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Archiver > TMG > 2000-01 > 0948308717

From: "Mills" <>
Subject: Re: TMG-L: Last-word Evidence
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000 13:05:17 -0600

Frankie Lyles wrote:
> > I got the impression from one of your articles in the NGS
> > Quarterly, however, that you no longer supported "preponderance of
> > evidence" (September 1999). Did I misunderstand your article here, and
> > could you clarify your opinion? Thanks.

Then Frankie later wrote:
> I was referring to the NGS Quarterly of September
> 1999, page 169, last paragraph, and one of its associated footnotes.

> Fulfilling a long-overdue need, a specific standard of proof has been
> to cover the distinctive concerns of genealogical research. Terminology
> been refined to eliminate conflicts between genealogical applications and
> usage common elsewhere. (footnote 10) . . .
> (Footnote 10): The most significant problem in this regard was the use of
> term preponderance of the evidence--a legal standard whose genealogical
> was promulgated by the attorney Stevenson. However, in its legal
> the term stands for a low standard of proof: anything slightly more
> than not. Stevenson's genealogical colleagues, being unwilling to accept
> that low a bar, redefined the term to apply only to cases that hovered
> between the legal status of clear and convincing and that of beyond
> reasonable doubt. In 1997, to eliminate the conflict between legal and
> genealogical usage, the Board for Certification of Genealogists abandoned
> term, and most genealogical scholars have followed suit. . . . Then you
> referred to Christine Roses', What Happened to the Preponderance of the
> Evidence? (San Jose, California: Rose Family Association, 1998).

Frankie, perhaps I should have italicized that word *terminology* in the p.
169 phrase "terminology has been refined." Semantics are still the issue.
The legal field has long used "preponderance of the evidence" to mean as
little as a 51% v. 49% likelihood. The genealogical field adopted the term
but raised the bar drastically. Many people who came into genealogy with a
legal background were confused and not particularly happy over the different
standards applied to law's long-recognized term. So the term has been
changed. But there's not a nickel's worth of difference in the "old" (and
now often-quoted) definition of p-o-e that Lee Shepherd published in NGSQ
back in '87 and the GPS definition given in that '99 NGSQ article (and in a
predecessor in Ancestry Magazine in '98).

Beyond that, considerable efforts have been made, among those who publish
and lecture on the subject evidence, to standardize somewhat a number of
other evidentiary terms that, in the genealogical field, seem to follow the
Humpty-Dumpty standard of "the word means whatever I use it to mean" <g>. A
couple of dozen terms on which general agreement was reached was covered in
the NGS-Richmond conference syllabus under the special double-session on
evidence that Chris Rose, Helen Leary, and I were asked to do. If you were
there, you'll have the syllabus. If you weren't, a photocopy of the material
for that session can be ordered from the NGS Library or from the Allen
County Public Library, which offers a photocopying service covering any
genealogical periodicals in its holdings.


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