The Genealogical Proof Standard – Why isn’t this incorporated into my genealogy software?

I ran across this in my mail from Rootsweb (which, incidentally, seems pretty moribund these days…). I wish applying this standard was better integrated into my genealogy software (The Master Genealogist) and all those available that I’m familiar with:

Preponderance of the Evidence vs. the Genealogical Proof Standard
The final step in proving ancestry lies in the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).

Until recently, researchers cited evidence based upon the legal principle of preponderance of the evidence – meaning that if definitive proof documents could not be located, and if all evidence pointed in the right direction, then a lineage or relationship was accepted as true.

But there are numerous examples of why this might not be true.  In my own ancestry, there were three William Harrells, recorded on early census records in Wythe Co., Virginia.  A logical assumption might be that they were kin, given that they shared names and lived in the same vicinity.  But DNA studies imply that they share a more distant relationship, despite the preponderance of the evidence.

Although certification is not a requirement for proving ancestry, you may wish to review the five elements of the GPS, established by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG).  They recommend that a strong genealogical proof should include:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

via RootsWeb Review.


About glamberson

I am an amateur genealogist and a professional technologist, having experience in both areas that goes back to the 1980s (at least). My genealogical interests really began in 1979 when my grandfather died. Computers & technology have been primary interests since the early 1980s. My first personal computer was an Apple IIe bought shortly after they first became available.
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3 Responses to The Genealogical Proof Standard – Why isn’t this incorporated into my genealogy software?

  1. Darel Coterel says:

    DNA evidence IS NOT the end all to beat all evidence that it is claimed to be. Our Y-chromosomes are AT BEST secondary evidence back to a suspected ancestor. The primary evidence would be DNA from the proposed ancestor and there IS NO WAY of quaranteeing you can recreate that ancestor’s DNA thru testing proposed lines. To do that, you would need to exume his grave and test the bones or hair remaining…if you are lucky enough to know where he was burried. Also, it requires much more than two people from a suspected line to be tested and match. As an administrator of a family DNA project, I have seen great paper trails to an ansector but DNA that DOES NOT match. The first thought is “must be something wrong with the paper trail” but it could easily be due to:

    -illegitimate children (spouse having an affair…uh yes, they did and more often than we like to think!)
    -undocumented adoptions (happened often in early times of the USA)
    -undocumented name changes

    The following article “Who’s Your Daddy” is an interesting read and it provides a good discourse on why we shouldn’t hang our hats on the implications of DNA studies alone.

  2. N. P. Maling says:

    TMG can *support* the Genealogical Proof Standard but it cannot replace the genealogist applying the search, supplying the citations, analyzing and resolving the conflicts and, perhaps more importantly, *writing* the proof argument. There’s no way an ancient application like TMG can go out on the Internet, for instance, and find any data by itself…. There are numerous citation formats and templates you can use for what *you* find. You can arrange the evidence and use various other features to analyze it, but there’s no way TMG can do that analysis for you. It’s all human work with support from a software tool. Computers are only as smart as the people who use them. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Follow Friday – Greg Lamberson’s Genealogy Blog | GenWishList

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