Genealogical Proof Standard
Many genealogists and budding family historians, only interested in pursuing their own family tree, have never heard of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS); and as professionals we need to change this. Not only are genealogical standards important as a reference when working for a client, they are equally important when doing our own family history research. If you believe that you have the correct details of birth for your ancestor named “John Lewis” from Swansea in Glamorgan, Wales, because his birth record (which you ordered) has the right age on it, and the right father’s name…AND…you have only this one record…then you are at a seriously high risk of tracing the wrong Lewis line; in fact I would put the percentage as high as 95%!
So how would you feel if you had done 5-10 years of research on your Lewis line, tracing it back to perhaps the 17th century, will all manner of cousins and others in between…only to find that you had been investigating the wrong ancestors? You would feel deflated and more. Yet this is a mistake that thousands, if not more, have made and keep making…because they do not adhere to any kind of standards.
And these standards are not here just for the professional as I said, but even more so for you as the lone researcher in your family, to ensure you go down the most accurate path possible. Is it fool proof? No, definitely not when we are dealing with records that are hundreds of years old, with variations in the spelling of a surname from one document to the next, and with potential to be completely incorrect if our ancestors were lying. However…if what you are researching and the documents you uncover are relevant to your ancestors, then the GPS will be the only thing that will keep you from researching the wrong person, line, family, occupation, passenger record, whatever!
Basically, if it doesn’t meet the standards then you don’t keep going until it does. Yes, this might mean you can only trace the Lewis family back to the 1841 census; for now. But better to have traced back to 1841 with accuracy then to trace back to 1741 without verification. If you are like me, and I would say that many of you are, then you want to pass down your family tree and all your research to your own descendants, or you want to publish it perhaps…and therefore you would be just as keen as I am to have made sure it was done right.
This 22 minute video by Christine Rose on the GPS is invaluable…as is her book, now in its 4th edition.