The written conclusion, the answer to a particular single genealogical question, is like a delicious soup. Soup, when skilfully prepared from carefully selected ingredients, develops just the right flavour for the diner. Not everyone likes the same flavours, and some need a simple and digestible meal. Chefs tell us that fresh, quality ingredients make the best soup.
A proof statement is like a simple soup, suitable as a starter (needs context), made from just a few raw ingredients (original records, primary information) that have harmonious flavours (no conflicting evidence). Preparation (analysis and correlation) is straight forward.
A proof summary is like a more substantial soup, suitable as a light meal (can stand alone), typically made from a range of ingredients. It still contains raw ingredients, but might contain some preserved ingredients (derivative records, secondary information) when fresh are unavailable. Flavours may compete, so a balance is needed (conflict resolution). Preparation takes longer than a simple soup and may involve two or more stages (documented facts).
A proof argument is like a filling soup that is a meal by itself. It contains many ingredients, including some that need extensive preparation or long cooking (questions of identity and substantially conflicting evidence). Eventually the flavours blend into a rich complex that gives an initial impression, develops on the tongue and leaves a distinct aftertaste. Preparation may include test tasting (hypothesis), adding new flavours (building blocks), and contrasting flavours (if-then syllogisms).
How did the first soup you made taste? Writing a genealogical conclusion gets easier with practice, just like making soup.
Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013)
© Sue Adams 2014