Jumping to a Conclusion

Winnie’s taking a nap in a sweatshirt my younger daughter mailed to my older daughter. My daughter sent me the picture and I immediately assumed that my daughter had put the sweatshirt on her dog in an attempt to amuse the herself or the dog–I’m not certain.

Turns out I was incorrect. The dog had crawled into the sweatshirt herself while it was laying on the bed.

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter much. But it did remind me of the importance of not jumping to conclusions. A picture or a document is one snapshot of a moment in time. We can’t see what was taking place outside of the picture and we can see what happened before or after. That’s true of any picture, whether it was taken in October of 2019 or October of 1889. While it is important to try and discern as many clues as we can from pictures, it’s important to not infer things that are not there.

The same is true for documents in our research. Sometimes it can be easy to jump to conclusions based upon what we read in a document and what we read into what we think is in that document. There are many phrases, particularly legal ones, that can be interpreted incorrectly. That misinterpretation can lead our research astray.

For example, the phrase “my now wife” in a will may cause the reader to think that the writer of the will had a wife before the “now” one. That’s not the case. Researchers with significant experience under their belt should already be aware that “late” does not always mean deceased.

We should ask ourselves what is supported by this document or picture and what is not. I know that the dog (Winnie) is laying in a sweatshirt on blanket in my daughter’s bedroom. Based upon the angle, she’s probably on the bed. I don’t even know whether or not she is asleep. Think about what’s really in the picture or document or what is not.

Although I think I see some laundry on the floor.


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