The Genealogical Proof Standard

When evaluating the quality of genealogical information and the sources in which that information appears, genealogists are often confronted with conflicting data.  Thus, the concept of a preponderance of the evidence has been adopted from the legal profession and applied to genealogical analysis, whereby the accuracy of information and the reliability of the sources must be evaluated in order to come to a conclusion.

For genealogists, the evidence must be carefully evaluated and documented before coming to a conclusion about a genealogical fact or event.  The Board for Certification of Genealogists has established the Genealogical Proof Standard as a guideline for evaluating the credibility of genealogical data.

The Genealogical Proof Standard states that:

“(a)  We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search in reliable sources for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question;

(b)  We collect and include in our compilation a complete, accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information we use;

(c)  We analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence;

(d)  We resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question; and

(e)  We arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.”

The Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCC Genealogical Standards Manual (Orem, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2000), 1-2.

So, what does all this mean?

In short, the Genealogical Proof Standard is a guideline for evaluating the preponderance of the evidence.  The five tenets of the Genealogical Proof Standard require that the genealogist find all relevant information, document the sources of that information, analyze the information and evaluate the quality of the information, resolve any conflicts between different sources of information, and come to a conclusion.

That’s quite a job!  Obtaining from reliable sources all information relevant to the genealogical question at hand is no small task.  Even assuming that one has obtained all relevant information, the next step is equally daunting:  properly citing the sources.

Tomorrow:  Citing the Sources of Information on Great Aunt Mary’s Birthdate

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