Eight Key Types of Evidence in Genealogical Research

When conducting my genealogical research, understanding the different types of evidence is crucial for piecing together my family history accurately. Each type of evidence has a unique role in verifying, corroborating, or challenging the information I find. Here is a breakdown of the main types of evidence I use:

Direct Evidence: This is evidence that explicitly provides information about a specific fact. For example, a birth certificate that lists the parents’ names is direct evidence of the parent-child relationship.

Indirect Evidence: Indirect evidence requires inference or deduction to establish a fact. For example, if a person appears in multiple census records with consistent age and birthplace but different household members, it indirectly supports the identity of that person.

Negative Evidence: Negative evidence is the absence of information where it might be expected. For instance, if a person does not appear in a specific census record where they were expected to be, it could suggest they were not present in that location at that time.

Residual Evidence: Residual evidence refers to information left behind unintentionally. This can include overlooked records, marginal notes, or clues found in unexpected places.

Collateral Evidence: This type of evidence comes from sources not directly related to the individual being researched but can provide valuable context or support. For example, a sibling’s marriage record might provide the maiden name of their mother.

Derivative Evidence: Derivative evidence is information obtained from records that are not primary sources themselves, but rather secondary or tertiary sources. For example, a published family history book may contain information derived from various primary sources.

Corroborative Evidence: Corroborative evidence supports or confirms information found in other sources. For example, if a birth date listed on a tombstone matches the birth date on a birth certificate, it corroborates the accuracy of that information.

Negative Corroboration: This occurs when multiple sources agree on the absence of a particular fact. For example, if multiple census records consistently show a person as having no children, it may suggest that the person was indeed childless.

Each type of evidence, including negative evidence, plays a role in my genealogical research process, helping me to build a more accurate and complete family history.

Example of Direct Evidence: A marriage record recorded by Rev. Robert Craney on 2 February 1915 for Thomas Zweydoff and Clara Ringswald in the presence of Gus Blumenstiel and Mary Smith.

About the Author

<h3><a href="" target="_self">Christopher Padgett</a></h3>

Christopher Padgett

Christopher Padgett led the Kentucky Genealogical Society as president from 2020-2023. A native Louisvillian, he's an 8th generation Kentuckian.

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