Archiver > TRANSITIONAL-GENEALOGISTS-FORUM > 2010-01 > 1264015350

From: "LBoswell" <>
Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify
Date: Wed, 20 Jan 2010 14:22:30 -0500
References: <>,<a06240805c77be21d1ffa@>,<12BFE09E3B3642C2A38A0D0FD531A61F@acer511eba12df>,<><COL108-W27FD598FD9B2D9B197EED392640@phx.gbl><><15E776ACFE614740902E3F0065B2A0BC@JackPC><><BB5D934E98294B2EA2F46845BD03CEBE@JackPC>
In-Reply-To: <BB5D934E98294B2EA2F46845BD03CEBE@JackPC>

I think you're weakening the concept of the GPS here. You're more or less
saying what I'm saying, that it's a guide. If it's a guide then label it
so. Let's call it the PRG (pro research guidelines) or something. Aren't
we misleading consumers when we say our research meets a Genealogical Proof
Standard? The inclusion of "proof" and "proof standard" clearly to me
implies something different than saying we adhere to Professional Research
Guidelines (which would be more honest a statement of what I seem to be
hearing about the GPS's purpose from these responses).

Isn't using the phrase "Genealogical Proof Standard" attaching something
more concrete (in the eyes of non-genealogists) to this set of guidelines
than they can deliver? And since it's an integral component of achieving CG
status, that creates a very uncomfortable situation. I don't accuse anyone
of trying to mislead non-genealogists. I'm saying regardless of the intent,
that may be the effect.

Such guidelines cannot rise to the level of serving as a Proof Standard, no
matter how rigorously followed. In other words, saying this research has
been certified by this standard. That's what we're essentially saying. And
yet no one mentions to the consumer that there aren't any peer review
processes ongoing for professionals (beyond the initial certification, if CG
is acquired). And no one points out that it's a standard that each of us
applies subjectively to our own research (and wink, wink, really it's just a
guide to good research, easy for us to remember and apply)

seriously though, is this something we should be implying as professionals?

it's how I see it, purely. Even beyond the weaknesses that it contains
(whether due to poor phrasing, or context)

I've taken down any reference to it on my own website.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jack V Butler" <>
To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 2:04 PM
Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify

> Uhmmm...okay, Jeanette, now I am a little confused. I understand that you
> provided the report as an example of bad reporting on the part of a
> "well-known genealogist." Trust me, while I have to have acknowledge that
> it is difficult to determine anything lasting without knowing what might
> have occurred before or beyond the report presented, I have no problem
> recognizing that being well known is not automatically a guarantee quality
> work.
> I also do understand that you believe that you have caught some well known
> genealogist in deliberate fraud - and that may be so, but without knowing
> all of the details, I certainly could have no opinion on that other than
> to
> wonder if the genealogist was ever asked about it. But given all of that,
> I
> fail to see what any of this has to do with inadequacies that you earlier
> described seeing in the GPS and that I asked you about?
> Standards such as the GPS are created for, and are only of use to, someone
> who is trying to the best work that they can. Certainly no standard will
> prevent deliberate misuse or false statements - or even shoddy use of the
> standard. If someone claims to use the standard, but does not, or uses
> it,
> but uses it badly, do you blame the standard? That would seem to me to be
> rather like blaming the multiplication tables because someone got the
> wrong
> answer when they did multiplication.
> As Michael Hait pointed out, the GPS is not intended as a line by line
> definition of superior research techniques. Quite the opposite, it is
> intended as the distillation into a few easily remembered guidelines the
> multitude of research and analysis actions that make up reliable research.
> I still await and look forward to your explanation of where the GPS fails.
> Thanks.
> Jack Butler
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Jeanette Daniels" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 1:00 PM
> Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify
>> Jack,
>> I was in the processing of finding such an example for this list.
>> It is pasted below. This report (parts removed so that it isn't
>> obvious who wrote it or the people involved aren't known) was
>> written by a "professional genealogist" who was highly
>> recommended to the _________ family. The ___________
>> family had hired another well-known professional genealogist
>> during the 1950s and 1960s (that I won't name but everyone
>> on this list would have heard of him/her.) The concern was
>> that the family wanted to make sure that all information
>> published in the ________ Family Book was correct and
>> also to find someone with genealogical research skills to
>> take their earliest lines back further from New England to
>> Great Britain.
>> This professional genealogist in his/her own mind believes that
>> he/she has written a report that would follow the GPS.
>> The following report was prepared by a “professional genealogist” with
>> very impressive genealogical credentials. The client had already hired
>> him/her to prove work done by others published in book format. Not
>> satisfied with the first report, the “professional genealogist” was
>> rehired to verify with documents that her first report was correct. This
>> is the second report that was sent to the client:
>> “______________ FAMILY REPORT #2
>> Goal: To determine if the lineage from Daniel _____, b. 1798 to Catherine
>> ________ is correct. Then it could be decided to continue the search on
>> with another researcher.
>> Research Log #2
>> #1 Beginning with the Pedigree Chart on the Ancestral File of the _______
>> family, this little chart helped determine if births and marriages were
>> correct so that we could be sure the lineage was correct. Some additional
>> sources were added to what I had previously found.
>> #2 The Barbour Collection of CT Vital Records: Prior to 1850 is a
>> wonderful compilation of vital records. It is composed of many microfilms
>> and very well known & respected. This is where ________ got much of the
>> early information for the _______ Book. It is alphabetized by the name of
>> the town and then alphabetical within it. I copied and highlighted your
>> family members and this way was able to have good proof of the
>> generations
>> of: Samuel, Ezra, Ephraim, b. 1746. There was no indication of the last
>> two generations: Ephraim, b. 1775 & Daniel, b. 1798 who were supposedly
>> born in Watertown. They are not listed (see Watertown copies) but there
>> is
>> no question that this line is legitimate. They are probably listed in
>> neighboring town's records.
>> #3 I included some e-mails from Shayna ______ (previous ones found in
>> Report #1). She suggests some additional sources to check, which are
>> included. Notice she says that he had located, John, William, and
>> Samuel's
>> parents’ grave sites, but not the 3 children's. I sent her a copy of
>> Beverley ___________s 6-page letter (sent one to Judy) and she was
>> looking
>> forward to getting it.
>> #4 The _______ Fam. of Middlesex Co., CT - John ______ Fam. By Lyle
>> ________ has essentially the same info, we already had. Of course, this
>> one follows our Samuel's brother, John.
>> #5 J. Montgomery Seaver's The ________ Genealogy is just a collection of
>> materials pertaining to well known surnames (I bought one years ago on
>> the ­­­­­_______ but it didn't really help me.) Notice the "Battle Hymn
>> of
>> the _______". This could be used at a family reunion sometime. On page 30
>> it does mention Catherine _____ & Mrs. _____ and their son, William.
>> #6 The ________ Register - Clearinghouse for _______ (which was published
>> only a few years) has mention of Catherine, but does say that her maiden
>> name was _______.
>> #7 Then to be sure it was included, have put the copy of Beverley _______’s
>> 1985 letter to Mildred _______ who I've e-mailed to. On page 2 this says
>> "Catherine ______________ (from Cueopp, Herefordshire, Wales, England?
>> Who
>> md. Thomas ______". This Cueopp is the Cuesopp, the place mentioned in
>> your _______ book. Most of the letter doesn't pertain to you.
>> #8 I copied part of the _________ Family book in order to highlight the
>> pages that had any proofs of the lineage. I'm convinced that there is no
>> problem with this lineage. It all fits nicely together. Jennie & the
>> others did a wonderful job!
>> Finally, a note concerning the hiring of a researcher. I talked with a
>> Utah Genealogical Association board member, Judy H_____, who knows of a
>> Karen _______'s business, ___________. She says that they have scaled
>> down
>> in recent years and don't have anyone who would be considered a New
>> England to England expert. However, she suggested another researcher
>> which
>> I would have no question in referring him to you. He is Preston ___,
>> _________________________. He _______________________. One of his
>> specialties is doing "on-site" research all over the U.S. Anyway, he has
>> moved from __________ to the state of Maine, where his wife was born. So
>> he has easy access to anyplace in New England and could check out CT
>> easily. However, since he is so good, he does charge more. He mentioned
>> that he would need at least $1000 to start a research project. If your
>> family can get the funds together, I would certainly recommend him to
>> you.
>> He certainly is a great researcher.
>> This report was given to me by one of my students. Hundreds of dollars
>> were paid to the "professional genealogist" for this report and the first
>> one. The student discovered through research performed during
>> a field trip to the Family History Library that the well-known
>> professional
>> genealogist that everyone on this list has heard of, fabricated some of
>> the
>> information in his/her reports. The earliest ancestors listed in the
>> ________
>> Family Book, based upon his/her research, didn't exist. He/she even had
>> done one of the oldest fraudulent tricks known - added an extra child
>> to the 1850 census list in order to make part of the genealogy work with
>> real information before coming up with more fabricated information to
>> make the family look like it had been taken back to the immigrant
>> ancestors.
>> We use this report in one of our report writing courses at HGC.
>> Jeanette
>> ----- Original Message ----
>> From: Jack V Butler <>
>> To:
>> Sent: Wed, January 20, 2010 10:23:59 AM
>> Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify
>> Jeanette,
>> You do seem to have a lot of interesting ideas. I am sure that I am not
>> alone in thinking that it could be very useful to see what you are
>> including
>> when you say that the GPS "although nice, does not cover everything
>> needed
>> to know that your research is complete". While I certainly hope that I
>> follow good research techniques, I am always happy to learn from others
>> in
>> the field. Please do follow up with an outline of those things that we
>> need
>> to know that are not covered by the GPS. I am sure that I am not the only
>> one on the list who would find it valuable.
>> Jack Butler
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Jeanette Daniels" <>
>> To: <>
>> Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 11:57 AM
>> Subject: Re: [TGF] To codify or not to codify
>>> Michael,
>>> Thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I have noticed that
>>> there are a few that insist on holding the GPS up as an
>>> absolute - meaning that there can be no deviation from
>>> what these particular people perceive the GPS to be -
>>> the all and only standard that must be used.
>>> If anyone has a different idea, it has to be discarded
>>> because it is different from the GPS. That is why we
>>> are having this discussion on the Transitional Genealogists
>>> list. For the most-part, this discussion has been very
>>> information and those that have differing perceptions of
>>> the benefits and problems with the GPS will continue
>>> to think the same way that they did before the discussion
>>> began, and those that think that the GPS is an important
>>> standard that should be held up to all genealogists as
>>> the only way to verify their genealogical research will
>>> continue to think that way as well.
>>> But, for those who are less experienced in genealogical
>>> research, having this discussion on the TGF will give
>>> them something to think about before their opinions are
>>> set. I personally believe that the GPS, although nice,
>>> does not cover everything needed to know that your
>>> research is complete. My problem has always been
>>> the "reasonably exhaustive search" wording.
>>> I don't believe that such a polite discussion would
>>> have ever been able to happen on the regular APG members
>>> and/or APG public lists.
>>> Jeanette
>>> ----- Original Message ----
>>> From: Michael Hait <>
>>> To:
>>> Sent: Wed, January 20, 2010 9:25:26 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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