(Note: This blog post was originally published on the blog, Dana Leeds: Creator of the Leeds Method.)
Artificial intelligence (AI) excels at teaching basic concepts, serving as a personalized tutor across various fields, including genealogy. In this way, AI can act as our tutor whether we are trying to learn terms and skills related to genealogy or to another part of our life.
Recently, when prompted, it did a nice job of explaining the Genealogical Proof Standards (GPS). I went a step further, requesting an example of the third step: analysis and correlation of information.
I appreciate how AI tools like ChatGPT provide quick responses to our specific questions. Searching for an example of genealogical analysis and correlation online would be time-consuming. But with AI, it’s quick!
Another benefit is that we can ask AI to make its response simpler or more advanced. For instance, I can request ChatGPT to simplify the explanation for a sixth grader’s understanding or to elaborate as if I were a college freshman. In this way, we can quickly generate, and even modify, the explanations and examples we need.
However, we must be cautious about AI’s potential inaccuracies, often referred to as “hallucinations.” ChatGPT is getting better in this regards, but we need to be cautious. AI tools like ChatGPT tend to provide less accurate responses to highly specific questions than to more general information and explanation requests.
The remaining section highlights ChatGPT’s tutoring skills as it provides a detailed example of genealogical analysis and correlation.
So, in the words of ChatGPT, here is an example of analysis and correlation of genealogical materials:
Certainly! Analysis and correlation in genealogical research involve critically examining all the collected information, then comparing and synthesizing this data to draw well-founded conclusions about ancestors and their relationships. Here’s an example of how this might work:
Imagine you’re researching an ancestor named John Smith who lived in Virginia in the early 1800s. You’ve collected several records that mention individuals named John Smith, and now you need to analyze and correlate this information to ensure you’re actually tracing the right person.
- A 1820 U.S. Federal Census record lists a John Smith in Albemarle County, Virginia, with a household of six.
- An 1823 marriage record from Albemarle County for a John Smith and Elizabeth Johnson.
- An 1830 U.S. Federal Census record lists a John Smith in Augusta County, Virginia, with a household of four.
- An 1832 land purchase deed in Albemarle County for a John Smith.
- An 1840 U.S. Federal Census record lists a John Smith in Albemarle County with a similar age and family composition to the 1820 census.
Analysis and Correlation Process:
- Census Records: You begin by examining the age categories of the individuals in the households of the 1820 and 1840 Albemarle County census records. They match up with the expected ages of John Smith, his wife, and children, allowing you to infer they likely represent the same family. However, the 1830 census in Augusta County appears to be for a different John Smith, as the family size and location don’t match.
- Marriage Record: The 1823 marriage record provides a wife’s name, which can be checked against the ages of the female members of the household in the 1840 census to see if it matches the expected age of Elizabeth Johnson Smith. If it does, this supports that you have the correct family unit.
- Land Records: The 1832 land deed in Albemarle County suggests that John Smith either remained in the county or returned after 1830. You would correlate this with tax records, which might show a continuous presence in Albemarle County, suggesting the John Smith in the 1830 Augusta County census may indeed be a different person.
- Consistency Across Documents: You also notice that the ages of the children across the census years seem consistent, suggesting a continuous and consistent growth of the family, further supporting the conclusion that these records pertain to the same John Smith.
- Neighbors and Associates: Looking at the names of neighbors in the census records, you might find that certain families consistently appear near John Smith, which supports that you’re tracking the same individual across the censuses.
- Naming Patterns: If you have access to probate or church records, you might find that John named his children after his siblings or parents, a common practice, and this can be corroborated with earlier records of John Smith’s supposed parents and siblings.
After carefully comparing the information, you conclude that the John Smith in the 1820 and 1840 Albemarle County census records and the 1832 land deed is the same person, and he is the individual you’re researching. The 1830 Augusta County record is deemed to be a different John Smith. You have accounted for the whereabouts of your John Smith consistently from 1820 to 1840, and you have a marriage that fits within the timeline and location expected for your ancestor.
This example demonstrates how genealogists use analysis and correlation to build a case for an ancestor’s identity and life events, ensuring that the person they are adding to their family tree is indeed the correct individual.
Have you tried using AI as a tutor? What did you ask it and how did it help? I’d love to hear from you about how you’re using AI alongside genealogy.