1. Learning & Practicing the Genealogical Proof Standard

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Its easy to learn what the Genealogical Proof Standard says. In fact you could memorize it, because its not that long. Here's what it says in the BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Washington, DC: Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2000) pages 1-2,

"Meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard is a five step process:

(a) We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search in reliable sources for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity,relationship, event, or situation in question;

(b) We collect and include in our compilation a complete, accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information we use;

(c) We analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence;

(d) We resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question; and

(e) We arrive at a soundly reasoned. coherently written conclusion"

The challenge comes in applying it. For instance, that reasonably exhaustive search is a killer to grasp for some. Recently I was editing an article submitted to a major genealogy publication and noted an example of this. The author reported he had searched the index to a record group without success, and consider that search complete, failing to grasp that if you do not find what you are looking for in an index it only means its not in the index! It does not mean the sought after document is not in the actual records.

So how do you teach that? Case studies might help people recognize the flaw in the thinking, followed up by work samples with an assigned objective. My concern is that the consequence of failure in the assignments includes repeating the recognition and production parts in different form, until mastery is achieved.

I do however believe that mastery is possible, we can perform to our level of competence, and we can increase our competence.


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