Negative Evidence or Negative Findings

Lesson Learned: There is a difference.

I have been struggling with my search results for this Mastering Genealogical Proof study. My genealogical question is, Did James A Wake serve in the Civil War?

How can you prove that he did not serve, when you can’t find a positive piece of information that states that.

During the peer review of the Source Analysis I had done, I said that my search on was Negative, as I didn’t find anything. The review by the Evidence Explained team challenged me on this. In fact, the recommendation was that it is INDIRECT evidence. Looking at what that meant, was simply “keep looking”. That indirect term is a warning that you haven’t answered the question yet. All that to say that what I really had was “Negative FINDINGS“.


I have adjusted my search results for to Indirect. Haven’t found the answer.

From the information collected so far, I will only be able to infer that he did not serve and will not be able to prove it. The inference will come from the understanding of the Classification in the Congressional Registration and not being able to find any reference to his serving in any other source that is available.

5 Responses to Negative Evidence or Negative Findings

  1. Jade says:

    Two things to consider when consulting such sites as and is coverage (what databases are available) and extent/accuracy of indexing. At they actually have deleted parts of some databases (such as from Civil War Pension file index, NARA T289). At, coverage of New York City is pretty sparse for Civil War: one of my fave databases is the _Town Clerks’ Registers of Men Who Served in the Civil War, ca 1865–1867_ — which in Ancestry’s version does not include Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan. Alas. Where other sites have indexed the same databases it can be useful to check them (such as for T289). Key words: Question Authority!

    Also were you aware that most of the US Census items sent to Washington, DC (and subsequently microfilmed) are copies?

    I have very much appreciated your blog posts reporting honest wrestling with elements of _Mastering Genealogical Proof_ and the GPS.

    • Russ Worthington says:


      Thank you for your comments.

      I guess I hadn’t recognized that Fold3 had deleted any collections or record sets. I use that website frequently AND I bounce my findings on Ancestry and have seen pretty consistent results. That is why i both Searched AND Browsed both. I am continuing my search. If I don’t, they I will not be able to answer my research question.

      Thanks again,


  2. Please Check Out this Evidence Explained! website:

    Wish I had read that earlier or understood what it said.


  3. GRANT DAVIS says:

    Happy Blogiversary!!

    Regards, Grant

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