“Ten-Minute Methodology” is an occasional series published on BCG’s SpringBoard blog intended to educate and challenge BCG associates, aspirants, and the genealogical community at large.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—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.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Examples of proof statements in a genealogical summary and proof statements in a database.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—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.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—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 by Michael Hait, CG.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—A genealogical proof can be as simple and compact as a footnote. Yes! Believe it. From an example by Donn Devine, CG, FNGS.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—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. From an example by Harold Henderson, CG.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Are you up to date? From the old Standards Manual to the new Genealogy Standards the first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) is different. Have you noticed? We used to say, “We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search.” That’s still true, but there’s more. We conduct reasonably exhaustive research. Those two added letters bring much more to what others expect of us as genealogists and what we must expect of ourselves.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Let’s look at the searching part of research. As in the last post on research, we’ll see that it’s more involved than just looking. Genealogy Standards offers this goal of reasonably exhaustive data-collection: “Genealogists attempt to collect all information potentially relevant to the questions they investigate.” Got that? All information. All potentially relevant information. Potentially relevant to the questions under investigation.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Evaluating what we’ve done. There comes a time when we have to stop researching. Sometimes it’s when we feel we’ve answered our research question. Sometimes we’re unsure, fearing we missed something. We can evaluate our research to see if it’s reasonably exhaustive by asking questions about its breadth and strength.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Genealogical work supported by indexes alone can be unreliable. What? What’s wrong with the Social Security Death Index (SSDI)? It comes from a reliable source. Other indexes are good, too! Why not use them and cite them as sources?
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—When we know what we want, and we can’t get at it because of access restrictions or record loss or destruction, we are challenged to use our creativity and knowledge of sources to provide substitutes. When no substitutes surface after reasonably exhaustive research, we use the index as our best source. This is, however, a last resort.
Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA—It’s a fact of life. In a world governed by laws and standards, rules for one aspect of life often collide with rules for another. So it seems with the research report by which we genealogists chronicle each block of research we do. A research report has one basic goal: to provide written documentation of the research process we executed, the findings we developed, and the conclusions we reached. As a work product, a research report is expected to achieve an appropriate balance of both writing skills and documentation skills. Each of these two skills is governed by one fundamental concept.
Harold Henderson, CG—Genealogists are often confused. It comes with the territory. We can’t always avoid it, but we would prefer not to wallow in it. Have you ever had a conversation (with yourself or someone else) that began something like this made-up one?
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Meet the Walkers: William, Margaret, their children, and grandchildren. In several posts we will use this family to explore issues encountered when numbering a genealogy, one of the relationship-formatting options of Standard 65, Genealogical formats. This first post will show how to number the Walker family abroad and after immigration to the United States. Successive posts will show how to number adoptive children, those of unknown paternity, and children of successive spouses.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—The Walker familyintroduced us to the basic numbering system of a descending genealogy in the last post. The family of William and Margaret (Lauderdale) Walker also offers examples that require more complex numbering.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—The Walker family showed us how to accommodate numbering children born to unknown fathers in the second numbering post. Complexities continue in Generation Two with two types of informal adoption and children born to a descendant by two spouses.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—This post wraps up discussion of adoption and multiple partners.
Judy Kellar Fox, CG—Why are adoptees treated differently from biological children in numbering a genealogy? It’s a great question and deserves a reasoned answer. The response relies on background information in Numbering Your Genealogy.