Genealogy Q&A Time: The Genealogical Proof Standard
Posted by Diane
Q. What is the Genealogical Proof Standard? Do I need to worry
about it if I research my family history as a hobby?
A. The Genealogical
Proof Standard (GPS) is a set of guidelines the Board for
Certification of Genealogists developed to help researchers draw
sound conclusions about their ancestors. It has five elements:
- Reasonably exhaustive search
- Complete and accurate citation of sources
- Analysis and correlation of the collected information
- Resolution of conflicting evidence
- Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
genealogists do a lot of work to show they understand the
GPS, but anyone can use the guidelines to be as sure as possible
they're tracing the right ancestors and sharing accurate
family information. The
GPS is outlined here, with bullet points about how
each element contributes to the credibility of your research.
For example, to conduct a reasonably exhaustive search,
"finding multiple sources for a single piece of information,
such as a birthplace, is key," writes Sunny Jane Morton in the
October/November 2012 Family Tree Magazine guide to
using the GPS.
“If you look at just one source, you won’t see that there’s
more than one possibility for what happened,” Elizabeth Shown
Mills explains in the guide. Mills is the author of source
analysis references including Evidence!
Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian
(Genealogical Publishing Co.).
“We know that when there are
multiple eyewitnesses to an event, the accounts differ," she adds. "In
historical research, there’s no such thing as the final answer.
All we can do is gather the best evidence possible and make a
In following the second element of the GPS, complete and
accurate citation of sources, Mills recommends "For every ‘fact’ we gather, we need to consider why we are
accepting it as ‘fact.’ What is there about this source that
makes it credible?”
Chances are that with your family
commitments, job, volunteering and other activities, you don't
get to spend as much time as you'd like on your genealogy research. Using the
GPS as a guide will help you make sure that the time you can
spend is devoted to researching your ancestors and honoring
their true experiences.
You can purchase Family Tree Magazine's GPS guide as a download here, or Family Tree Plus
members can read it here.
Family Tree University's Source
Analysis One-Week Workshop, April 18-25, will show you how
you can use the Genealogical Proof Standard as you evaluate the
reliability of your genealogical sources, resolve conflicting
information, and draw conclusions about your ancestors' lives. Learn
more about it at FamilyTreeUniversity.com.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 12:10:54 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)