SpringBoard, an official blogger for the 2016 National Genealogical Society (NGS) Family History Conference, is pleased to offer a review of this BCG Skillbuilding lecture, presented 4 May 2016.

W121, Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL, “When Worlds Collide: Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records

Reviewed by Harold Henderson, CG

Judy G. Russell led off the BCG Skillbuilding Track at NGS 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale with a close look at the fourth element of the Genealogical Proof Standard.

Judy G. Russell, JD, CG, CGL
Courtesy Scott Stewart

How should researchers respond to conflict when they find it? First, make sure the conflict matters, and then spend a lot of time with Standard 48, Resolving evidence consistencies.[1] A close reading will answer many questions. The standard outlines the classic three techniques of seeking corroboration, analyzing quality, and explaining how a conflict might have arisen, or any combination of the three.

Russell drew on two other authors’ slightly different takes on conflict resolution, emphasizing the importance of publication and peer review in making sure you’ve made the right call.[2] Three meaty examples involving a variety of records highlighted the value of seeking additional evidence. The visuals enhanced the talk, but an audio recording would also have value both in instructing beginners and reminding the rest of us that we cannot wish away conflicting evidence. It must be dealt with properly or we have no conclusion.

[1] Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards (Nashville: Ancestry.com, imprint of Turner Publishing, 2014), 27–28.

[2] Harold Henderson, “How to Handle Conflicting Evidence: A Six-Step Program,” Archives: Family History Made Simple and Affordable, “Learn from Experts,” 8 October 2013 (http://www.archives.com/experts/henderson-harold/how-to-handle-conflicting-evidence.html : accessed 5 May 2016). Also, Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 16: Speculation, Hypothesis, Interpretation & Proof,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage (https://www.evidenceexplained.com/ : accessed 5 May 2016).


A recording of this lecture may be ordered from PlaybackNow.

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.