2 Replies Latest reply on Jul 14, 2017 3:02 PM by Research Services at the National Archives

    How do I interpret and deduce and deal with contradictory information?


      Hello All,

           I am trying to figure out how to deal with some contradictory information. I have been doing some research on a ship accident that occurred in 1913. This accident resulted when two ships collided in the San Francisco Bay. One of the vessels carried some particular cargo. There were three major newspapers at the time that reported on the accident (though it was not a huge story because no lives were lost, but the two vessels were a total loss). The three newspapers were the San Francisco Chronicle, Call and the Examiner. This accident occurred in February of 1913. Each newspaper talked about the loss of the cargo and the efforts to recover it. In January of 1914, the San Francisco Examiner reported that the cargo was found, but it was on Page 7 and in a very small article (subsequently, this article was also picked up by a book on ship accidents and it repeated the same article in it's description). However, no other newspaper in the area reported that the cargo was found. The story was not repeated in either the Chronicle or the Call. Also four years later the same newspaper in 1918 reported a completely different story but stated in that article that the cargo was not found. In every article since that time the newspapers have all stated that the cargo was not found. My inquiry is how do I deal with this contradictory piece of information that one article says something was found in one newspaper, but every other article in every other newspaper (including the newspaper that published that article in an later article) states that nothing was found. How do I square this? Do I consider this an outlier piece of information and ignore it? Do I consider it, but not obsess too much about it? I could really use some expert opinions on this subject from people who have experienced this in their research (it doesn't have to be exactly what I have done). Thank you very much.




      Jeff Rowland

        • Re: How do I interpret and deduce and deal with contradictory information?

          Were the ships Military or Merchant Marine vessels? What was the suspected cargo and was it considered a hazardous material? Do you have potential GPS Coordinates and have you viewed the Google Earth Map? Have you searched the ships histories or attempted to FOIA the Ships Logs and the Logs of any recovery Tug Boats or Barges? Does the Coast Guard, Navy , NOAH or the Harbor Authority have any references toward the accident and loss of cargo?


          The scales of justice should contain all the potential written, pictorial and oral evidence, whereby the researcher and the audience can weigh the facts and burden of evidence.   Just like a court of law, you must present the entire case, the witnesses and any professional testimony.


          I now refer you to the recent YouTube documentary and NARA records concerning Amelia Earhart.  As you may be aware there are instances where purposeful disinformation is created as to alter public perception.


          Make an Informed Argument and present the evidence in an honest fashion. Be open minded, and do not attempt to have a confirmation bias or be pre - judgmental. Sometimes one truth leads to another, and sometimes the truth will never come forth..... because the rationale would be unethical or immoral.


          My personal experience as an Army Veteran of Desert Storm, Registered Nurse and Retired DOJ employee, is to be

          ethical, respectful and prepared. 

          • Re: How do I interpret and deduce and deal with contradictory information?
            Research Services at the National Archives Tracker

            Mr. Rowland


            The National Archives and Records Administration has several series that may be of benefit to your research in learning what actually happened with the accident you mentioned. One suggestion is to search the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard (Record Group 26). There are 47 series within this group that focus on wreck reports, and a listing of these may be found by following this link. The one that may be more pertinent to your research would be the Point Bonita Wreck Reports, 1903-8/2/1915. A Coast Guard station was located here up until 1947, so it is possible that the accident is listed in these records.


            Another suggestion would be to look through the Records of the District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009,(RG 21) as court records may also exist regarding the accident. The U.S. District Court for the Southern (San Francisco) Division of the Northern District of California has a series of Common Law Case Files, 1912-1938 that may include case files on the accident. In addition, a catalog search of the RG 21, admiralty, and National Archives at San Francisco yielded 30 results for admiralty court records. That search may be found here.


            The records mentioned above, along with others that may relate to your search, may be found at the National Archives at San Francisco. If you would like more information, you may contact them at sanbruno.archives@nara.gov.


            Best of luck in your research!


            This response was compiled by Christopher Burroughs.

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