Genealogical Proof StandardNov 1st, 2008 | By Leonard Legends & Legacies | Category: How-To
Thank you, thank you, thank you for your help in compiling a list of Who’s Who among Leonard researchers! You’re forever immortalized in the article over there on the right… called, uh, “Who’s Who.” If you’re not there, it’s because you didn’t speak up! Drop me a line and I’ll add you to the list.
I can’t say that I’ve been any more productive along Leonard lines this month than I was last. I have, in fact, been pursuing my wife’s family for the past several weeks. I’ve met some new researchers in that pursuit, and I’ve been reminded of the importance of genealogical sources.
I stumbled into my wife’s family history directly from my Family Tree Maker software. I had entered her parents’ and grandparents’ names as a matter of course and, in a moment of weakness, clicked the Search Web Resources button. If you’re not familiar, it’s a button that connects FTM directly to Ancestry.com and automatically searches for information matching what you’ve already entered. It’s a double-edged sword.
I’ve been a member of Ancestry.com for a number of years and I truly appreciate the ease with which I can search federal, state, and local census reports anywhere in the country. And I love the birth-death-marriage records they make available online. In fact, there are dozens of databases available for inspection. That’s the good stuff. What I’m not so crazy about, are the user-submitted family trees.
There are way too many family trees on Ancestry that are simply copied from another family tree on Ancestry, without regard to accuracy. That’s not to suggest the people who submit are in any way dishonest or careless, because they’re not. But they may not be aware of the significance an error can have. For example…
I had a great aunt, fantastic lady and awesome story-teller. Unfortunately, she was a bit sensitive about her own age. Her birth records were destroyed in a fire and she had “fudged” her age for so long and in so many places that when it came time to collect Social Security, she couldn’t prove she was eligible!
Here’s another, more recent example… I submitted a family tree, years ago, before I had any real training or experience at family history. That tree included an error in my great-grandmother’s birth date. She, too, had “fudged” her age in a few places. I finally got it right, and fixed my online tree, but it was too late. My error had been copied out to at least a dozen other sites.
Here’s the question…. How many times does an error get repeated before it becomes a “fact?” Don’t laugh. Here’s my last example… Who said, “Play it again, Sam?” If you answered “Humphrey Bogart in the movie Casablanca”, you would be wrong. The line was never uttered. A reviewer, years after the movie came out, erroneously cited “Play it again” as a classic line and to this very day… we believe it.
My point is this, there’s this thing called the Genealogical Proof Standard and it’s very specific about what’s good genealogical evidence and what’s not. I fully intended to spell out some of the details of the GPS in this article, but I’ve already wasted enough of your time. You’ll find a nice summary on About.com, or you can pick up a copy of Christine Rose’s excellent primer on the GPS at Amazon.com for between 5-10 bucks. It’s called, uh, Genealogical Proof Standard.
And worth every penny.