My first impression of the Genealogical Proof Standard:
When I first heard of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), my understanding was that it was only about citing sources. It wasn’t until later that I began to learn that it is actually a formula for finding elusive ancestors.
My first journey into genealogy was not with the intention of discovering my family tree. Because of this, I made several mistakes in my beginning research. Making those mistakes helped me not only learn what not to do but to understand why genealogists do the things that I once felt were not necessary.
How the GPS Changed My Mind:
In researching a problem area on one of my lines, I came across a paper written by another researcher using the GPS. The way this paper was written amazed me (remember I had not yet been formally introduced to genealogy). Even though I had no intention of writing conclusions for everyone else to see at the time. (this blog was the furthest from my mind as well) The thoroughness of her research made me want to do this for myself.
Using the Genealogical Proof Standard, the writer had taken one question to answer. She listed all the evidence, even the negative. She took that evidence plus the information she already had, and she formed a conclusion. It was informative, and it was sourced. It made me want to learn more about the Genealogical Proof Standard.
That is what the Genealogical Proof Standard can do for you. It provides you with a method to focus your research, instead of spinning your wheels. Guiding you in how to evaluate and analyze evidence, making sure you have the best possible information available at the time. Helping you build a better family tree.
Five Components of the Genealogical Proof Standard:
The Genealogy Proof Standard (GPS) is a guideline consisting of five components put together by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. When applied as a whole, the Genealogy Proof Standard can help you focus on and overcome problem areas in your research.
Reasonably Exhaustive Research
At first, I thought this would be too time-consuming. I missed the “reasonably” part of this phrase. However, “exhaustive” is to examine every source. Whereas, a “reasonably exhaustive research” is to focus your research on the records that other sources indicate. Reducing the chance that any undiscovered information may surface at a later time. Whew, what a relief!
Just as you wouldn’t go away for a vacation without a plan. Don’t start your research without a plan. This is the part of the process that keeps you focused and able to stick to the reasonably exhaustive research. For more information on creating a plan, click here.
Complete and Accurate Citations
Citations help show the extent and quality of your research. Allowing others the ability to see the steps taken to reach your conclusion. It also enables you to be able to easily find the information again if needed. Failure to cite sources can result in doubt in the eyes of others. For example, everyone is always complaining of wrong information in family trees. One researcher taking the word of another, and so on. What would happen if the people building those trees had to document their reasoning for the conclusion?
For those of you who need help in this area, I will be doing another post on citing sources soon.
Evaluating Evidence and the Genealogical Proof Standard
Evidence evaluation is crucial when building a case that involves several pieces of indirect evidence. This step does not limit itself to the information found within the source but also pertains to the source as well. For more information on evaluating the evidence, click here
Resolve Conflicting or Negative Evidence
In a trial, the lawyers, judges, and jury hear all the evidence, both good and bad before they can make an informed decision. The key is to show evidence and/or explain your reasonings. Negative or conflicting evidence must also be addressed. If this is not done, a credible conclusion is not possible.
Explains how the evidence leads to the conclusion. Eliminating the possibility that the conclusion was based on insufficient evidence, lack of evidence or beliefs. Although one of the aspects of the Genealogical Proof Standard is to make sure any other records do not exist, it is always a possibility. Especially with the addition of DNA testing. For this reason, a conclusion is not the final say all and is always a work in progress
I have been working on a post about the evidence evaluation process, putting together the pieces & it will be ready soon.
Follow the steps in the Genealogical Proof Standard, all of them, and you can rest assured you have done the best to your ability. It is not only about citing sources, nor is it only about evaluating evidence. It is a process. One that will help you move further, and lay a solid foundation in your tree. The latest standards also include DNA results – more on that later.