Applying The Scientific Method to Genealogical Research (Part 6)

My cousin and I used The Scientific Method to answer our initial question:  Where is Bertha Danko buried? Our first hypothesis was that Bertha Danko is buried in an unmarked grave in Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts.  Our second hypothesis was that Bertha’s death record includes her place of burial.  Our third hypothesis was that the location of Bertha’s grave is mentioned in the records of her undertaker, Lucian Karolkiewicz.  Our fourth hypothesis was that Bronislawa was buried at Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts.  We could not find evidence to support any of these hypotheses, although we could disprove only the second hypotheses.  One or more of the other three hypotheses could still be correct.

The fifth hypothesis was proposed and tested by the staff at Notre Dame Cemetery.

5-2. Gather information and resources:  The information in the Notre Dame Cemetery database for the 1910-1915 time period was manually recorded in ledgers.  Subsequently, the information was transcribed into an electronic database.
5-3. Form new hypothesis:  Bronislawa / Bertha Danko’s name is misspelled in the Notre Dame Cemetery database.
5-4. Perform experiment and collect data:  The staff at Notre Dame Cemetery searched the database for similar and misspelled names.
5-5. Analyze the data:  A record for Bronislawa Danka (surname misspelled) was found in the Notre Dame Cemetery database.
5-5. Interpret data and draw conclusions:  Bronislawa Danko was buried 15 Jan 1913 in Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts in Sec-3 Lot-1464 Grv-1B.  She was 1 year old at the time of burial.  The information on this child matches that of Bronislawa’s death record, so this is the correct child.
5-7. Publish results:  The location of Bronislawa’s grave was communicated to family members and a monument was erected by the family on the grave site.  The information was also published on my blog and was also published on Find A Grave.

To summarize, my cousin and I had a question and we gathered the available information.  We formed a hypothesis and tested the hypothesis.  We analyzed the data and drew conclusions.  We developed new hypotheses and repeated the stages of The Scientific Method until we were successful in answering the initial question.  The process disproved the initial hypothesis that Bertha Danko is buried in an unmarked grave in Hope Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts.

It is possible that our final conclusion that Bronislawa / Bertha Danko is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery, Worcester, Massachusetts in Sec-3 Lot-1464 Grv-1B is incorrect.  If any evidence surfaces that the child in this grave is not the correct child, or that the correct child is buried elsewhere, we will generate and test a new hypothesis.

This discussion provides an example of how The Scientific Method can provide a logical, stepwise process to answer a genealogical question, and is very similar to the way that genealogists work, anyway.

In Part 7, I will discuss how The Scientific Method can help satisfy the requirements of The Genealogical Proof Standard.

For other posts in this series, please see:

Copyright © 2010 by Stephen J. Danko

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