Many of the most popular genealogy software programs around today are what one could call conclusion-based. They allow the genealogist to create a family tree by entering data about persons and relationships. Most of them also allow the genealogist to enter a line or two about the source of the information.
Centurial is evidence-based. With Centurial, the genealogist starts off by entering the information as found in a source. It's only later on in the process that all information is combined into a single family tree.
The real advantage this approach has over conclusion-based genealogy software is that we can always trace our conclusions back to the evidence and the sources it was based on.
It also allows to rearrange the information found in sources later on in the research process, as we find new information that leads us to new insights.
Centurial, unlike some of the few other evidence-based genealogy programs, is not intended as a companion application to conclusion-based software progams. Instead, it is intended as a replacement of these programs, offering all of the nice diagrams and insight of traditional genealogy software, all evidence-based.
Evidence-based requires evidence, and evidence comes from sources. So the Centurial cycle starts by adding a new source to the project.
A source can be anything. A book. A census. An interview with your mother. Some document you found on the internet. A gravestone. Anything. So we start off by selecting the type of source we are adding. Then, depending on the selected type, we then are asked to fill out the properties of the specific source we're adding. Titles, authors, cemetery locations, interviewer and interviewee, etc.
Based on the values entered for the source, a source citation is created. This citation format supported is in accordance with Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
After a source is created, Centurial allows files to be added to the source. A photo you took from the gravestone, or an image copy of a birth certificate. A screenshot of the website you found, or an audio recording of some interview.
Centurial is equipped with viewers for images (bmp, jpg, gif and png) and PDF. Other types can be added as well, but they will be opened with external tools, if installed.
Some types of files, like GEDCOM files are allowed too, in case your source is the research of some other genealogist. In fact, they will be imported automatically.
Then we start extracting the information from the source by drawing a graph of all the persons that are mentioned in the source and the relations between them. For each person, and for each relationship, we extract the claims that the source has to offer us. For persons, we extract family name(s), given names, nicknames, gender, birth days and places, dates of death, etc. For relations, we extract the type of relationship (parent/child, partners), marriage date and place, and divorce.
In this stage it is crucial we extract no more and no less than the exact information in the source. This way we can trace back each piece of evidence to its original source.
Nowadays many genealogical sources are available online. That is why Centurial comes with a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox, that allows you to import an online source with a single click.
First, Centurial parses the data on the web page and converts this into a source citation. Then Centurial tries to extract all genealogically relevant data. Based on all this data, Centurial creates a new source in your research project.
For an increasing number of websites, Centurial contains specific web scrapers that use their knwoledge of the website to improve the data parsing.
Once we are done extracting each and every piece of information of the source, we are ready for a special step in the Centurial cycle. We correlate the information in the newly added source with the information from all the other sources already present in the research project. This way we create a larger family tree by combining person and relationship information from different sources into the hypothetical persons and relationships we think once existed.
As an example, lets look at one of my own ancestors. In a 1890 census, I find a Hendrik Coenen, aged 6, living in Voerendaal, the Netherlands with his parents. This could very well be the same Hendrik Coenen who's grave I once visited and photographed. In this stage of the research process, I choose to correlate the information about this (hypothetical) person from the 2 sources.
Centurial provides an algorithm for automatically correlating the information into hypotheses. Correlation then only needs to be improved manually if neccessary. Correlations are never definitive, and can be changed, rearranged or completely removed any time later on, when new information is uncovered.
Once the information is correlated to hypothetical persons and relationships, it becomes evidence. Centurial offers a person evidence view, in which all evidence from all sources for a single person can be viewed.
In this view, one or more conclusions are shown for each fact - family name, given names, birth and death dates and places, etc. Each conclusion is based on the available evidence, even if the evidence is contradictory.
Of course, this view is not unlike a person sheet in traditional, conclusion-based genealogy software. The main difference is that within Centurial, none of the conclusions can be edited directly; all the conclusions are drawn from the available evidence!
So all conclusions are drawn from the available evidence and therefore cannot be edited directly. But we
can need to evaluate the evidence. For this, Centurial offers the Analysis Dialog for each fact (family name, birth date, etc.).
In the Analysis Dialog, all evidence related to the fact (the research question) is shown, together with its source, source classification (original, derived or authored), claim classification (primary, secondary or unknown) and evidence classification (direct, indirect or negative).
All evidence can now be evaluated. Conflicts between evidence can be resolved, each piece of evidence can be marked as plausible or not plausible and a proof argument can be provided. Then the conclusions will then be updated to reflect this new analysis of the evidence.
Later on, when new, relating evidence is found, Centurial will mark the analysis for review, inviting you - the genealogist - to reevaluate all the evidence.
With a new sources and files added, information cited and extracted and evidence mapped, correlated and evaluated, all the hard work is done. But Centurial has some more to offer.
First of all, Centurial comes with a network browser unlike any we have seen in available software. The network diagram shows your carefully constructed family tree in a modern, animated way, providing overview and insight.
Centurial will also let you share your findings. Your research can be exported in a number of ways, including the usual suspects like GEDCOM, enabling you to share your results. In the future, Centurial will also generate lists and reports.
With Centurial, genealogy is done differently from most other software, but it offers the same enjoyable results. With that one big difference. It's evidence-based!