I just learned of the program Evidentia, which is designed to guide you through the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) process. I just downloaded a copy to review, and though I’d give my thoughts on what such a program should do before I look at it and review it. I’m not going to hold Evidentia to this standard, but if they surprise me with features that will be extra credit.
My main concern for this kind of program is that the GPS does not involve easily quantified criteria. As a review, here are the five requirements for the GPS, copied from the Board for Certification of Genealogists page:
- a reasonably exhaustive search;
- complete and accurate source citations;
- analysis and correlation of the collected information;
- resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
- a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
So how might software help with the five steps?
A reasonably exhaustive search
I can’t think of a way to measure a reasonably exhaustive search, as the search space will vary for different problems. The search is either reasonably exhaustive or it isn’t. What I’d imagine would be a research log to keep track of your search. A checklist that you could create for what you need to do to achieve an exhaustive search would be handy. Finally, a structured way to enter your findings would also be helpful.
Complete and accurate source citations
Hopefully the search section gives you the opportunity to enter your source citations and highlights facts where citations are lacking. Help on creating the citations would be a nice touch.
Analysis and correlation of the collected information
I’m not sure how a program would help here unless it uses some sort of logical graphing to organize the analysis.
Resolution of any conflicting evidence
I’m at even more of a loss on this one, as I can’t think of what a program would do besides letting you list conflicts and type your resolution.
A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
I can’t imagine anything beyond attaching a Word document with your analysis. Here’s a crazy idea, though. If it is possible to represent your argument in step 3 in a purely logical fashion, it would be interesting if the program could then generate the proof argument in logical terms. I think this is pushing the bounds of software, though, and wouldn’t expect to get something real readable.
So it looks like the opportunities to help the GPS process occur early in the process when you are doing regular investigation. As it gets deeper into analysis and writing I can’t see where a special-purpose program would help. Now to see if I’m wrong, and I hope I am.