Friday, 21 March 2014

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group 2 Chapter 3 Homework

Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 6. 

[Book available from the publisher at 
Chapter 3: Genealogical Proof Standard Element 1 Thorough Research

Here is my take on chapter 3 which I shall look at from the angle of someone who has only researched in England and Wales.

To meet the requirement of the Genealogical Proof Standard for thorough research you must understand your area of research. This requires a knowledge of a number of things.

  1. The geography of the area, particularly at the time period when your family lived in the area.
  2. The records available for the area.
  3. The law as it affected the area.
In order that you can understand these you require a knowledge of where you can find what you need.
The major genealogy websites such as Ancestry, Find My Past and Family Search all have aids to finding what you need and the book we are using provides other pointers for research in the United States, but the links are not necessarily applicable to other parts of the world.

The importance of original records cannot be stressed enough and whenever possible derivatives should be replaced by originals. If the originals no longer exist then it is important to obtain the best independent records available and as such we need to understand the reliability of the records we use.

Maps can be a great resource to help us understand the movement of our families and any changes to the jurisdictions. Changes may be due to changes in the law and how the official records are kept.
We still find beginners asking about certificates, for an event before civil registration started in 1837, in England and Wales. Even after this date not everything was recorded, especially in the early years.
Understanding what can be found in the records is not something that can be learnt overnight and it is important to understand that the records can tell a conflicting story which means that your conclusion could be overturned at any time by new findings.

We all need to be open to possibility that our research may not have been as thorough as we would have wished, this is often down to the expense related to the research in both time and money.

Don't be afraid to make a conclusion based on what you have found, but be prepared to have it overturned if someone comes up with another piece of evidence, that conflicts and is more reliable. If you have the resources to do further research to strengthen or refute your conclusion, it is imperative that you do so, as none of us want to trace the wrong ancestors.

The following links might be of use if you are researching in the UK it is not a comprehensive list and I am happy to add any that may add things that I may have missed.

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