Applying The Scientific Method to Genealogical Research (Part 5)

While using The Scientific Method to answer the question of where Bertha Danko is buried, my cousin and I tested our first hypothesis that Bertha Danko is buried in an unmarked grave in Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts.  We then tested a second hypothesis that Bertha’s death record includes her place of burial.  We proceeded to develop and test a third hypothesis that the location of Bertha’s grave is mentioned in the records of her undertaker, Lucian Karolkiewicz.

After failure to obtain any evidence to support the first three hypotheses, we proceeded to develop a fourth hypothesis.  The fourth hypothesis, in fact, was developed by the staff at the Henry-Dirsa Funeral Service in Worcester, Massachusetts.

4-2. Gather information and resources:  The staff at Henry-Dirsa Funeral Service indicated that most Polish people in Worcester, Massachusetts during the 1910-1915 time period were buried in Notre Dame Cemetery of that same city.
4-3. Form new hypothesis:  Bronislawa was buried at Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts
4-4. Perform experiment and collect data:  The staff of the Henry-Dirsa Funeral Service contacted Notre Dame Cemetery and requested that the cemetery staff search for the burial records of Bronislawa / Bertha Danko.
4-5. Analyze the data:  No burial record for Bronislawa Danko or Bertha Danko was found in the Notre Dame Cemetery records.
4-6. Interpret data and draw conclusions:  The staff at the Notre Dame Cemetery had searched their electronic database, using only the names provided to them.  The electronic database was generated from paper records and there is the possibility that the record for Bronislawa Danko was omitted or misspelled during transfer to the electronic database.

As with the first three hypotheses, we could find no evidence to support the fourth hypothesis.  Even so, we have not disproved any hypothesis except the second, that Bertha Danko’s death record includes her place of burial.

In Part 6 of this series, I will discuss how the staff at the Notre Dame Cemetery proposed and tested the fifth hypothesis.

For other posts in this series, please see:

Copyright © 2010 by Stephen J. Danko

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One Response to Applying The Scientific Method to Genealogical Research (Part 5)

  1. Brenda says:

    Steve, congratulations on the lucid and detailed example of the Scientific Method. For the many genealogists and family historians who go through this process ‘instinctively,’ it’s very useful to see each step outlined. I happen to agree that genealogy itself is not a science, but we DO employ the method.

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