Friday, April 15, 2016

The Investigative Process

I've mentioned elsewhere in this Blog that I had a career in law enforcement for many years.  Nearly 30 years.  While my love and interest in Genealogy predated my retirement from law enforcement, for the most part the job took priority.  I would dapple in family history a weekend here, and a day or two there, but Genealogy was never a full-time adventure...that was until 2011.  Since the summer to 2011, after hanging up my badge and gun belt, I dove head first into Genealogy.  Never looking back, I do however carry with me the experiential background of so many law enforcement investigations into the world of genealogical research.  The Process is really the same.

The goal of any criminal investigation is really a simple one at it's core. I would present this same information to classes of new criminal fraud investigators, and get the same blank 'That's so obvious' stare.  But this is critical to keep it in the foremost of your mind, that is if you're chasing bad guys.  Imagine a line with two circles on either end.  One circle is the crime under investigation and the other circle is the suspect (or suspects).  The line is the connection, or nexus, between the crime and the suspect/s.  The line is established by way of the Investigative Process.

Generally, we have information on the crime.  It was probably reported by a crime victim.  The home burglary is a good example.  The crime victim comes home from work, finds her home broken into and items stolen while she was away, and reports the incident.  Now the task of linking a person or persons to the crime is the job of the investigator.  He or she has both circles, the crime and the suspect/s, although at this time the suspect/s are unknown.  The Investigative Process fills in the line linking the two.  Its really just that simple.

In the example of the home burglary, there are many items the investigator will look into in an effort to make this connection.  Latent prints are a good example.  Others are surveillance video, neighborhood witnesses, discovery of the items stolen.  Each are used, either singularity or conjoined, to establish nexus.  Each are items of evidence, and very typically one piece of evidence leads to another.   A latent fingerprint leads to the identification of a suspect, which leads to a surveillance, which leads to a search, with leads to more evidence and maybe other stolen property, and other crimes (reported or previously unreported).  You get the idea.

And don't we do the same thing in Genealogy?   In the case if genealogy, we might be looking for a nexus between one person and another.  Or a person and his date and place of birth.  One circle is the Research Question and the other in the Research Answer.  The line between the two in the Research Process.  Are you giving me that blank 'That's so obvious' stare???

I recently had a good example in my own research.  I'd been told that two grandparents in a family tree had met under unusual circumstances.  An interview with a family member gave me the story.  Both persons had been dating within the same small circle of friends has young unmarried adults.  One night the man, who would later become the grandfather in this family tree, was driving a car that was involved in a serious car accident.  The woman, later the grandmother, and two others were in the same car accident.  I civil law suit was later filed where the woman was the plaintiff and the man one to the defendants.  Despite this rocky beginning, the two would later be married!  So my research question was: Verify the story and Identify any possible civil litigation.

I knew enough about both persons already to establish a time frame and possible location.  I knew he
had been previously married and divorced.  I also knew where she lived about this time (1932) and I had their subsequent marriage date.  My first step was to come up with a theory.  In the 1930s, seemingly every detail of a person's life appeared in the local newspapers.  I'm a big fan of newspaper research.  So I wanted to locate any mention of this incident in the press of the day.  Using keywords (surnames), as well as location (state) I found a reference to an amended and accepted judgement at the Appeals Court level.  This verified the location and narrowed my time-frame.  From there I needed to find the actual local court.  More newspaper checks (and another subscription fee) uncovered two more references to this incident, one with names, a location, and date.  The next step was to call the archivist for the court clerk in the parish where the accident, and later law suit, took place.  I was able to verify a significant law suit ensued, creating 269 pages of court documents.

So you see the process.  Linking a Research Question to a Research Answer.  And the fun part of the process continues.  After I read this court case file (it's on my Research Plan), I will surely develop more Research Questions requiring more development.

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