There are a lot of analogies that can be used in genealogy and one that I’ve always liked is that research is like a jigsaw puzzle. You collect all of these pieces and you need to fit them together to make a picture, in this case, a picture of your ancestor. You usually start by separating the pieces into piles and sometimes puzzles get mixed up and you need to discard some of the pieces. Now admit it, sometimes you even try to force a piece where it really doesn’t belong and as you get toward the end, you have to remove it and put it somewhere else. Like practically anything we do, there are rules and guidelines for genealogy and if you follow them, it will make your research go more smoothly.
It’s important to know where you’re going, whether you’re just beginning your genealogical journey, or have been researching for a while. So here’s another analogy. Just like the GPS in your car, the Genealogical Proof Standard, or your genealogical GPS is an important basic concept. If you understand it, it will work for you and help you to be a more effective and efficient researcher.
The Genealogical Proof Standard was developed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists to help both professionals and family genealogists do sound research. Accuracy is key because you don’t want to get to a point where you have to prune all those “former ancestors,” from your tree. Those are the ones you’ve been researching for years only to find out they’re part of a different family!
So here’s a great New Year’s Resolution to help you with your research. Understand and follow the Genealogical Proof Standard.1 (By the way, while you’re on this site definitely check out the Skillbuilding section.)
A reasonably exhaustive search
Complete and accurate citations to all the sources
Analysis and correlation of the collected information
Resolution of conflicting evidence
A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion
As I write my blogs this year, I’ll be referring to these five principles and why they are an important part of your research.
1 Board for Certification of Genealogists, The Genealogical Proof Standard,