Using Negative Evidence: The Power of Silence in the Records

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL
Sep 22, 2023
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1m 37s
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11m 08s
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Contextually Suggestive Silence
4m 26s
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CSS and the Census
13m 57s
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CSS and Military Service
4m 06s
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6m 02s
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CSS and Negating Possibilities
3m 36s
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Negative into a Positive
11m 37s
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4m 15s
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Announcements / prizes
3m 00s
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Questions / answers
10m 46s

About this webinar

Can genealogists take a negative (the absence of something) and develop it into a positive (proof of something)? Yes! If we understand what we’re working with and how to develop it. Negative evidence is a tool used by many investigative fields; but its definition varies between disciplines. This session defines the concept used by genealogists and historians: contextually suggestive silence. In layman’s language, Mills clearly separates negative evidence from concepts that are often confused with it: negative searches, negative findings, negative arguments, and negative conclusions. Case studies using autosomal and Y-DNA, censuses, church records, death certificates, land deeds and grants, topo maps, and other source types to demonstrate how to recognize contextually suggestive silence and develop it into solutions for situations in which no document explicitly answers our research question.

About the speaker

About the speaker

Across a long career, Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FUGA, FNGS, has been an innovator of research methods and strategies. Published widely by academic and popular presses, she edited a national-level scholarly journal for 16 years, taught
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  1. MF
    Marsha Foreman
    9 months ago

    Excellent webinar! I have struggled with this subject in my writing! I appreciate ESM so much!

  2. RH
    Rosa Hick
    10 months ago

    Truly amazing lecture, Thank you Elizabeth.

  3. JT
    Janet Thomson
    10 months ago

    I am amazed, and going back to my book by Henige…thank you, Elizabeth!

  4. CL
    Clara Lawver
    10 months ago

    Never disappointed listening to ESM. I need to look at many sources – again!

  5. KI
    Karen Innes
    10 months ago

    Elizabeth Shown Mills is amazing, as usual. I truly enjoy just hearing her speak and the way she thinks her way around a problem!

  6. CM
    Carla Moore
    10 months ago

    She was very knowledgeable and very clear in her strategy. I had not done this kind of research but I will now.

  7. RB
    10 months ago

    I will have to listen to her discussion more than once to derive all of the information and research techniques that she discussed so that I can begin to apply her techniques.

  8. JP
    Jean Pang
    10 months ago

    Excellent, thank you!!


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