Mastering Genealogical Proof–Chapter 1 Homework

Chapter 1: Genealogy’s Standard of Proof

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Home Work Assignment

Name: Russ Worthington


Chapter 1 exercises[1]

OK, so I am not a good student, but I will do my best with this open book exercise. I’ll attempt to answer the questions, but will try to explain what it all means to me.

1. What is genealogy?

Genealogy is a research field concerned primarily with accurately reconstructing forgotten or unknown people or identities and relationships. Many of these identities and relationships existed in the past, but genealogical research also includes living people. Genealogy emphasizes biological and marital kinships, but it also addresses adoptive, extramarital, and other kids of familial relationships within and across generations.

2. What are the GPS’s five elements?

  1. Reasonably Exhaustive search to help answer the research question
  2. Complete and accurate citations for each piece of information that help answer the research question
  3. Analysis, correlation, and comparison of sources and information that help answer the research question
  4. Resolve any and all pieces of conflicting pieces of information that help answer the research question
  5. Create a written statement or narrative that supports the answer to the research question

3. You have shared your family history with someone who wants you to omit all the proof statements, proof summaries, and proof arguments, including explanations of reasoning and documentation. How do you reply?

In order for our research to stand the test of time, undocumented information is mythology. However, with only documentation the reliability of that information may become questionable. Proof statements, proof arguments, proof summaries need to be included. In addition, explaining how we reached any conclusions will help improve the accuracy of our research.

4. Why can’t a genealogical conclusion be partially proved?

The five components of the Genealogical Proof Standard are interdependent and will not be able to stand on their own.

5. What is the first step in genealogical research?

Ask questions about the person or that person’s relationships that are presented in a document.

My comments:

First, I am not a professional, anything. What I have done, in the past, is to collect information about people and documenting where I found that information. I have not be one to who will say “I am a genealogist”. To me, that was a formal term that I couldn’t relate to. I was too new. I still am after about 15 years of doing this hobby. My view of a ‘genealogist’ was someone who collected names and dates at one end, or someone with a series of credentials after their name.

I learned very earlier on, about “citing your sources”. I got that piece, as I always wanted to be able to answer the question “where did you get that information from”. Why, because I was asking the same question of others research. And, I wanted to be able to go back and re-look at what I had found in that past.

I wanted to be able to create a database that I thought was somewhat reliable, and the anyone looking at my data would be able to look at what I had reported and see exactly what I saw. I also realized that these “names” had stories that might be of interest to find more about. There were “family stories” that sounded interested, but I wanted to prove or disprove those stories.

What I think I had been doing, was step one and two of the GPS process, and in a way did some analysis when comparing the data collected. But that is about as far as I got.

What this first chapter of this book told me was that genealogy is like other fields where research is involved. For me, that would be problem solving. That’s what I did before I retired. We had standards, guidelines, how to do things, and how we tried to resolve a problem. Someone would say that “something” is broken, we would try to determine what was broken and tried to fix it. If that didn’t work, re-test it, using the tools that we had.

This chapter told me, that the Genealogical Proof is like that. What I had missed was having a Question, or identify what didn’t work right. I knew how to ‘test’ what was broken, wrote down what I saw, what I did, go back and re-test to see if “it” was still broken, and continue that sequence of things until the problem was solved. Note that I said that I “wrote down” what I saw, and what I did. When I supervised others, I wanted others to do the same thing, so that I might help them resolve the problem they were working on. How can I help you if I don’t know what you did? So, my professional life, helped out, to some degree, my genealogy research.

An interesting comment in this first chapter was “no source is trustworthy in and of itself”[2] (Jones 2013) and that we deal with “sources that were imperfect the day they were created”[3] (Jones 2013). We have to interpret the evidence that we find along the way. We may have created a conclusion, but when we find new information, we should re-evaluate what was already found and ready a new conclusion. As Dr. Jones states “Our goal is to prove our conclusions”[4] (Jones 2013).


[1] Jones, Thomas W. 2013. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society Special Topics Series. page 6

[2] Jones, Thomas W. 2013. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society Special Topics Series. page 2

[3] Jones, Thomas W. 2013. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society Special Topics Series. page 2

[4] Jones, Thomas W. 2013. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society Special Topics Series. page 5

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