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.

Report from Day 2 of the 50th Anniversary Lectures

 

Sometimes you can’t prove parentage by citing a single document to a line on a pedigree chart. Copyright © 2013 Warren Bittner, used with permission.

The 50th Anniversary Lectures, Salt Lake City.

Day two started early with two presentations by F. Warren Bittner, CGSM. His first, “Complex Evidence: What It Is, How It Works, Why It Matters,” gave me my favorite quote of the lecture series:

It’s not the quality of the source (original, primary, direct); it is the comparison of the sources that leads to proof.

Warren was impassioned in his message “Proof Arguments: for the Next Generation.” He presented a complex evidence case in which no single record was sufficient to prove the parentage of Minnie. It took a network consisting of her death record, her marriage record, her baptism record, and her parents’ marriage record to supply all the data. But her name differed on every record. So did their names. They lived in different addresses in Greenwich Village, New York City, for every record. Could we be sure we had the right woman and her correct parents? A family group sheet supplies only birth, marriage, and death data spaces. A well-written proof argument for Minnie’s parents names gives much more satisfaction. Warren walked us through the construction of the proof argument.

Dave McDonald, CGSM, gave us a hands-on workshop for his presentation “Reach for the Power Tools: Record Transcription and Analysis.” His power-of-attorney document from the Wisconsin Historical Society was executed in Illinois by a man from Massachusetts. It appointed his brother to dispose of a one-seventh share in their mother’s dower rights. Attendees transcribed it, abstracted all the information, extracted important data, postulated a research question, and developed a research plan. It was a great discussion.

Judy G. Russell, CGSM, CGLSM, discussed “Bringing Josias Home: Using Circumstantial Evidence to Build a Family.” She took Josias from his residence in Texas to his origins in North Carolina. Her exhaustive research in Texas produced information that they had lived for a period in Indiana. In Indiana, carefully researching associated families, she found a record that suggested research in Burke County, North Carolina.

Elissa Scalise Powell, CGSM, CGLSM, presented “Baker’s Dozen Steps to Writing Research Reports.” After reviewing the elements needed in a report she brought us on a methodical walk through the report-writing process. Her practical approach made the process straightforward.

 

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.

 

BCG Skillbuilding at NGS 2013: Barbara Mathews on “Not Quite Right: Recognizing Errors”

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

Please welcome guest blogger ____, CGSM

No, that welcome message is not a mistake. I put out two email calls to Board-certified genealogists requesting guest bloggers. Instantly many people stepped forward and scooped up speeches by Tom Jones, Judy Russell, and Elizabeth Shown Mills. My own presentation waited and waited … {{shaking head in embarrassment}}.

It’s not quite fair for me to review my presentation. I’m not unbiased, am I? I thought about putting a third frantic request out to the Board-certified associates, but then I decided to blog about what it is like to give a speech at a big genealogy conference. It seemed a better route to take than to risk a third rejection.

The process began more than a year earlier, when I answered the Call for Proposals from NGS. I used the “console” to enter the required data, from my contact information, biography, and experience as a speaker to the title, an outline, and a brief description of the speech itself. I then waited until I was contacted by the Program Chair several months later. I had to sign a contract. I also decided to approve having the sessions recorded by JAMB-Inc.

There were two more milestones. About three months before the conference, I had to send in my handout/syllabus material. I made sure to format it as required to fit properly in the syllabus, and to email a pdf version. That gave me time to polish my speeches using PowerPoint software.

The final milestone was to show up and deliver the speeches. This meant packing my own projector and computer, including lugging them through airport security and stuffing them into storage bins on the packed airplane. I made my own flight booking, but NGS booked two room nights for me. I extended that booking to include the full conference. I invested in flight costs and five nights at the hotel. The trip meant adding on other costs, such as parking in Boston, taxis to and from the Las Vegas hotel, and meals. On the plus side, my convention registration was gratis and I got a check for both speeches. In total, I will have to spend more money that I take in, but the overall conference costs are reduced because my speeches were accepted for the program.

Butterflies in my stomach? Totally. I used the nervous energy to go over the PowerPoint slides and to reread the speeches — as well as to arrive in plenty of time for each speech. I set up my projector, set up my computer, and used the convention center’s built-in cabling to connect them. The Las Vegas Hotel Convention Center supplied an A/V specialist who checked in with me before each speech to ensure that all was in working order. In addition, JAMB-Inc sent a man to double-check the recording device and put in a fresh CD. Once I got the thumbs-up from him, I was free to begin.

The errors speech needed tuning up the week of the convention. I wanted to make sure that the discussion of sources, information, and evidence was in parallel with a newly published book on genealogical proof.[1] There were about 50 or 60 people there to hear the lecture. They took notes earnestly, so I felt that the revision effort was well worth it. Once it was over, I packed as quickly as I could so that the next presenter could set up.

My speech on recognizing errors is meant for those beginning to work with the terminology used for sources, information, and evidence. I went over the various terms carefully, explaining what each meant and how it is useful to document analysis and evidence evaluation.

This session has been taped. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at http://www.jamb-inc.com/category/genealogy. This is session S441 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

 

[1] Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013). It can be ordered online http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/cs/mastering_genealogical_proof from the National Genealogical Society. It is a workbook. You read a chapter on a topic and then work on the questions at the end of the chapter. The topics I discussed are in Chapter 2.

BCG Skillbuilding at NGS 2013: Warren Bittner on “Proof Arguments: How and Why?”

Please welcome guest blogger Judy G. Russell, CGSM, CGLSM 

If we fail to establish identity and prove relationships, then — says F. Warren Bittner, CG — “all other family history goals and activities are a waste.” And if this critical goal is met, then the genealogist “owes it to herself and future generations to write down the reasoning that led to that conclusion.”

In his presentation “Proof Arguments: How And Why” in the BCG Skillbuilding track, Warren explained that the reasoning that ties people together by identity and relationships is set out in a proof argument, that key written summary of our evidentiary conclusions that allows us to complete the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Reviewing in passing the various formats in which a proof conclusion may be written, he concentrated on how to write a proof argument — the steps that can be used as a model to guide us through to a competent written presentation, and a checklist of questions we need to answer.

The evidence-based conclusion, he warns, must include our analyses and correlations of evidence and our resolutions of conflicting evidence. “These arguments tie life events together and allow us to establish relationships through the evidence, and set out our mental processes as to why we believe the conclusions follow from that evidence,” he explains.

A proof argument can be as short as a single sentence and as long as it needs to be depending on the complexity of the evidence. But without it, we doom future generations to repeat the research again and again.

This session has been taped. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at http://www.jamb-inc.com/category/genealogy. This is session S421 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

Judy’s website provides the following about her:

A Certified GenealogistSM and Certified Genealogical LecturerSM with a law degree, The Legal Genealogist Judy G. Russell is a lecturer, educator and writer who enjoys helping others understand a wide variety of genealogical issues, including the interplay between genealogy and the law.

 

 


BCG Skillbuilding at NGS 2013: Thomas Jones on “Debunking Misleading Records”

Please welcome guest blogger Judy Kellar Fox, CGSM

The buzz in Las Vegas is about Thomas W. Jones’ Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), just released and available for sale now at the NGS booth in the Exhibition Hall.  It promises to be our guide to excellent research.  His first talk of this conference, “Debunking Misleading Records,” offers an expanded look at some topics in the book.

Tom opened by asking, “How many of you have encountered misleading records?”  Laughter, with many hands raised.  He then asked, “How many of you have not?”  More laughter, but no hands.  He showed a great slide of a Family Tree Maker Family Archive tree with all the mistaken information marked.  The sheet bleeds red with corrected names, dates, and facts, all determined after careful investigation of the type he proposes.

This lighthearted introduction gave way to a look at two aspects of the Genealogical Proof Standard: no. 3, analysis and correlation of information, and no. 4, resolution of conflicting evidence.  Tom pointed out how records can mislead, then demonstrated ways to test and prove errors.  He based his examples on three articles from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ):

Melinda Daffin Henningfield, “Determining Linnie Leigh Gray’s Birth Date,” NGSQ 98 (December 2010): 245-50.

Allen R. Peterson, “Who Were the Parents of Charlotte Ann Williams of Flint, Michigan? A Death Certificate with a Half-Truth,” NGSQ 98 (September 2010): 177-88.

Richard A. Hayden, “Resolving the Inexplicable: The Marriage Bond of Archibald Young and Lettice Morgan,” NGSQ (March 2007): 5-16.

It’s disconcerting to think that we have to be suspicious of all the records we use, but since we must, this talk shows the way!

This session has been recorded. During the conference you can buy it from the JAMB-INC booth in the main conference hall. After the conference, it will be available online at http://www.jamb-inc.com/category/genealogy. This is session W121 under the heading 2013 NGS Conference/Las Vegas, NV.

Judy reports, “Blogging is a recent activity for me, inspired by a need to share family mementos and photos with members of the younger generation, to reach them with a medium they use.  That’s Ancestors from the Attic (http://foxkellar.blogspot.com).  I’ve also been experimenting with a blog as serialized research report: Pinpointing Dennis Buggy’s Irish Origins (http://foxkellarbuggy.blogspot.com).  It allows me to demonstrate and explain good practices with each post.”

 

RPAC Report, March 2013

Courtesy of Microsoft Office.

Report from Barbara Mathews, CGSM

My friends will attest that two of my burning concerns are the preservation of records and our rights to access them. As BCG’s official representative to the Records Preservation and Access Committee (RPAC), I advocate for the concerns of Board-certified genealogists, and participate in RPAC’s monthly conference call. Beginning today I will also report monthly to you about the records issues.

What is RPAC? It is a joint committee organized by the National Genealogical Society, the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. Each of these three societies has a vote on the committee. In addition, non-voting representatives are sent by several national groups: American Society of Genealogists, Association of Professional Genealogists, BCG, and ICAPGen. In addition, representatives attend from two corporations, Ancestry, and ProQuest. Communication is fostered by an email list, monthly telephone conference calls, and the RPAC blog.

This month there are two important topics of national interest (legislation involving the Social Security Death Index, and release of the 2011 Model Act and Regulations), and two local topics (North Carolina, and Georgia). Continue reading

Welcome from E. C. Member at Large

Welcome to the BCG blog! I am Stefani Evans, a BCG trustee and member at large of the executive committee. I first sought BCG certification because I wanted to know whether my work met the standards established by our field’s leading genealogists. If it didn’t, I wanted to know where I needed to improve. After I was certified in 2005, I continued to revisit the judges’ comments and suggestions to ensure that as I honed my skills I addressed my shortcomings. Recertification every five years offers associates the opportunity to receive new comments from BCG judges on how we may further develop our skills.

Stefani Evans, CG

As a historian, I see genealogy and history as mutually beneficial. Consciously or not, my genealogical background shapes my history projects by guiding my questions, methods, and approaches. Similarly, when I seek answers to the traditional genealogical who, what, when, and where questions, my historical self urges me also to ask why and how.

I do my best work when I keep in mind the standards promoted by BCG, especially the Genealogical Proof Standard. Elissa is right when she says that standards are for everyone, and I encourage all genealogists who aspire to their best to apply for certification. The process of assembling my first portfolio changed me. My priority switched from one of seeking assurance from others to that of upping my game. If the judges deemed my work insufficient, I would have continued to learn and resubmit until it passed muster. Staying current with certification keeps me on my toes. It ensures that I continue to meet standards, grow my knowledge, and improve my craft.