Direct vs indirect dating archaeology

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Early in the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, a disgruntled political activist used the media to attack Jefferson at a personal level.

Specifically, he broadcast local rumors that linked the president to Sally Hemings, the enslaved “quadroon” half-sister of Jefferson’s deceased wife.

No question is reliably answered until all conflicting evidence is logically and decisively resolved.

Typically, this requires additional research because the correlation and analysis process will have spotlighted holes in the work we have done up to this point.

Robert Renick, of Sinking Creek, Greenbrier County (now West Virginia), identified adjoiners to the land he and his wife were selling.

One of those adjoiners was “Tom Woodsen.” While the deed information provides direct evidence of Woodson’s residence, on the surface it might seem irrelevant to Woodson’s age.

Whether any piece of information is evidence depends upon the research question we seek to answer.

Part of that evidence will be presented here, to illustrate the differences between the three evidentiary classes.

The evidence selected here will focus upon Tom Woodson’s period of birth, Sally Heming’s age at the time of his birth, and the well-identified pool of enslaved people in Thomas Jefferson’s household.

The conclusions drawn by the lead investigator Helen F. Leary, a past-president of the Board for Certification of Genealogists and the field’s leading specialist in families of the Upper South, is unequivocal on three critical issues: Jefferson apologists assert that he was.

In their perception of the evidence, a conclusion that Sally bore Woodson then becomes evidence that she promiscuously bore children by multiple men, which is then offered as evidence that she was not Jefferson’s “faithful companion,” as alleged.

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