Saturday, 29 March 2014

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group 2 Chapter 4 Homework

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

[Book available from the publisher at 

Chapter 4: Genealogical Proof Standard Element 2: Source Citations

As with previous homework I have given this a slant from a UK researcher's perspective.

This is an area that I struggle with despite understanding the theory.
I think part of the problem is a lack of credible examples of recognized sources. Evidence Explained (1) barely touches on the sources that I have regularly used in my research and when it does I do not find the citations helpful, particularly as they refer to only one repository for information which may exist in more than one place.

Births, Deaths and Marriages in England and Wales from 1st July 1837 were recorded as Civil Registration events at a local level by registrars, or in the case of marriages performed in Churches or other places permitted to perform such ceremonies they were recorded by the celebrant. In all cases at least 2 registers were kept. Churches keep a record of marriages and send a copy to the registrar and the registrar sends copies of his register to the General Register Office. This makes for a high possibility of errors in one or more entry. It seems unreasonable, given the expense, to get copies of all entries, and even then unless they are a facsimile they are also open to error, so most researchers will gather a selection of certificates from originals to derivative copies made by a clerk copying an entry from a register.

My last statement makes it clear that certificates used extensively by researchers in England and Wales will not have a common source even though the information contained within should be identical. The importance of quoting the source correctly is more significant when considering the analysis of the evidence and the reliability of the source.

I have attempted to show examples in the shared spreadsheet for some of the commonly used sources, I hope to add more later, and would welcome any comments. I am unsure as to whether shortening some of the information would be acceptable but I have also included a link to a page I found on the website of The National Archives which I hope others will find useful.

  1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, Evidence Explained:Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd Edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007)

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