29 September 2015

Uncertainty in Science and Genealogy

Can you handle the truth? Some ugly facts in science and sensibility, an article in Monday's Guardian rehearses the points made by Tracey Brown in a lecture at the British Library.  Tracey is director of Sense About Science, a charity that works to put science and evidence in the hands of the public.

Reality for researchers and genealogists is that our facts are always probabilities. Is the presumed father the biological father? Was there a hidden adoption? It's never “are you sure?” but “do we know enough.”  In genealogy are we certain enough of the identity of an ancestor to move on and research their ancestors sufficiently confident we're not barking up the wrong family tree? Is the patiently researched, or not-so patiently researched, path back to Edward I, or another prominent or notorious ancestor, sometimes one and the same, we might like to claim the truth?

I'm looking forward to listening to Tracey Brown's lecture as a podcast on the Guardian site available from Friday 2 October.

If you're interested in probability in genealogy come to my BIFHSGO talk on Saturday 10 October 2015 You Be the Judge: Did DNA Prove the Skeleton under the Leicester Car Park was Richard III? There will be a reminder closer to the date.

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