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Your Guide to

Evidence & Proof in Genealogical Research
Source Reliabiliy and Citation

Evidence is the information we use to reach a conclusion. Proof is the reasoning that explains the conclusion. Some evidence is "direct"; for example, a birth record is direct evidence of the date and place of birth -- which is not to say it is always correct! Some evidence is indirect; for example, that same birth record may give the names of the father and mother, serving as indirect evidence that a marriage probably took place sometime before the birth. Proof is based not on quantity, but on quality and consistency of the bits of evidence.

Sources are where we find the evidence we use to form conclusions. We cite our sources to allow people to find and review the information. Excellent researchers can tell you the source of each piece of information. The rest of us do the best we can!


BBC. Genealogical Standards Manual. Provo, Utah Ancestry, 2000. (find in a library)

Mills. Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian. Baltimore, GPC. 1997 (there is now a larger, newer edition, but this much smaller edition serves as a good overview of the basics. HER NEW WORK much larger, much more comprehensive is ....
Mills. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. 2007. (find in a library)

Rose. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case. (find in a library)

Rubincam. Pitfalls in Genealogical Research

Articles in magazines:

"The Truth Behind the Family Legend" in Family Chronicle February 2007 pp. 12-15 tells several stories of how researchers tracked down the real stories behind the oft-repeated family lore.

Some online articles :

Dear Myrtle. Mythology vs. Genealogy

Neill. Organizing the Inconclusive with Discrepency Charts.

Neill. Euclidean Genealogy

Powell. Evidence or Proof: How to Apply the Genealogical Proof Standard to Your Family Tree.

What is the genealogical proof standard

Board for Certification of Genealogists. Genealogical Proof Standard. -- a chart that neatly outlines the elements of the gaps and lists the nature of the contributions to credibility inherent in each element. An older guideline was one called "the preponderance of evidence". The BCC explains why they replaced the older standard with the new genealogical proof standard. See also their article "Evidence Revisited: DNA, POE, and GPS."

Croom. Genealogists Guide to Documentation and Citing sources. A free e-book from an excellent professional. You will want to book mark it!

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This page last updated June 25, 2009