[APG Public List] Genealogical Proof Standard (Was The reliability of federal census records for genealogi...)

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Tue Nov 3 20:22:13 MST 2009

Michael wrote:
>To clarify the question in my email, I meant to ask "does my analysis of
the nature of the records adhere to the standards of analysis promoted by
the Genealogical Proof Standard"? Perhaps I could worded this better the
first time.
Michael, I haven't had time yet to read your blog entry, but do plan to and
may comment again later if I have anything to add.  In the meanwhile, I
should clarify a point for the benefit of others who may have been confused
by a few of the comments this evening.
The Genealogical Proof Standard does not focus on the specifics of analyzing
records. There are some older guides, privately published, that imply this,
but those guides were not published by BCG. An "analysis of the nature of
the records" is extremely important, but this is a function of "document
analysis" or "textual criticism" (EE  1.30-1.41), not the GPS. Analytical
functions are also covered by _The BCG Standards Manual,_ at Standards 19-34
("Evidence-Evaluation Standards"), but those standards are separate from the

Earlier, Jay wrote:
>Your article asks if census manuscripts meet the GPS.  I think this is not
quite the right question.  I think you are really asking: what do I need to
consider when evaluating information from a census manuscript?  You hit on
the central problems: who gave and who recorded the information?  Did they
have reason to know the facts? Did they have any motive to give false
To continue down the path Jay has led us on, no individual document and no
one type of record can "meet the GPS" because the GPS is a five-step
process. The utilization of a range of records is just the first step in
that process. The questions on which Jay has quoted or paraphrased you,
above, are the type of questions you should be asking about each statement
in each record you use, of whatever type. 
Jeanette wrote:
>You have reopened the questions of some who think that the GPS needs some
tweeking.  That's fine.  I personally believe that it could be restated
better and that it is not good to try to fit a square into a round peg hole.

>From the start of your article, it is obvious that census records are not
going to actually fit into the GPS.
Jeanette, I don't understand your last sentence, above, but it leaves me
wondering if some misunderstanding is the root of your disagreements with
the GPS.
The statement that census records don't "actually fit into the GPS" doesn't
seem to, well, fit, the framework of the GPS itself. Why do you feel they do
not "fit into" the process of reaching a conclusion based on the
Genealogical Proof Standard?
Census records (like any type of record) are regularly used in the research
and evidence-analysis phases of our work and they regularly provide evidence
upon which GPS-worthy conclusions are reached. As you proceed to say, census
records contain errors, they leave us uncertain as to the identity of the
informant in most cases, and they present other challenges as well. But
shortcomings exist in all records. That is why the first step of the GPS
calls for "reasonably exhaustive research," it's why the third step calls
for a careful correlation and analysis of evidence, and it's why the fourth
step calls for a resolution of any conflicting evidence.
Can you clarify?
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