google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html 5 Steps to Proving Your Family History | The Armchair Genealogist

5 Steps to Proving Your Family History

As family historians we often see ourselves as detectives, uncovering the past for future
generations. However, as the family history detective, it’s important for you to provide a strong case for your research, to be able to provide proof of your theories and back up that proof with quality evidence.

How can you be sure your family tree is accurate? How can you know your sharing correct information with others?  Today, we explore 5 steps to proving your family history. 
By employing these initiatives, you have the assurance you are not only adding the right ancestors to your tree but you can share your research with others confidently and accurately. 

These aren’t any five steps; they are commonly known as Genealogical Proof Standard and are the foundation for professional genealogy research. GPS, as it is commonly referred to serves just as its name suggests - a clear set of steps, a path to your final destination – to prove your family history. It is not restricted to professionals and can be employed by beginner genealogists to ensure solid research techniques at every turn.  Let’s take a look a the basics of GPS.

Step 1 - A reasonably exhaustive search.

What does this mean? It means you have examined a variety of quality sources which relate to a specific item. This item may be a relationship, an identity, or an event or activity. In attempting to prove that item you will do a ‘reasonably exhaustive search’ and by doing such you reduce the chances that new evidence may be uncovered at a later date that is likely to disprove your swift conclusion. This does not mean you have uncovered every piece of evidence necessary to prove the situation, only that you have gone to a rational means. 

Step 2 - A complete and accurate citation of the sources for each item used in proving an identity, event or relationship.  

By documenting all of your sources you can stand behind your research with confidence and provide future researchers with the necessary sources to understand your conclusions. It provides them with the breadcrumbs to prove their own conclusions and understand your theory. 

Step 3- Analysis of the collected information’s quality as evidence.  

Essentially, step 3 is asking you to analyze the quality of your evidence. Is it original or derivative, primary or secondary source, direct or indirect? We must analyze which sources are probably correct and compare to those that are in conflict. 

Step 4 - Resolution of any contradictory or conflicting evidence. 

When you have conflicting evidence, proving a relationship or an identity can become difficult. Step 4 asks you to re-evaluate your evidence in relation to your theory. Do major conflicts still exist; perhaps additional research is required to resolve your outstanding variances. 

Step 5 - Write a conclusion supporting your hypothesis. 

Document your conclusion based on your evidence. Your written conclusion offers a clear explanation of your theory, why perhaps it is more credible than any opposing evidence that may exist and it provides transparency to future researchers. 

This is but a brief overview of Genealogical Proof Standard.  We will continue to explore GPS in future posts and how you can employ it in your everyday research. 

The following resources provide an in-depth examination of Genealogical Proof Standard.

Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones
Genealogy Standards: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition by Board of Certification of Genealogists
Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose