27 November 2009

The Genealogical Proof Standard, part 1

In a group of genealogist, how many can list all of the steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)?
  • A reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
The GPS is not just for professional genealogist. Everyone should be following these steps. But the problem arises when people don’t know how to. This past Sunday I presented a lecture at the RootsMagic user group at the Southern California Genealogical Society on sources and citations. I covered steps 2 and 3 on the GPS. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was getting everyone to understand the difference between a source and a citation. I was dumbfounded that researchers don’t understand this basic difference. From my lecture:
  • Source - the information; e.g. death certificate, Bible, homestead file, census, book, necklace, website, interview, etc.
  • Citation - the record of the source; what and where
Are these definitions confusing? Why aren't beginners being taught basic definitions? If someone does not understand what a citation is, then they cannot write one. I have not taken a beginners class in a while, but perhaps the GPS should be covered and stress?

What about those who are not beginners; are you following the GPS? Do you follow some of them? Are certain ones more important than others?

I'm issuing another challenge. The next time you spend any time doing research, keep track of exactly what you are doing. How many steps of the GPS do you usually follow?

As a beginner I had never heard of the Genealogical Proof Standard. As I am going back through all of my research (see this post) I am finding that I have a lot of information that I didn't know I had. For example: I was messaging a cousin of a cousin on Ancestry.com. She listed the information she had for William Eugene Rutter (a sibling of my gr-gr-grandmother, Dora Rutter-McCall). On the 1910 census his occupation is "farmer, homestead." I've transcribed this census multiple times, but it never clicked until she had written it out. The BLM database has a William E. Rutter listed in the same county as the census. If I had followed all of the steps of the GPS I would have discovered this information years ago when I first found the census.

So the Genealogical Proof Standard is for everyone all the time. Get the word out: use it!


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