Mastering Genealogical Proof – And Suddenly the light bulb went on ….

And Suddenly the light bulb went on ….
Russ Worthington
22 July 2013

Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof , (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013), viii.

Book available from the publisher at

The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) has been a mystery to me. I think that every time I hear someone speak on this topic, and in this book, I “hear” or “read”


A couple of the terms may be different, depending on who is presenting.

Please understand that I am not saying that there is anything wrong with this, and in fact, I think it is very accurate. But, sometimes have issues with theories. Not good in higher level math classes. In taking courses when I would go to school for my job, some classes were a waste of time, especially computer software. The instructors were excellent, but they taught using examples that I couldn’t relate to.

Today I was working on Chapter 5 of Mastering Genealogical Proof, when the Light Bulb Turned ON. (Can’t say “went off” based on some comments that were made with we were talking about Chapter 4, with Dear MYRTLE).

I have been trying to understand where the genealogy software program(s) fit into this theory. The terms were also confusing to me. Conclusion? I’ll probably never have a conclusion on anyone in my family tree. That term to me, is the end of the line, I am done, I have concluded that …… Not in my life time.

Slowly but surely, the study of this process has introduced a new way of thinking about what it is that I do.

Somehow, from the very beginning of my research I heard “cite your sources”. In fact, back in the PodCast days, I probably heard that from Dear MYRTLE, and I am sure others. It didn’t take me be a couple of days to figure out why that was so important. I turned “cite your source” to “where did I get THAT information from?” I got it. The quality of the sources, not so much, but I could almost get back to where I found that piece of the puzzle.

I have an almost 9,000 person database, pretty well document family tree that I can tell you where I got the information from, but the presentation of the citations left lots to be desired. Luckily Evidence Explained (Mills 2007) came out, my genealogy database software embraced what was included in that book, so I don’t have to worry, so much, about how to generate a credible citation. Spent most of 2012 reviewing and updating my Source information. Still have lots to go, but “working on it”.

I am getting my genealogy database in shape, but now I am trying to understand this thing called GPS. Working through the steps seen earlier, I was trying to figure out where my program fit in. I also use two other Genealogy Programs, Evidentia and GenDetective, and trying to see where they fit in.

I think I had made a blog post earlier that I have no plans for starting over, but to pay more attention to the GPS process, and Evidentia and GenDetective fit into GPS, I think. I know that they both have already helped me in my research, but I was still trying to fit that linear chart above, into my day to day family research.

Today, studying Chapter 5 (Jones 2013), it dawned on me, that I had the wrong picture. What if it looked like this:


Oh, not this made sense to me. It wasn’t linear after all, it was a circle. If I have written a “conclusion”, start around the circle again, find no more new sources to cite, I can stop going in the circle FOR NOW. That doesn’t mean that I don’t get back into the circle when / if I find a new source of information. Because as I go, I am writing as I go. Not just Citing the Source, which is what I had been doing, but spending time with it, writing down the analysis, and whatever follows Chapter 5, but I am guessing, especially that last step, Writing a Conclusion, will have some more work for me to do. I’m OK with that. BUT, it’s still a circle. Where do I START became my first question.

What if this was my chart: …..


Backing up to my homework for Chapter 4, that was the output of the Source Citation circle above.

I may now have to back up to Chapter 4 again, to see where Evidentia, GenDetective and Family Tree Maker fit in. They are in there somewhere.

There must be a couple of more blog posts in there somewhere, to explain this process, as I understand it, so that my research can be improved.


Jones, Thomas W. 2013. Mastering Genealogical Proof. Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. 2007. Evidence Explained. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company.


6 Responses to Mastering Genealogical Proof – And Suddenly the light bulb went on ….

  1. Regina says:

    Great post Russ! Yep, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around GPS in general. And my mind is beyond boggled by the various software available and how it might or might not fit into GPS. Looking forward to further posts.

    • Russ Worthington says:


      The DearMYRTLE, Google+ community, is doing a book study on Mastering Genealogical Proof.

      You can find more about there here:

      You will see Comments of the first chapters of this book with the YouTube recordings of our discussion on the Google Hangouts On Air. They have been very informative.

      The panelist of the HOA have agreed to post their Home Work based on this book, as I have posted some here.


  2. Midge Frazel says:

    As early as the year, 2000, this is what the model for teaching “the research cycle” to students was all about. Thirteen years later , these people who learned this are the young genealogists.

    This could be a offshoot circle to your through research bubble:

    • Russ Worthington says:


      Thank you for your comments.

      I’ll take a look at the link you posted. Thank you.

      I think that part of the problem that I have, is the understanding of the words being used in this complicated “new” way of talking about research. The concept isn’t new, it’s just that GPS is the topic of the day. (oh, OK, Year). A genealogical “conclusion” is not my “old” understanding of that word. If I translate Conclusion to Current understanding, current theory, hypothesis, then I “get it”.

      Just another “work in progress”.

      I better get outside and visit a cemetery …..


  3. Lori Meyer says:

    Russ, You are so good at giving at laying things out in a easy to understand way. Love the circle idea it makes really good sense to see it in a circle.

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