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Facts vs. Speculation vs. Interpretation

26 December 2014
Jack Webb, the famed Dragnet detective, consistently called for “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” That stance, a wise one for detectives, has its counterpart among historical researchers who recognize the difference between documented “facts,” speculation, and interpretation.

Proving a Tradition

As we gather around our tables and hearths this Christmas season, we'll hear family tales of all sorts. ... How do we prove what the documentable facts might be, what is demonstrably wrong, and what is realistically possible?

Identifying People in the Past

20 December 2014
Nominal record linkage—"the process by which items of information about a named individual may be associated with each other in a coherent whole"— is an issue historians and IT specialists have wrestled with for nearly a half-century. ...

Two Rules of Three

17 December 2014
When transcribing, abstracting, or making notes from any source, it’s wise to follow one of those classic Rules of Three that have governed research and writing for longer than most of us have been alive ...

"For the Use and Benefit of ..."

14 December 2014
You have just found a 19th-century court minute. Being a "minute," the record tells you very little: the case label and the fact that the case was dismissed. The label is this: "John Jones, for the use and benefit of Sam Smith vs. Billy Brown." What do you think that case was all about? ...

"Printed Primary Sources" & Naive Trust

11 December 2014
As researchers, we often are too trusting—especially when transcriptions are “officially” prepared ...

Citing Legal Registrations

8 December 2014
Across centuries of recorded history, many classes of people have had to legally register themselves—voters, military-aged men, free people of color in slave regimes, aliens during a time of war, and "just plain folk" on the occasions of their births, marriages, and deaths.

Building a Case

5 December 2014
As historical researchers, our role has much in common with prosecutors in a court case. When we search historical records, we search for information we can use as evidence. ...

Best Practices for Reliable Research

2 December 2014
In every piece of dependable research, we see eight qualities ...

Incomplete Research

29 November 2014
Your front door is solid wood. In the middle, there's a peep hole. Your doorbell rings. You look through the peephole and see a pretty face. Smiling. She looks friendly. You open the door and ...

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