Person, Fact, Clue, Source
A few months back, I wrote a long, rambling post in an attempt to come to grips with how we were going to implements some things in Origins – namely those things typically called Facts (as well as sources, master sources, citations, etc) ( see here: Thinking about Sources & Citations…). We got some great feedback on that post, and I’ve been letting everything rattle around in my head since then. Now I’m ready to introduce it into Origins. This post will give you insight on how all of your feedback has helped. And it has. A LOT.
This post outlines what we’re building into Origins, so we’d love to hear any thoughts you have to share. It’s not too late to tweak things.
Four Main Constructs
Origins will be built around four primary things and a whole host of supporting things. I’m going to focus on the four biggies here, the smaller ones just augment and support these four:
That’s it. Everything else is a supporting detail. Information on each of these is below.
Pretty obviously, this is the most important thing we work with in genealogy – the people in our tree. For lack of a better analogy, think of each person in your tree as a bulletin board. By itself, a Person is just that – a blank slate. The whole of that person’s existence (at least as much as we’ve researched and uncovered) is the sum of the things we attached to that Person.
If a Person is a bulletin board, facts are the things we hang on there to flesh that Person out. Facts are the details of a person’s life.
An important detail about facts is that a handful of facts are singular. For example, a person can only be born once, can only die once, can only be cremated once. All other facts can be plural, but each instance is a separate entity. For example, a person who was married twice will have two separate Marriage facts. Each individual Incarceration fact is a distinct stint in prison, and so on. You record all information about each instance of a fact on that fact.
But what if you have multiple pieces of information about an individual fact (ex: a newspaper article stating a person was born in the summer of 1870 in Philadelphia, PA, and a birth record saying they were born July 25, 1870)? That’s where Clues come in…
A Clue is the information you get from historical documents or family stories that you can then apply to an ancestor’s life story. They lead you to a conclusion, which is the value of a fact. They are not, by themselves, a fact; they support a fact.
Using the example above:
- The newspaper article stating a person was born in the summer of 1870 in Philadelphia is a clue recorded on their Birth fact.
- The birth record identifying their birth date as July 25, 1870 is a second clue on their Birth fact.
From those two clues, you can choose how you want to display the value for the Birth fact, for example:
- July 25, 1870, Philadelphia, PA
- 25, July 1870 – Philadelphia, Philadelphia (County), Pennsylvania, United States
- 1870/7/25, Philly.
OK, probably not the last one, but it gets the point across that you decide what gets shown as the display value for a fact. Origins will make a suggestion for the display value of a fact based on the clues you’ve provided and you could just accept that or change it. It’s up to you.
Facts can have any number of clues. Clues can conflict. Each clue can have its own source.
A Source is pretty typical – a document, website, database, newsclipping, whatever. It’s the original item that gave you the information on your ancestor. Each clue is linked to a source by a Citation. Our bulletin board analogy breaks down a little here, but that’s OK. Just imagine that each clue has a footnote that tells you where it came from, and that’s it’s source. They’re not actually implemented as footnotes, but that’s the idea of a Citation.
This Sounds Like a LOT of Work!
Well, it could be, but you choose how hard you want to work. Origins is just a tool to aid your research, and will gladly do the “heavy lifting” for you if you want it to.
We’re working very hard to make Origins powerful but flexible; to make it support “best practices” but not force them on you. It’s our job to make this all as easy as possible for you, and we’ve got some good work done in this area already, with more to come.
The goal is to have something conceptually like this:
and NOT this:
Before wrapping up, just a few additional points to help you understand some details:
- Sharing: Origins supports sharing just about everything – sources, citations, facts, locations, etc.
- Participatory facts vs. Primary facts: We really need a better term than “participatory”, but the idea here is that we draw a distinction between a fact that is about a person (their name, their birth, their death, etc) and a fact in which they were merely a participant (witness to a will, attendee at a wedding, etc). Both are a part of a person’s story, and we automatically track them both, but they are different. So we treat them that way.
So what do you think? Let us know in the comments!
Dave & Lil