7. Learning and Practicing the Genealogical Proof Standard

Ken looks right.jpg

Its time to wrap up the series on the GPS. Today we look at the seventh concept to teach: We arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion. To get to this point the learner must have an understanding of the previous four steps in the  process: we conduct a reasonably exhaustive search

we collect and include  complete and accurate citations for each source

we analyze and correlate information

we resolve any conflicts in evidence 

One of the key resources for teacher and student for this stage is The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual  compiled by the Board for Certification of Genealogists published by Ancestry Publishing in 2000. Here you will find good examples of Proof Summaries on pages 53-54 and 55-64. These models should be studied by all students. On page 51 we learn that we need to exercise:

  • suitable selectivity in the choi ce of evidence to use
  • logical arrangement of this selected evidence
  • thorough documentation of sources.

 Another useful source in teachig this sill in writing proof summaries and proof arguments is Christine Rose's book   Genealogical Proof Standard, Building a Solid Case ( CR PUblications, 2005, 2nd edition). In chapter 5, "Writing it up", Rose discusses writing proof summaries and proof arguments.

It is my personal experience that before a student can write up a good, succinct proof arguement or proof summary he needs to think of his audience.  I suggested to each  student that she assume she is writing the report for someone who knows nothing about genealogy research, then put in writing each step in the reasoning, verify each piece of information with citation, and each logical move with yoiur reasoning fully explained. It seems to work. 

We can create practice cases using copies of real documents that suggest a conclusion, a research log of "failed" searches  and ask them to use what they have to write up proof arguments for group discussion.

What do you think? How do you teach this?

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