Genealogy and family history are more than a hobby to me but I'm not a professional genealogist nor do I aspire to that worthy profession. And yet I'd like to become a better family historian. I'd like to think that what I leave behind for my descendants is a well-researched, well-documented genealogy with as little ambiguity or uncertainty as possible, possibly even worth the approval of a professional genealogist. I don't want to attach my name to a slap-dash family tree like some I've seen. Let's just say the details are important to me.
This discussion, which I read yesterday, spurred me to look again at The Genealogical Proof Standard at the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists to evaluate my own research efforts, see what I've overlooked or omitted, and learn how I can improve.
The purpose of The Genealogical Proof Standard is to improve credibility of conclusions. Below are the elements of The Standard and, after bullets under each, the contribution to credibility of each.
Reasonably exhaustive search
Complete and accurate citation sources
- Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
- Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion
Analysis and correlation of the collected information
- Demonstrates the extent of the search and the quality of the sources
- Allows others to replicate the steps taken to reach the conclusion. (Inability to replicate the research casts doubt on the conclusion.)
Resolution of conflicting evidence.
- Facilitates sound interpretation of the data contributed by each source
- Ensures that the conclusion reflects all the evidence
Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
- Substantiates the conclusion's credibility. (If conflicting evidence is not resolved, a credible conclusion is not possible.)
- Eliminates the possibility that the conclusion is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation of the evidence
- Explains how the evidence led to the conclusion
I've come a long way since accepting as fact the family story of my grandmother dying when my father was two weeks old but there's still plenty of room for improvement.
Thanks to Michael Hait for writing the post, to Susan and Randy for bringing it to my attention, and to Russ for participating in the discussion. I notice that Michael has written 33 other posts relating to The Genealogical Proof Standard. I think I can learn some things from him.