Skillbuilding, NGS 2017: Russell’s “The Law and the Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search”

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2017 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 10 May 2017.

W121, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “The Law and the Reasonably Exhaustive (Re)Search”

Reviewed by Scott M. Wilds, CG

Judy’s talk demonstrated the need to understand prevailing law in order to meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  Though the title refers specifically to one of the standards–Reasonably Exhaustive Research—many of the points made apply to Analysis and Correlation as well.

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL

The GPS requirement for “Reasonably Exhaustive Research,” rather than the old “Reasonably Exhaustive Search,” demands, among other things, the need to understand and interpret documents, rather than just to collect “facts.”  In attempting to answer a specific, well-focused question, document interpretation—figuring out what the record tells us—requires us to be analysts who understand the legal context that led to the creation of the record. That legal context informs the information item’s meaning in providing evidence to answer our research question, and will inform further research.

Analysis and Correlation of evidence is the third requirement of the GPS.  The law drove the reason for the creation of documents, and the form that documents take. It is essential to understand the legal requirements and reasoning behind the creation and rationale for documents that we may find as researchers many years later. Documents only make sense in the context of the law.

In addition to  reviewing the kinds of law that may apply in various American contexts – English common law, civil law, statutory law, canon law—Judy provided concrete examples of how understanding the applicable law is necessary to be able to interpret a document.  Challenging documents that seem to make no sense can be comprehended when the relevant law is researched and understood.

Judy provided concrete resources for finding federal and state laws that are needed to properly interpret records.  In addition, both the federal government and state legislatures passed laws to benefit private parties that in themselves may provide information and evidence in meeting the GPS.

Purchasers of this lecture should expect an interesting and fast-paced look at the way that the law intersects with the GPS. Interesting case examples as well as concrete resources to find relevant laws add additional value. Whether you are just starting to grapple with understanding and applying the GPS, or are more seasoned in its application, you’ll find much of great value in this session.  If you are “on the clock” and dealing with submitting a portfolio, this session may make you re-think something in your portfolio, be it in the document work, proof argument in the case study, or in explaining the actions and context of the family you’re writing about in the KDP.

A recording of this lecture may be ordered from Playback Now www.playbackngs.com.

The words Certified Genealogist are a registered certification mark, and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.

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