Monday, January 25, 2016

Studying the Genealogical Proof Standard

I am going to start my new series on "Educational Preparation for BCG Certification" by saying that these posts are not just for those interested in certification. Anyone who wants to learn about becoming a better genealogist could benefit.

For the past ten years I have focused on educating  myself in the field of genealogy. It is a fascinating field where there is always more to learn. In this series we will explore all kinds of educational options, from self-study to webinars to genealogy institutes, and everything in between.

We will start with the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS), and then address each element of the GPS and the certification portfolio in future posts.

The Genealogical Proof Standard, as described on the Board for Certification of Genealogists website, consists of five elements:
  • reasonably exhaustive research;
  • complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item;
  • tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence;
  • resolution of conflicts among evidence items; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
This blog post focus on options for studying the GPS as a whole.

Informal study options:

1. Study how each element of the GPS contributes to the credibility of a conclusion on the Board for Certification of Genealogists website.

2. Study Mastering Genealogical Proof by Thomas W. Jones (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Socitey, 2013). When I say study, that is what I mean. This is not a book that you just read. It is a book that you read, ponder, discuss, and complete all of the exercises provided. This is one of the best educational options available, and all for $30.00 and a dedication of time. Tom Jones provides practical exercises for understanding and applying each of the elements of the GPS. Get out your highlighter, star the key concepts in each chapter, and challenge yourself to complete each and every one of the exercises.

The paperback book is available from the National Genealogical Society or Amazon, and the Kindle version is available here.

3. Study the book Genealogy Standards produced by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2014). Again, I do not mean just read the book. This one also requires study. This book is essentially a collection of best practices in the field of genealogy. You may need to look up terms in the glossary in the back of the book, as definitions may be slightly different than those used in other fields. You may choose to evaluate your own research process, and add or refine steps as described in the standards. If you apply for certification these are the standards you will be judged by, so be sure you understand each of them, and incorporate them into your work habits.

For further study consider the following:

4. Read Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case by Christine Rose, 4th edition revised (San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2014). Available from CR Publications.  

5. Read Genealogical Standards of Evidence: A Guide for Family Historians by Brenda Dougall Merriman (Toronto, Canada: Dundurn Press, 2010). Available on Amazon.

6. Listen to an interview with Christine Rose on the Genealogical Proof Standard in the Learning Center at

7. Read the article “The Genealogical Proof Standard: How Simple Can It Be?” by Thomas W. Jones from OnBoard, 16 (September 2010). 

8. Read the article "The Genealogical Proof Standard in Practice" by Melissa A. Johnson, CG in the January 2016 edition of the NGS Monthly. Members of the National Genealogical Society can access the NGS Monthly at

9. Listen to “The Genealogical Proof Standard: What It Is and What It Is Not,” a lecture presented by Thomas W. Jones at the 2011 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, in Springfield, Illinois. The recording is available through Fleetwood Onsite Conference Recording.

Formal study options:

10. If you would like to study the concepts in Mastering Genealogical Proof  with others, then consider joining a GenProof Study Group. These groups study the book chapter by chapter and then meet online to discuss the concepts and exercises. See more information at  GenProof Study Groups or to get on the waiting list for a future group.

11. Another option is to watch the recorded version of Dear Myrtle's "Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group" archived on YouTube. Here are the links for MGP1 (2013) and MGP2 (2014). 

12. In 2015 Thomas W. Jones taught a course called "Determining Kinship Reliably with the Genealogical Proof Standard" at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. This course may be repeated in the future, and if so, I will post about it. 

Feel free to comment on other resources you have found helpful in studying the Genealogical Proof Standard.

These are just ideas for you to add to your individual education plan as you choose. They are NOT meant to be a checklist where you have to read/study/participate in every option. 

I would like to thank my friend Debra Hoffman, who has agreed to be my editor for this blog series.


  1. Today the NGS Monthly came out with an article by Melissa Johnson, CG titled "The Genealogical Proof Standard in Practice." Melissa analyzes and article from the September 2015 NGS Quarterly by Darcie Posz, CG and demonstrates how the research and the article meet the GPS. If you are an NGS member you can access the article here:

  2. These are great! Thanks! Looking forward to future posts.

  3. I'm so glad you are tackling this project--just wish it came three years earlier when I started on the clock. I had no idea it involved so much by way of research reports and proof arguments. I started my research in Western MA with a mentor, and have been on my own for the past 9 years in Western NC. I'm hoping I can finish by my due date of 30 May 2016!

  4. Angela,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!