can be linked to any number of Media files.
The Media files can be located anywhere on the PC and can be of any data type.
However, there are benefits in storing Media files in the Project folders and image files (JPG, PNG, TIF, GIF) are preferred.

The Family Historian Sample Project has simple examples of Source Citation structures that you can experiment with.
Mike Tate ~ researching the Tate and Scott family history ~ tatewise ancestry

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dmcmillan5
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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by dmcmillan5 » 05 Dec 2020 03:40

Many thanks for your reply. Yes I am intending to use Family Historian to record genealogical family history research.
My background, is in a number of other areas including statistics , data management and enterprise architecture, and have only recently decided to get more into using off-the-shelf family history after previously using just Access, Excel, Powerpoint, and Word, and hard copy notebooks, printouts, folders etc with family trees at sites such as Ancestry, genesreunited, MyHeritage, Familytreedna etc.
Many thanks for the pointers to a number of references and topics in the Knowledgebase- they will be of great use.
I have had a brief look at GEDCOM and will look at it in more detail. My understanding is that it tends to be focussed on the individual and information relating to the individual rather than being evidence focussed, including negative evidence e.g. I ran a number of queries or manual investigations that returned no contradictory information about a possible assertion, or returned no likely information of relevance to an assertion, at that point of time on those potential sources.
My main interest in is the user perspective data model and diagram as different vendors extend and constrain users in the user interface from the common import/export data format and related model . Eventually, I would be interested in using a more quantitative probabilistic approach to family history. Best WIshes

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by gwilym'smum » 05 Dec 2020 09:10

Hello,
I must admit that I am not the best person to answer your query as for most of your post I did not follow what you were asking and in no way do I use all the technical tools within FH but from trying to understand it I have a couple of comments (Mike will put me right if I am in error)
Everyone undertakes family history for different reasons, and all are equally valid.
From your post you appear to be most interested in the sources and the validity of their information. (If you use Ancestry I would be very vary of the information contained in 90% of the trees!).
Perhaps from this you are more into the analytical aspect of the historical circumstances of the family rather than the actual stories of individuals.
If this is the case I would strongly suggest that you research the background to the documents you are using as your evidence. You will find that there are many flaws, in most sources, in both the recording and also the survival of particular documents. Parish Registers for example in many cases are not complete because of poor storage which means that certain parts of a family cannot be found from that source and would have to be looked for in other records such as wills, which also may contain flaws perhaps because of family feuds for instance.
Therefore it is up to your area of expertise and interest to ascertain how accurate the information in the actual source is. A program such as Family Historian cannot fulfill that criteria it can only record, not comment. It can indicate a conflict of data, such as a woman being too old to have a child, which can lead to you rechecking your research for incorrect information in the record or you may infer that the people just lied!
I apologize if I had the wrong end of the stick.
Regards and stay safe
Ann
Researching Mayer, Parr/Parr, Simcock, Beech and all related families

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by ColeValleyGirl » 05 Dec 2020 09:45

You can cite any number of sources for a single Fact (assertion) by creating Citations that each link a Fact to a Source. Of course, any Fact can be linked to multiple Sources, and any Source can be linked to multiple Facts . Each citation can include an assessment on the Information/Evidence within the Source. However, recording negative evidence in FH isn't simple. I tend to cite the source where the information wasn't found, and add a note to the Citation explaining why I'm citing that source. In complex cases, I will create a document explaining why I've reached one or more conclusions using a number of Sources and attach that the the relevant Fact.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by AdrianBruce » 05 Dec 2020 20:17

Warning: Anyone likely to be baffled by data modelling concepts should ignore this post. ;)

It may or may not be of interest that at the beginning of the century, a group in the USA produced the GENTECH Genealogical
Data Model - A Comprehensive Data Model for Genealogical Research and Analysis
. I'm not wholly certain who or what GENTECH is / was, but at one time documentation for the Model was hosted on the American NGS site. My original link doesn't work anymore but if you Google "5.0 gentech genealogical data model - National Genealogical", the first entry (when I did it) starts "The GENTECH Data Modeling Project is an extension of the work done by GENTECH members on the Lexicon Project, an attempt to define genealogical data" - and it links to a MS Word version of the model.

To say that it is different is an understatement. To say that it is difficult, ditto. I'm not even sure that it was ever intended as anything other than a research project. (This implies it's Too Long to read to work that out!)

But my reason for highlighting it is that
The heart of the Data Model is the ASSERTION. ... The ASSERTION records the act of analyzing evidence and coming to a conclusion about that evidence. While ASSERTIONs initially address evidence, they can also address prior ASSERTIONs.
Except that isn't even a quote from the model, it's a quote from https://archive.fhiso.org/BetterGEDCOM/ ... Data+Model, itself quoting ... See More on Assertions in that link, where I said:
My problem with the official GENTECH Data Model is that I can't understand "assertions" from it. This may be because I can't find the full explanation, or any one of a number of explanations. However, at some point I managed to find and save this article, which makes a better job of explaining the concept. The article is pasted in as found, so the tenses, etc, are way out of date. I also have no idea whether this article was superseded by any of the formal data model.
For the full detail see that FHISO link.
Adrian

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by ColeValleyGirl » 06 Dec 2020 07:41

I view an Assertion as something that I record, believing it to be true (or probable) based on evidence from sources and other Assertions I've already recorded. Might not be the academic definition but it works for me. The vehicle for recording it in FH is usually a Fact, even though it might not be a Fact at all, because later evidence could cause me to change my mind.

Put otherwise, a Fact is something that actually happened; an Assertion is my best assessment of what that Fact might have been.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by AdrianBruce » 06 Dec 2020 16:44

Helen - I don't think I'd quibble with your definition of Assertion. I think that my attitude several years ago was one of annoyance that a seriously rigorous data model either hadn't bothered to define a fundamental concept in an equally rigorous manner, or had successfully managed to hide its definition in the middle of a lot of TL;DR verbiage.

I happen to believe that failure to be rigorous all the way down, lays one open to being bit on the posterior eventually, perhaps when someone who has taken a diametrically opposed view of the (not) obvious fundamentals starts disputing the rest of the model. (E.g. periodic disputes on the difference between "Information" and "Evidence").
Adrian

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by dmcmillan5 » 06 Dec 2020 22:48

Hi, many thanks for all your contributions to my questions.
There are 2 main aspects that I am grappling with as a newcomer to FH:

- how much the user facilities and user data structures available to me as a user allow me to store information without resorting to an unstructured field such as 'comments' or adding more than one type of information to a structured field e.g. differentiating the different images and transcriptions between different vendors based upon the same original source document, or showing the trail of relationships between say a line on a census, to a household, to a page etc, or a friend or other relationship to an individual or other grouping of individuals The intention is to minimise the number of places data needs to be changed if a basic piece of information changes. The extent to which there is an ability to flexibly query and update the content of fields including 'Çomment' fields is also useful to know.
** this aspect helps me determine how best to use FH including whether I need to change the format and/or structure of any of my existing data **

- how much the user facilities and user data structures allow me to keep my family history research information within the tool i.e I am trying to replace physical paper notebooks and separate computer files etc (except backup) . For example. I am looking at how I might be able to record the results of searches (successful or otherwise) whether electronic or physical at a location, and the justification for stating an 'FH fact', including an assessment of likelihood of being correct in relation to that individual based on the evidence.

I was thinking that considering the FH user perspective of the data model (including data relationship diagram, definitions of relationships, fields and other rules) or FH user perspective class model would be a useful way to understand this and could also be useful in comparisons.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by dmcmillan5 » 06 Dec 2020 22:59

I fully agree that people are involved in family history and use Family Historian for a multitude of reasons, and different people have different perspectives on the level, amount and accuracy of evidence appropriate for different parts of their family history.
I am trying to make things more organised, and easier for others to determine for themselves whether or not I have come to reasonable conclusions within my family history.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by tatewise » 07 Dec 2020 11:12

In general, your objectives are consistent with those of many genealogists who rigorously record the facts/assertions, citations, sources, media & repositories that are the results of their research. You are not the first to require that.
No software product is likely to be perfect, but FH is one of the best and satisfies the needs of such genealogists.

May I suggest that you spend a little time exploring the features of FH to assess its capabilities?
Over and above its Help pages there is a wealth of advice in the Knowledge Base here.

There are restrictions governed by the GEDCOM specification on how much the data structures can be customised.
The objective is to allow GEDCOM compatible data to migrate easily between products.
If it were highly customised within one product then that would become increasingly difficult.
However, there are techniques for adding 'structured' data to unstructured Note fields.

The Family Historian Sample Project illustrates many but not all of the features of FH.
Set yourself the challenge of capturing some Census relationships as you describe, and other data relationships.
Then enter that data into FH to see if it satisfies your criteria.
If not, then try another product, as most have free trial versions, and see how they compare.
Mike Tate ~ researching the Tate and Scott family history ~ tatewise ancestry

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by wianb » 07 Dec 2020 11:16

Maybe this is worth a look? 'Centurial True evidence-based software'

https://www.centurial.net/en/download
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Mothers family - Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by SimPar » 07 Dec 2020 12:32

Or even Evidentia which is cheaper and has youtube tutorials. https://evidentiasoftware.com/

Evidentia is probably best used for difficult cases. It can seem like overkill for simple easily proved genealogy links. It does however tie in to Gedcom and also uses Elizabeth Shown Mills citations. If you haven't already done so, you might want to check out the Evidence Explained website. www.evidenceexplained.com.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by AdrianBruce » 07 Dec 2020 22:34

dmcmillan5 wrote:
06 Dec 2020 22:59
... I am trying to make things more organised, and easier for others to determine for themselves whether or not I have come to reasonable conclusions within my family history.
While that's a laudable objective, I think you may need to ponder the ability of your target audience to follow detailed logic flows. Once upon a time, I thought that it must surely be possible to easily daisy chain logic steps to demonstrate my argument. Heck, a visual map, surely? Then I started thinking about the bits that I was going to need in every argument. For instance, identification of someone's birth certificate needs logic baked into every such example of when birth registration started; what percentage of successful registrations can be reasonably expected; what the error rate of indexing is, etc, etc. Things balloon rapidly if you want to do a full, formal, pedantic, argument. And wood for trees applies...

In the end, I settled for using the free format comments in the Source-Record, plus occasional free-standing Notes Records, plus occasional fact-level notes in the yellow pane "citation" data. Yeah, free format notes all the way.

Lots of people talk about proof statements, but they tend to talk about how to combine birth details from census, certificate and baptism (say). In most cases those are pretty obvious. But I find it far more important to spend time on the proof statement that says how I know that the Fred Bloggs in this birth certificate is my Fred Bloggs. That goes into the free format comments in the Source-Record. The occasional free-standing Notes Records are the proof statements about how I know that Peter Lassen in California is Per Lassen in Denmark, say - the sort that uses multiple source-records.

I have yet to come up with a convincing data analysis about how to decide what to put where. Which is why I use free-format notes - my argument today might look different from my argument on a similar topic a year ago but that's life.

Please understand I am not dissing your apparent ambitions. I'd love to be able to work out what to precisely record where and when. I just feel that it's a never ending task that, in the end, gets between me and family history.
Adrian

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by dmcmillan5 » 09 Dec 2020 11:24

Many thanks for the replies and discussion.
I will spend some time looking through the models suggested, see how my needs map to them, and then work through FH from a user perspective, mapping to the models.
It will be particularly interesting to see how the extensions can help enrich the data structure and the functionality in support of the family history process, and related user stories.

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Re: Family Historian user perspective of the data structure - evidence and assertions

Post by dmcmillan5 » 09 Dec 2020 11:48

One of the things I have learnt from the lean and agile approaches is the importance of trying things out, making small changes, obtaining feedback, and being able to change quickly.
Regarding leaving sufficient evidence , my approach is to leave enough evidence so that others can use their own approaches to see if my assertions/facts are reasonable/are still reasonable.
Althgouh I am likely to leave myself statements as to why I deem a particular fact/assertion as reasonable to an appropriate level, these are more to remind me than anything else of my thinking, at the time.

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