Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2010-01 > 1264006632

From: "LBoswell" <>
Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2010 11:57:12 -0500
References: <>,<a06240805c77be21d1ffa@>,<12BFE09E3B3642C2A38A0D0FD531A61F@acer511eba12df>,<><COL108-W27FD598FD9B2D9B197EED392640@phx.gbl>
In-Reply-To: <COL108-W27FD598FD9B2D9B197EED392640@phx.gbl>

Those are sound steps (if clarified and expanded greatly), but they don't
represent all of the what good research incorporates. If anything they
serve to simplify what is actually a very complex process.

GPS says "do this", follow these steps (understand these steps) and your
research has met the level of a Proof Standard. Ok, now what can we do with
that. Say to the client, trust me, this met the GPS. How about if we
said, my research is periodically (and voluntarily) peer reviewed by my
professional colleagues. Now that would mean something (and not peer
reviewed to see if it meets "Standard" but in the way described previously).

If we just called those steps "advanced research guidelines" then people
would concentrate on enhancing their understanding of how to conduct sound
research that would stand up to peer review. The GPS doesn't add anything.
It's a very limited umbrella, or gives that sense. There are intermediate
steps, and it isn't often a linear (this, than that) process. You hinted at
some of the complexity when you pointed out that a new researcher wouldn't
be able to judge where he/she was in the line towards meeting this Proof
Standard because they don't know the record base, or factors arising in a
particular locale.

But for public consumption it looks like it does. And that I find to be

If it's just a name put on otherwise normal research procedures, than say
that. I'd have to think that calling it "Genealogical Proof Standard" is
implying that it is more than just this. More than a set of good research
guidelines and processes. Do you think it really represents a "proof
standard." It's a bit of a shell game I think.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Hait" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 11:25 AM
Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify

Would it make sense to say that I agree with both of you?

[I shouldn't have to qualify the following statements as purely my opinion,
but I will anyway.]

The Genealogical Proof Standard is an important set of principles. It is
true that experienced genealogists of a certain caliber already do each of
these "steps," and don't necessarily need to label their process. And it is
also true that beginning genealogists should hold this set of principles up
as a model to follow and strive to achieve.

Yet, in the hands of an inexperienced genealogist, the GPS can prove to be a
false sense of security. The first step -- the "reasonably exhaustive
search" -- is something that can only be achieved by an experienced
genealogist or a beginning genealogist who takes the time to learn
everything about the jurisdiction in which he is researching. How else
would one know when a "reasonably exhaustive search" has been completed,
unless one first knows what federal, state, county, and local records are
available and accessible, and what information is generally contained within
them? A beginning genealogist may know the basic, most common record
groups, and believe that his exhaustive search has ended once he has gone
through them. This very often leads to premature and faulty conclusions.

However, I would be surprised to learn if a professional genealogist worth
his title who did not:

1) search for the answer to a research question in _every_ available and
relevant record.

2) fully cite the source of every fact that is not "common knowledge."

3) analyze each record thoroughly.

4) resolve conflicts caused by contradictory evidence.

5) arrive at a “soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion”

This is the GPS -- whether you agree 100% with the wording or not, or
whether you agree with the need for its existence as a Standard or Rule or
not -- a set of principles by which sound research must be conducted. This
is not a one-time, step-by-step process, but a set of principles that
produce quality work when applied.

Another thread on this list (or possibly the APG list, not sure) describes
the "spiral" nature of research. This is another principle that applies:
that a researcher will evaluate a record, which leads him to a second
record, which then leads him back to the first with a new understanding.
This perfectly illustrates why the GPS cannot be viewed as a step-by-step
process. Some inexperienced genealogists do not grasp that it is not such a
process, and do not fulfill the "spiral" level of understanding -- this will
also lead to faulty research.

But this is why, in other threads on other lists, I have stated my belief
that genealogical education can only take one so far, and that actual
research experience was the true teacher. Some lessons are difficult to
either teach or learn by any means other than first-hand experience.

Michael Hait
Read the newest article: African-American Genealogy Examiner
LinkedIn profile:
> Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2010 08:35:43 -0600
> From:
> To:
> Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify
> Larry wrote:
> "for an inexperienced researcher who turns to the GPS for guidance in
> making research decisions, requiring skills that really only develop over
> time, with knowledge and skill acquisition, and experience, it can be
> inappropriately applied and used. It's one thing to learn from a lecture
> or
> a book, the hard part comes when you try to apply things to real world
> research, which is rarely cooperative or cut from the same cloth as your
> classroom examples. It imparts a premature sense of comfort in making
> research decisions that maybe wouldn't be made at that stage of skill
> development by an inexperienced researcher otherwise."
> I can say from my own experience that *any* tool given to an inexperienced
> researcher will be misused or overused, and only gradually integrated into
> a
> smoother and better research practice. That course of development could be
> taken as an argument against any tool or standard. But also from my own
> experience, I think that I'm better off having some specific tools and
> labels and approaches to go by and, yes, standards, even though I may come
> to see better over time how they fit into the overall picture.
> If someone could provide a specific example of how the GPS in particular
> leads to poor research practice, it would help me understand this argument
> better. Again, my experience is that it's easier to settle on a favored
> hypothesis prematurely than it is to do the necessary additional, and if
> the
> GPS serves as a specific incentive to amateurs and professionals alike not
> to do so, that would tell in its favor.
> Harold
> --
> Harold Henderson
> Research and Writing from NW Indiana
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