GenTraveling to 221b Baker Street


Hello GenTravelers!

This post will be a bit different because I feel a slight rant coming on!  OK, I’ll just get this off my chest:

What genealogical expert deemed “Negative Evidence” to be the two words “educated” family historians should use to refer to evidence that isn’t found in a particular record set when one would expect it to be there???

Why do I care?  I guess because I’m a simple gal who likes to keep things simple.  There is just too great of a chance of “Negative Evidence” being confused with “Negative Searches” (aka NIL searches) which are two very different things!

A few years ago, I watched a webinar by Judy Russell called “No, no, Nanette! What negative evidence is…and isn’t”  The webinar was excellent, as ALL of Judy Russell’s presentations are!  At the end of the webinar, Judy was taking questions from participants and even she got confused! Now, if you don’t know Judy Russell, she is highly respected in the genealogy industry – for good reason! She’s brilliant!  The day after the webinar, I got an email from the webinar organizers explaining that Judy realized that she mis-referenced something as “Negative Evidence” when it was actually just a “Negative Search” (or visa versa, I can’t remember)…but she wanted to corrected herself.  I say, if such terminology sometimes confuses the tippy-tippy-top experts in the field, we should come up with new terminology!

Alright, another rant: It’s my pet-peeve when people go on rants, and just do it to complain.  Usually they don’t offer any solution to the problem! Therefore, in order to not be a hypocrite, I offer this new terminology:


Yeah, yeah, it has more syllables, but tell me, would that new terminology get confused with “Negative Search”?  Not nearly as often (if at all, I would think, but that’s just me). So, how to get an entire industry to change its ways????  Who are the genealogical powers-that-be that could wave a magic wand and make everyone suddenly change their terminology? Sadly, I just don’t know.  If YOU do, (and if you agree with this rant), you know what to do, right?

But whew! I feel much better – thanks for letting me get that off my chest! :o)

So, by now you’re probably asking why we were originally going to go GenTraveling to 221b Baker Street!  Well, because one of the very good examples in Judy Russell’s webinar about Negative Evidence, I mean counter-expectational evidence was a story from Sherlock Holmes himself:

The Dog That Didn’t Bark:

“[T]he Inspector’s … attention had been
keenly aroused. … “Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes. [A. Conan Doyle,
“The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” The Strand Magazine (July-December 1892) IV: 645,

Judy went on to explain that counter-expectational evidence is “the absence of what should happen under a given set of circumstances” (You can read her free webinar notes HERE) – it was great!

If you ever get to travel to 221b Baker Street, you’ll find a great museum with lots of history and if you have the Doyle surname in your pedigree, maybe you’re somehow related!  (Then you’ll know where you got your keen genealogical puzzle-solving skills from!)

Alrighty! Good luck with all of your research – all that finding of direct evidence, indirect evidence and even counter-expectational evidence and then start planning your GenTraveling trip to where your ancestors actually lived! (And of course, pop in and tell me all about it in the comments below, or at least with a link to your site!)

Have a great day!



8 thoughts on “GenTraveling to 221b Baker Street

  1. This reminded me of the legal term “negative pregnant” where there is an implication of admission when someone only denies part of an allegation. For example, if someone is accused of stealing five pairs of shoes from a store and responds by saying, “I did not steal the red shoes,” the implication is that they stole the other four pairs.

    I’d never heard “negative evidence” before, so I am happy to adopt your much clearer term!

    Liked by 1 person

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