The Genealogical Proof Standard
Applications for certification are judged on whether they
meet the standards delineated in the
BCG Genealogical Standards Manual. All of its
seventy-four standards contribute to the level of credibility
in genealogy called the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).
As a result, genealogists who are certified have demonstrated
their ability to do work that meets the GPS.
Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to
merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must
have sufficient credibility to be accepted as "proved."
Acceptable conclusions, therefore, meet the Genealogical
Proof Standard (GPS). The GPS consists of five elements:
- a reasonably exhaustive search;
- complete and accurate source citations;
- analysis and correlation of the collected information;
- resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
- a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
Each element contributes to a conclusion's credibility
in a different way, described in the table below, but all
the elements are necessary to establish proof.
of the GPS
|Reasonably exhaustive search
- Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality
- Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence
will overturn a too-hasty conclusion
|Complete and accurate citation of sources
- Demonstrates the extent of the search and the
quality of the sources
- Allows others to replicate the steps taken to
reach the conclusion. (Inability to replicate the
research casts doubt on the conclusion.)
|Analysis and correlation of the collected
- Facilitates sound interpretation of the data
contributed by each source
- Ensures that the conclusion reflects all
|Resolution of conflicting evidence.
- Substantiates the conclusion's credibility. (If
conflicting evidence is not resolved, a credible
conclusion is not possible.)
|Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
- Eliminates the possibility that the conclusion
is based on bias, preconception, or inadequate appreciation
of the evidence
- Explains how the evidence led to the conclusion
Applicants for research-category certification are
required to demonstrate that they fully understand
the GPS and can apply it to research situations. The
parts of an application portfolio that specifically
test understanding and application of the GPS include
- CGSM applicants:
the kinship determination project and the conflicting
or indirect evidence case study
The GPS reflects a change from the term "Preponderance
of the Evidence," used earlier to describe
the high standard of proof BCG had always promoted.
(For further information
about this topic, click here
for information on BCG's decision and here
for a detailed article on this subject.) Case studies
in national genealogical journals, such as the National
Genealogical Society Quarterly and The American
Genealogist, illustrate the GPS.