Skillbuilding: Hait on Reasonably Exhaustive Research

SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2015 NGS Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this Skillbuilding lecture, presented Friday, 15 May 2015:

F351: Michael Hait, CG, “What Is a ‘Reasonably Exhaustive Search’?” reviewed by Nancy A. Peters, CG

Michael Hait, CG

Michael Hait, CG, began his lecture by reminding us that any single record can mislead or contain errors. Many genealogical researchers have heard about the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) and its role in preventing us from coming to wrong conclusions and chasing the wrong ancestors. Michael briefly reviewed the five elements of the GPS, the first of which tells us that “reasonably exhaustive research” is a prerequisite for sound conclusions. Yet some researchers might ask: What is reasonable? How do you conduct reasonably exhaustive research? In his lecture Michael answered those questions and showed an example.

In a humorous way, he first told us what is not the answer to the first question. He promptly discredited the myth that three is “the magic number” of sources needed to ensure an accurate conclusion. Michael then gave us some practical guidance for how to go about meeting this important first element of the GPS.

Michael gave another wise piece of advice—expand your horizons—and followed it with an example of what that means and why it’s important to our research. He illustrated his points with a case study example using direct, indirect, and negative evidence, which was taken from his own research and writing on the Hait family.

Any family historian who is serious about producing accurate work and determining sound kinship connections will find this lecture full of useful ideas and guidance.

If you missed this lecture at the 2015 NGS Conference, a recording is available from Jamb Tapes, Inc. In addition, Michael will repeat his talk for the upcoming BCG Lecture Series on 9 October 2015 at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This series of six lectures sponsored by BCG is free and open to the public. No prior registration is necessary.

 

CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

Ten-Minute Methodology: Identity Proof in a List

We’ve seen in earlier posts what genealogical proofs look like in a narrative and a footnote. A list, bulleted or numbered, is another effective way of presenting the proof that supports a conclusion.

Proofs in list format are clean, concise, and easy to follow. All the data is assembled in one place, and the correlation is obvious.

Standard 53 (can’t escape it!) offers a list as one of the options for a proof summary when the evidence is direct and the conflicts minor. “Proof summaries . . . may appear in a broader context—for example, within an article or case study, a narrative family history or monograph, or a report for a client, court, or personal files.” [1]

Here’s one by Harold Henderson, CG, that appears as part of an article.[2]

The list correlates data from a number of sources to show that Elizabeth Porter of the Midwest was the same person as Elizabeth Bassett from a New York family record. Once Harold establishes Elizabeth’s identity, he continues his argument for her being the daughter of a man whose probate petition didn’t include her, but by law should have.

Each bullet point describes evidence of relationships between Elizabeth and her siblings (all named in a family Bible record) and between her children and extended family. Note 1, mentioned in footnote 7, below, refers to the Lewis Bassett family record as found in his wife’s Revolutionary War widow’s pension file.

The evidence is all direct. There are no conflicts. We can accept that Elizabeth of two different places was the same woman.

For another example of a list-style proof that incorporates explanatory narrative, see Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 61. The same list was first published in Thomas W. Jones, “Misleading Records Debunked: The Surprising Case of George Wellington Edison Jr.,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (June 2012): 141–42.


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 32–33.

[2] Harold A. Henderson, “A Missing Heir: Reconnecting Elizabeth (Bassett) Porter to Her Parents, Lewis and Dorcas (Hoxie) Bassett,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 145 (July 2014): 165–84, on pp. 166–67. The article continues in subsequent issues. Reprinted with permission. Members of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society can access the article online or from the NYG&B home page > eLibrary Collections > The Record > Search “vol 145.”


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof in a Footnote

A genealogical proof can be as simple and compact as a footnote. Yes! Believe it.

The standards guide us, as always:

Standard 51 describes the need for our narrative and our source citations to show a thorough search in sources “competent genealogists would use,” favoring original sources and primary information;

Standard 52 reminds us that a conclusion answers a specified or implied question;

Standard 53 offers format options for presenting the proof; and

Standard 54 refers to the logical sequencing of the conclusion.[1]

BCG associate Donn Devine, CG, FNGS, found that his proof for the children of a couple fit nicely in a footnote, excerpted with highlights below. Thanks to Donn for permission to reprint the excerpt.[2]

Here’s how Donn’s proof meets the standards:

Standard 51: The footnote correlates evidence from vital records (negative), estate records (particularly valuable as an original source providing primary information), censuses (which confirm the estate evidence), and city directories. The last sentence also refers to the article’s narrative, which establishes the family’s residences. All sources are as close to original records as possible.

Standard 52: The questions are explicit: “Who were the children of George and Mathilde (Bacharach) Falk?” and “Where were they born?”

Standard 53: This proof statement succinctly presents the evidence. One minor conflict, a birth-order reversal, is resolved by reference to a census and by a brief written explanation.

Standard 54: The source that names all the children in order is presented first, followed by the 1860 and 1870 censuses (which do not indicate kinship nor list yet-unborn children), and ending with the city directories and the 1880 census to clear up the conflicting information.

All that in a footnote! What more could we want?


[1] Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 31–34.

[2] Donn Devine, “The European Origin of George Falk (1823–1900), Brooklyn Watchmaker,” The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record 144 (January 2013): 5–16, on pp. 12–13. Members of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society can access the article online or from the NYG&B home page > eLibrary Collections > The Record > Search “vol 144.”


CG or Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

 

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Example 1

Proofs don’t have to be complicated, and they don’t have to resolve conflicting evidence. They don’t have to include indirect evidence, either, even though it may be present and could be included to support an argument. Sometimes multiple pieces of direct evidence support a genealogical conclusion. They all answer the genealogy question directly. As promised in the last Ten-Minute Methodology post on proofs here is an example from a published work.

Michael Hait, CG, presents a narrative proof in an introduction to a genealogical summary published in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. His article, excerpted here, treats a family of slave and newly manumitted Ridgelys, Caroline and her three children.[1] While Michael presents kinship evidence for all three children, our focus in this post is on Augustus. What proof is there for his relationship to Caroline? How is that proof presented to readers?

Victoire, mentioned in the first paragraph of this excerpt (p. 248), was Caroline’s owner.

Direct evidence showing that Augustus was Caroline’s son is highlighted on p. 249. The first item of a two-bullet list (highlighted, p. 250) includes additional direct evidence. There is no indication if Augustus’s baptism record (p. 249, paragraph 1) names his mother. The 1860 census shows Augustus in Caroline’s household (p. 250, paragraph 3), but does not provide direct evidence of kinship.

The genealogical summary that begins at the bottom of page 250 offers a picture of Caroline, her children, and her grandchildren. Augustus’s sketch offers no new evidence of his relationship to his mother.



Thanks, Michael!


[1] Michael Hait, “In the Shadow of Rebellions: Maryland Ridgelys in Slavery and Freedom,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (December 2012): 245-66, reprinted by permission. The article is available online at Michael’s website.

 


CG, Certified Genealogist, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic competency evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

 

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Summaries and Arguments 1


This post is part of an occasional series intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.

Our Proof Goals

We genealogists aim for accuracy in representing identities and relationships. We want to show why we believe people were who we say they were. We want to show that they really belonged with the folks we attach them to.

We follow the Genealogical Proof Standard to ensure that our research is thorough, our sources well documented, our reasoning levelheaded, and our conflicts resolved. Then we write up our conclusions. Standards 51 through 54 in Genealogy Standards describe the qualities we aim for in writing our proofs for the public, for ourselves, and for posterity.

Options for Writing Proofs

Standard 53 offers a division of proofs into statements, summaries, and arguments.

  • Proof statements are the simplest and reflect direct evidence. We’ve looked at these in the first and second “Ten-Minute Methodology” posts.
  • Proof summaries are a little more complex and also rest on direct evidence. They are “relatively straightforward” and can be lists or narratives. Always, they present documentation. It there are conflicts, they are minor and easily explained.
  • Proof arguments are still more complex and address cases where evidence conflicts or where direct evidence is absent. These are the challenging cases that require more explanation and often include tables, charts, or maps. [1]

Both proof summaries and arguments can stand alone as work samples, or they may appear as parts of larger works. They can be very similar, only the complexity of the case distinguishing the two.

Understanding the Terminology of Proofs

What can be confusing is when a proof is a summary and when it’s an argument, and what to do about proofs that seem to be hybrids that aren’t defined in Genealogy Standards. Over time terminology has been changing. An example of a proof summary in an older publication may look more like the current definition of a proof argument.

A Continuum

We don’t have to get hung up over trying to create artificial boundaries between summaries and arguments. There’s an easier way to look at genealogical proofs than trying to determine whether we use a proof summary or a proof argument and to figure out which one to use when. It’s a continuum and looks something like this: [2]

There’s a big overlap between proof summaries and proof arguments in terms of their complexity and length: the grey area. Occasionally our proofs will naturally fall into the grey area, and that’s ok.

Naming types of proof isn’t our goal. Designing and writing them is. As we work with information we turn to research standards related to reasoning, for example Standards 47 (evidence correlation), 48 (resolving evidence inconsistencies), and 50 (assembling conclusions).[3] For choosing a format when writing, we rely on “Genealogical Proofs.”

Standard 53 gives us a general idea, from the type and complexity of evidence we have amassed, what type of proof we will write. Standard 54 reminds us of the importance of organizing evidence and sequencing it logically so it convinces readers of the accuracy of our conclusions.[4]

Examples

It’s fine and well to describe what proof should look like, but it’s important to see what it does look like. There’s an example of proofs that are part of a larger work right on the BCG website. This ascending genealogy provides proofs broken out into “Parentage” sections for three women.

  • Elizabeth’s parentage, pages 1–2, rests on direct evidence. This is a proof in narrative format.
  • Another, more complex, narrative on pages 12–13 summarizes proof of Mary’s parentage with a focus on her mother. It requires five paragraphs to describe and explain the evidence for Mary’s mother’s identity as well as the parental relationship.
  • Proof of Barbara’s parentage on page 19 is presented in a numbered list. It derives from “Four pieces of direct evidence.” [5]

We see how the type and length of proof used depend on the type, quality, and reliability of the evidence available. More narrative is required to explain reasoning in cases where we have only second-hand information or when conflicts and/or indirect evidence is added into the mix. What we call our proofs is of minimal significance. What is really important is that we get them written!

Next time we’ll look at more published examples of proofs.

Many thanks to Alison Hare, Laura DeGrazia, Stefani Evans, and Tom Jones for helpful input.


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry.com, 2014), 31.
[2] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 87.
[3] BCG, Genealogy Standards, 27–29.
[4] BCG, Genealogy Standards, 32–34.
[5] Connie Lenzen, “The Maternal Line of Elizabeth (Niesz) Titus,” 2007, Board for Certification of Genealogists (http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/titusnarrlineage.pdf : accessed 11 January 2015).

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Statements 2, Examples

This post is part of an occasional series intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.

I promised last post to give examples of proof statements. Here are two. The first shows proof statements as sentences, the second as data items.

Proof statements in a genealogical summary. Here each proof statement is comprised of an assertion and its related source citations, together proving the identity of Harriet and her husband. The sources are original and the context demonstrates “reasonably exhaustive research” in vital, church, and newspaper records. Two proof statements in this excerpt show the relationship of Harriet and Joseph to the parents of each.

1. Harriet Jane Iddiols, daughter of John Iddiols and Harriet Walter, was born 1 November 1842 in London, England,1 and died 3 April 1881 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.2 She married on 13 February 1863 at Saint John to Joseph Williams.3 Joseph, son of Peter and Elizabeth Williams, was baptized 27 November 1836 at Mawgan-in-Meneage, Cornwall, England,4 and died 24 April 1886 in Boston, Massachusetts.5

________________________

1 England birth certificate, Harriett Jane Iddiols, 1842; General Register Office, London, image from Strand, vol. 1, p. 349. Also, Parish of St. Anne (Soho, Westminster, Middlesex), Baptisms, vol. 7 (1837–1853), p. 247, Harriett Jane Iddiols; microfilm 918,608, Family History Library (FHL), Salt Lake City, Utah.

2 “Died,” The Telegraph (Saint John, N.B.), 5 April 1881, p. 3.

3 Saint John Co., marriage register, vol. F (1859–1863), p. 413, Williams–Iddiols; microfilm F16244, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (PANB), Fredericton, N.B. Also, Saint John Co., marriage bond 1387 (1863), Williams–Iddiols; PANB microfilm F9093.

4 FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : accessed 25 November 2014) > “England, Cornwall and Devon Parish Registers, 1538–2010” > Cornwall > Mawgan-in-Meneage > Baptisms 1813–1837, image 52 of 54, Joseph Williams. [The later biographical sketch will show Joseph enumerated as his parents’ son in 1851.]

5 FamilySearch (http://familysearch.org : accessed 25 November 2014) > “Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1627–2001” > Suffolk > Boston > Deaths 1886–1887 > image 97 of 683, Joseph Williams. Also, “Deaths,” The Daily Sun (Saint John), 27 April 1886, p. 3.

The author gratefully acknowledges Alison Hare, CG, for providing this example.

Proof statements in a database. Here the proof statements are not sentences, but data items, a series of related proofs for the events of a woman’s life. Each is supported by at least one citation to a high quality source. Taken together they create context for evidence of this woman’s identity.

Two items assert Philippina’s relationship to her father and her mother. Again, each is supported by direct evidence from original sources and some primary information. Using a relationship tag or fact allows us to identify all the sources that bear directly on proof of parentage. If our genealogy software does not provide such tags, we can create them.

Name: Philippine Magdalene “Philippina” Kaiser

Individual Facts

Birth: 3 August 1843 in Bremberg, Nassau, Nassau1

Relationship: 3 August 1843, birth to Philipp Jacob Kayser; Bremberg, Nassau,                Nassau2

Relationship: 3 August 1843, birth to Anna Magdalene Klöppel; Bremberg,                                   Nassau, Nassau3

Confirmation: 31 May 1857 at Evangelische Kirche, Kördorf, Nassau, Nassau4

Marriage: 12 August 1876 to Johann Friederich “Frederick” Kicherer in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, United States5

Death: 3 July 1909 in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, United States6

_____________________________

1. Evangelische Kirche Kördorf, KB [Kirchenbuch, church register] 05, Taufen [baptisms], 1843, pp. 564–65, no. 42 [first of two], Philippine Magdalene Kayser; FHL microfilm 1,577,323, item 1. At the time of Philippina’s birth, Bremberg was in the Duchy of Nassau, now part of Germany.

2. Evangelische Kirche Kördorf, KB 05, Taufen [baptisms], 1843, pp. 564–65, no. 42; FHL microfilm 1,577,323, item 1. Also, Evangelische Kirche Kördorf, Konfirmationen [confirmations] 1818–1878, 1857, p. 120, no. 30, Philippine Magdalene Kayser; FHL microfilm 1,577,324, item 6. Also, “Aged Lady Dead; Mrs. Kicher, of Henderson Township, Expired Saturday,” Sykesville Post-Dispatch (Sykesville, Pennsylvania), 9 July 1909, p. 1, col. 4. “Kicher” reflects Philippina’s stepchildren’s abbreviation of their family name.

3. Ibid.

4. Evangelische Kirche Kördorf, Konfirmationen, 1857, p. 120, no. 3.

5. “Aged Lady Dead,” p. 1, col. 4. Also, 1880 U.S. Census, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Henderson Township, ED 191, p. 17 (penned), dwelling/family 93, Frederic Kicherer household; NARA microfilm T9, roll 1136.

6. Pennsylvania Bureau of Vital Statistics, death certificate 61832 (1909), Bena Kicher; Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg. Bena is a nickname for Philippina. Also, “Aged Lady Dead,” p. 1, col. 4.

Did you notice how the proof statements in these examples comply with the Genealogical Proof Standard (except for resolution of conflicting evidence, as there is none)?

For further information on proof statements, see

  • Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville, Tenn.: Ancestry.com, 2014), 32, 73
  • Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 84–86 and 177.

Next time we’ll look at what our proof looks like when there is conflicting evidence.

Ten-Minute Methodology: Proof Statements 1

This is the first in an occasional series intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.

Confession: Since starting this post, I’ve come to realize that my idea of proof statements was all wrong. Now I have them pretty well figured out. I hope this post will help you understand them better, too.

The heart of all our genealogical work is determining identities and relationships and proving them. Proof statements are one means of presenting our genealogical conclusions. Not all statements, even if they are source-cited, are proof statements. Proof statements are special. All by themselves, individually, they can make a case for a conclusion and comply with the Genealogical Proof Standard. What? How does that happen? Let’s look at one of the standards.

Standard 53 includes a definition of proof statements:
Proof statements are source-cited sentences and data items in thoroughly documented contexts demonstrating adequate research scope. Genealogists use proof statements when at least two citations demonstrate that a conclusion’s accuracy requires no explanation. Proof statements usually appear in documented presentations of genealogical research results, including articles, blogs, case studies, chapters, charts, family histories, monographs, reports, tables, and other printed and online works. [1]

Whew! Let’s break it down.

What are proof statements? They are conclusions within a broader context that meet current standards for genealogical proof. Let’s analyze the standard to see the requirements.
o They are “sentences and data items [as in a table].” They make an assertion.
o They are “source-cited.” They include the source citations.
o They appear in “thoroughly documented contexts demonstrating adequate research scope.” They are part of a larger whole (the context), one of the types of presentations listed above, and the context is further described:
• The whole context (like the single proof statement) is thoroughly documented.
• The context demonstrates “adequate research scope.” The context and its citations show reasonably exhaustive research.

How do proof statements comply with the five criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard?
1. The proof statement and the context of which it is a part reflect broad research in a wide range of best available sources.
2. At least two source citations support the assertion. One or more may appear in the footnote to the proof statement. Or one may appear in the footnote and other(s) in the broader context in which the statement appears.
3. The citations reflect use of high-quality sources and information. Priority is given to original sources and primary information. The proof requires no further explanation or discussion of the evidence. It fits well in its context.
4. Resolution of conflicting evidence requires explanation beyond the scope of a proof statement, so it is not applicable to this type of proof.
5. A proof statement is the write-up of the conclusion.

Where do we find proof statements? What do they look like? We use them in every genealogical work product we create. The next “Ten-Minute Methodology” post will give examples of proof statements. Be watching for it as you mull over these concepts!


[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry, 2014), 32.

BCG Announces New Webinar Series!

The Board for Certification of Genealogists believes in education and would like to share with the public some of the expertise represented in BCG through a series of webinars.

Open to everyone who wants to improve their skills, these live webinars are set for 8 pm Eastern for the following dates:

Monday, September 22, Thomas W. Jones, Ph.D., CG, CGL, FASG, will present “Fine Wine in a New Bottle: Guidelines for Effective Research and Family Histories.” Updated, retitled, and reorganized, genealogy standards first published in 2000 are now available in a new edition. The webinar will describe the changes and what they mean for all family historians. Dr. Jones teaches at three genealogy institutes, co-edits the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, and is the author of Mastering Genealogical Proof.

To register for the September 22 webinar, please use this link:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8699013103252043265

On Wednesday, October 15, Judy G. Russell, J.D., CG, CGL, will explain “Kinship Determination: From Generation to Generation.” Requirement 7 of the BCG certification application asks for a Kinship Determination Project in which the applicant writes a three-generation narrative and explains how the relationships are documented. All genealogists do this regularly while placing relatives with their appropriate connections in the family tree. A familiar speaker at conferences across the country, Judy will coordinate the Advanced Methodology & Evidence Analysis course at the Institute for Genealogy and Historical Research in 2015.

To register for the October 15 webinar, please use this link:
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4535381371678485505

Look for future announcements on other upcoming webinars on this blog. You may sign up on the sidebar for email notifications when a new post is written.

New Skillbuilding Documents and Audio Added to Website

Two new additions have been made to the BCGcertification.org website.

NEW DOCUMENT EXERCISES

Three documents have been posted on the Skillbuilding page so that they may be used to practice transcription and abstraction skills which are part of the requirements for certification. These are basic skills that every genealogist needs in order to read and understand old handwriting. Without being able to read the words and understand the archaic meanings, any analysis or further research may be faulty.

The answers to the documents are also posted, but don’t peek until you have tried the exercises yourself! Thank you, Nancy Peters, CG, and Kathy Sullivan, CG, for creating these examples at http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/index.html.

NEW AUDIO TALKS

The last four audio recordings captured at the 2012 FGS conference have been uploaded. The BCG luncheon lecture by Pam Boyer Sayre, CG, CGL, compares genealogy to skiing. Listen to her amusing talk at http://www.bcgcertification.org/certification/why.html and don’t miss her short audio clip at the bottom of the same page where she declares “I think I did it a little backwards though.”

Visit our Application Strategies webpage to hear Michael Hait, CG, and Harold Henderson, CG, as they each talk about their unsuccessful first application to BCG and the lessons they learned from it.

BCG is here to help the public understand standards and promote skillbuilding in all levels of genealogy. We hope these website improvements help further these goals.

New Books at NGS 2013: Jones on GPS and DeGrazia on NYC

The National Genealogical Society announced two new books at the conference in Las Vegas two weeks ago.

© 2013 by the National Genealogical Society, Inc. Used by permission of the National Genealogical Society and the photographer, Scott Stewart.

 

The National Genealogical Society announced publication of Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones, CGSM, CGLSM. It is a workbook for learning to use the Genealogical Proof Standard in our work. It can be ordered here.

Two types of online study groups have sprung up for those of us planning to use the book. Pat Richley-Erickson of DearMYRTLE fame established a group which uses Google+ Hangouts on Air to record to YouTube. It is all explained here. Angela McGhie of ProGen Study Group fame established small groups in a private setting. The GenProof groups are explained here, and in Angela’s blog.

 

 

 

 

© 2013 by the National Genealogical Society, Inc. Used by permission of the National Genealogical Society and the photographer, Scott Stewart.

 

Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CGSM, authored Research in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, a new book in the NGS Research in the States Series. As Laura states in her introduction, 62% of the state’s population resides in this area. Settled in 1624, its deep history and large population make for a significantly complex research environment. Laura’s book is a clear explanation of the types of records available and how to find them.

Soon this book can be ordered here.