The Board for Certification of Genealogists, which
tests and certifies researchers in a number of genealogical
specialties, will no longer use the term preponderance
of evidence, heretofore widely used to describe
how genealogists analyze and weigh evidence.
Helen F. M. Leary, Certified Genealogist, Certified
Genealogical Lecturer, and current president of the
board, reports the conclusion of the board's governing
trustees that the term has been more confusing than
helpful. The board will still require applicants for
Certified Genealogist (CGSM),
Certified American Lineage Specialist (CALSSM),
and Certified American Indian Lineage Specialist (CAILSSM)
to demonstrate the skillful handling of complex evidence
problems. However, the board's literature is being
reworded to describe more specifically the manner
in which applicants are to demonstrate their ability.
The term preponderance of evidence
was originally borrowed by genealogists from
the legal system, where it describes the standard
of proof necessary in civil trials. However,
genealogy requires a level of proof for preponderance-of-the-evidence
decisions that is higher than the level applied
by the judicial system.
Adding to the confusion has been use of the term
to describe the resolution of complex evidence problems,
but without general agreement on procedures to be
followed or the degree of complexity the term implies.
These factors led to a board review of evidentiary
language and a consensus that the term should be dropped.
* Based upon a 17 July 1997 news release
by the Board for Certification of Genealogists;
Post Office Box 14291; Washington, DC
For more-specific distinctions between the legal
and genealogical uses of the term preponderance
of evidence and a discussion of the various manners
in which genealogists handle complex cases, see Elizabeth
Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG,
"Working with Historical Evidence: Genealogical
Principles and Standards," in Evidence:
A Special Issue of the National Genealogical Society
Quarterly, NGSD 87 (September 1999): 16584.