Monday, April 29, 2013

Tuesday’s Tip – Reasonably Exhaustive Search

How many times have we been instructed to use the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) when doing our genealogy research?  How many of us follow this five-step method?  No need to respond.

Although I have a copy of The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, I am in the guilty column; consequently I can’t get enough of these sessions when attending NERGC.  The recent conference held in Manchester, NH offered several options for learning to utilize the GPS.

The first session was presented by Laura Murphy DeGrazia, CG, FGBS where she posed the question, “what is a reasonably exhaustive search?”

The GPS is a set of criteria to prove a statement is true. The criteria help us to evaluate the credibility of information found.  The GPS is not to be used as we research, but instead in the evaluation of our conclusions. Is the conclusion adequately proven? Is there conflicting information that needs to be resolved? What is the quality of the sources we have used?  Research is done when we feel we have enough evidence to support a conclusion.

To achieve this goal:
Every statement of fact is cited;
Resolve any conflicting information;
Utilize a timeline of sources – BMD, Census, Will, Deed, Directories;
Look beyond the person of interest – families might give you information;
Consider the relevance of sources;
Practice makes perfect;
Read, read, read journals.

Laura deGrazia’s Warning Signs:
Did I conduct research solely or primarily in derivative sources?
Did I fail to locate records that provide primary information related to the problem?
Did I exclude extended family members and associates from my research?
Did I limit research to two or three classes of sources?

Your research is tested when you write your conclusion. This proof summary will help reveal any gaps you might have.

The Board for Certification of Genealogists, Standards Manual, states the five steps of the Genealogical Proof Standard:
1.     Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search in reliable sources from all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question;
2.     Collect and include a complete accurate source citation…;
3.     Analyze and correlate the collection information to assess its quality as evidence;
4.     Resolve conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other…;
5.     Write a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

The next session I will report on will be of Warren Bittner's Complex Evidence: What it is; how it work; why it matters. 


  1. Thank you for this post, Mary. This is exactly the kinds of things I would hope "Official Bloggers" would write about after attending a conference (as I suggested in a recent post on my blog). I love learning, even if it is second-hand and abbreviated. Thank you for bringing a small part of the conference to me.

  2. Nancy, I, too, love learning. I love learning how to document the correct way so present and future genealogists will know how reliable my information is.