[APG Public List] Fw: Genealogical Proof Standard (Was The reliabilityof federal census records for genealogi...)

Michael Hait michael.hait at hotmail.com
Wed Nov 4 09:31:13 MST 2009



I must agree with you here.  Many genealogists do tend to get caught up in the details of "meeting the GPS," rather than honing research skills.  In talking with some "transitional genealogists" both on the mailing list and in other settings, I see a tendency to want to know everything out of a book rather than just jumping into the records to learn through experience.


Personally, as my writing displays, I do believe that the Genealogical Proof Standard -- and the other standards put forth by the BCG, for example -- do outline a general process for accurate research and analysis.  After all, as genealogists, records will only take us so far, and then we must rely on our powers of evaluating the reliability of information held in the records, and correlating the various sources of information to arrive at the BEST possible information.  Also recognizing, of course, that should new information surface, we must be prepared to alter our conclusions.  Analysis of documents is key.


As valuable as books like EVIDENCE EXPLAINED are for experienced researchers who understand the difference between the "art of citation" vs. the "science of citation," and the principles of records analysis, I think that they sometimes also can hinder less experienced researchers, who try to, as you put it, "fit a square peg in a round hole," in order to match what they think they are reading in EE.


This is one of the main points that I was attempting to convey in the article about the reliability of census records.  Because the informant on census records is unknown, some of these same researchers tend to automatically dismiss the information as unreliable.  I believe, however, that we must recognize that the information was provided by SOMEONE.  Just because we do not know who provided the information, does not mean that it is unreliable.  It just means that we cannot necessarily take it as our sole source of information unless nothing else is available.  And in these cases, we should treat it as any other record that serves as the sole source for any fact, where the informant is unknown.

Michael Hait
Author, The Family History Research Toolkit
Instructor, "African-American Genealogy", GenClass
African-American Genealogy Examiner


Date: Wed, 4 Nov 2009 07:51:05 -0800
From: jeanettedaniels8667 at yahoo.com
To: apgpubliclist at apgen.org
Subject: [APG Public List] Fw: Genealogical Proof Standard (Was The reliabilityof federal census records for genealogi...)

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Jeanette Daniels <jeanettedaniels8667 at yahoo.com>
To: LBoswell <laboswell at rogers.com>
Sent: Wed, November 4, 2009 8:50:16 AM
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Genealogical Proof Standard (Was The reliabilityof federal census records for genealogi...)

I have to agree with that.  As genealogists, we should never "force something to be right."  This is done often in courts of law but that doesn't make something right just because someone is skilled in persuasion or manipulating evidence to look a certain way, while concealing other evidence.  That can't happen in genealogy.  If you are constantly trying to determine how an individual source measures up to the GPS, you have missed the point of what research is (generally the use of multiple sources to come to conclusions) and what it proves.
I notice that several of the newer genealogists on the member, public, or transitional lists are struggling to figure out how to use the GPS or stuck on how to cite something.  They need to look at the broader picture of research.  To me the bigger issues that should be discussed would be more regarding research modalities or finding out if there are more sources available for a particular situation.  After all, we are genealogical researchers.  Honing what constitutes research will take away the wondering regarding if something is matching the GPS.  
I look forward to the new "Theorygen" list.  Thank you for giving all of us another avenue for genealogical exploration.

From: LBoswell <laboswell at rogers.com>
To: eshown at comcast.net; APGpubliclist at apgen.org
Sent: Wed, November 4, 2009 8:16:53 AM
Subject: Re: [APG Public List] Genealogical Proof Standard (Was The reliabilityof federal census records for genealogi...)

The research approach represented by those five steps is an excellent one (if a bit of tinkering with wording was done).
As a guide to research, I've no problem with the concepts behind the gps (except for above issue).
My thought is that amounts to genealogicaly heresay, because I argue that  a "proof standard" isn't necessary, that it can't offer any proven benefit justifying it's continued use, and may in fact accomplish the opposite of what is intended.  If it becomes the focus instead of the research at hand (meeting the gps), for example.  There cannot be an objectively applied standard in this manner.
but I just mention this in passing. I don't think this is the right list to do it on. I'm house-cleaning the TheoryGen list, sweeping everything out, maybe might be a good positive subject for that list.  For anyone willing to discuss it in a positive, respectful way...


"...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. 

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