Negative Findings / Negative Evidence

My Genealogy Question Is:

Did James A Wake serve in the Civil War?

Here is a link to an Image of an 1863 Congressonal Registration Record:

According to

Source Citation: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General's Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); ARC Identifier: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 3 of 6.

Source Information: U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data:

Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registrations, 1863-1865. NM-65, entry 172, 620 volumes. ARC ID: 4213514. Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War), Record Group 110. National Archives, Washington D.C.

This is a collection of Civil War Registrations from 1863-1865. There were four drafts that included 776,000 individuals in that time

In Evaluating this Source, I entered my information into Evidentia, where I generated a Source Analysis Report. You can find a link to it here:

I have developed the family of James A Wake, starting with the 1850 US Census and have identified him through to his death. I have found no Civil War records for this gentlemen on,, nor and not mention of any civil war activity.

The only CLUE that I have is the Classification of him, in this Registration (Class II), in that he was 36 years of age as of 1 July 1863 and that he had 2 young children as of the registration. That has been continued to be true information. I can only GUESS that he did not serve. That does not mean that I have completed my research.

I am posting the question here for your guidenance. Also, I posted on my Blog, the request for peer review, as I have not done anything like this, especially not being able to answer my genealogical question.

Thank you,



Submitted byEEon Fri, 08/09/2013 - 21:17

Russ, it's a good thing you didn't ask EE to comment upon Ancestry's totally unfathomable bifurcation of its source data between "Source Citation" and "Source Information." :)

Beyond that, and just for clarification, EE does not comment on the workings of specific software programs. The focus of this forum is the principles of evidence analysis. Having made this caveat, EE will offer that "peer review" of the evidentiary conclusions you've made in your blog posting.

You link to a Civil War draft registration book which offers the following for your person of interest:

  • Residence: Christopher Street
  • Name: Wake, James A.
  • Age: 36
  • Race: White
  • Occupation: Foreman
  • Place of Birth: New York

You then set out to evaluate each piece of data according to the Evidence Analysis Process Map.  EE agrees with you that the informant is unidentifiable. We might presume it to be James A. Wake, but that presumption could be wrong. EE would, therefore, consider the quality of the information to be indeterminable. Past this point, EE sees two problems:

  1. For each information statement, you conclude that it offers only indirect evidence. Why? In each case, the register entry makes an explicit statement about the "fact" or "claim" that you question. That explicit, direct statement would be direct evidence about the fact. That does not mean the claim is correct, of course. But it is direct evidence.
  2. For some evaluations of your information, you say "It is indeterminable whether the information being considered is Primary, and must be treated as Secondary." EE would argue that if we cannot determine the identity of the informant for this information, then the information's quality cannot be deemed either primary or secondary. Rather, it is undetermined. The issue is in limbo.

As for your major question (Did James A. Wake serve in the war?), the information in this record is indirect evidence for that question. It does not provide an explicit answer. It provides information that is relevant to your question, but that information was created prior to any potential service. It could not possibly predict or attest what has not yet happened. It makes no assertion at all as to whether he served.

To quote EE's QuickLesson 17: "Indirect Evidence: information that does not directly address our question, although our experience suggests a way to use the information to discover direct evidence or to help build a case."  This is what you have: information that doesn't answer your question but does suggest to you ways you can use it to discover direct evidence. 

You also report negative results from those further searches—which, of course, constitutes negative findings, but not negative evidence. On the other hand, as you say, you have not completed your research. With negative findings, there is always the possibility that further research will yield further evidence.