Genealogical Standards are Specific and Vague

from 13 March 2014 on our old blog site

I’m still reading Genealogy Standards. Reading it again is perhaps a more accurate word.

It is important for those who purchase the book, either as a part of their certification process or just as a part of their own genealogical education, that they remember what the Genealogy Standards is not. It is not a complete how-to book. It is not a list of sources. The Genealogy Standards is a list of benchmarks against which genealogical research is to be measured and compared.

It is not a specific how-to guide, but standards guidelines in any profession are not usually how-to guides. That’s what classes and other trainings are for. It’s short and to the point, more in the sense of reminders for what a researcher should be doing instead of a specific list of sources to check.

I don’t read Genealogy Standards with the intent of seeing a list of suggestions that will help me with my Rufus D. Stephens, my Benjamin Butler, or my Hinrich Mueller. However, as I read the standards, particularly the ones in regards to documentation and research, I should be asking myself:

  • have I done that when I researched?
  • have I analyzed each piece of information that I already have?
  • was I thinking about those writing suggestions when I put together a summary of my research?
There’s more to the standards than that, but it’s a start.
The writing standards are helpful even if the only person for whom you are writing is yourself.
If there is something in the Genealogy Standards that you do not understand, ask or post the question to a mailing list or a genealogical research group. There may even be a definition for a term with which you do not agree entirely (I personally don’t view evidence as the “answer,” tentative or otherwise [p. 67 Genealogy Standardsto a question, but that’s a subject for another post). It is ok if you don’t agree with everything. Your genealogical world will not end. Standards are standards, not edicts. My personal view point of the Genealogy Standards is that reading them can enhance your research.
It’s also my personal view point that concern about standards, research accuracy, and documentation does not make one an “elitist genealogist.” Elitist genealogists are ones who do not want to admit their conclusions may be incorrect and who refuse to listen to others. That attitude has absolutely nothing to do with reading the Genealogy Standards.

3 thoughts on “Genealogical Standards are Specific and Vague

  1. You mention Benjamin Butler in your searches….I am related to and am doing research on the Butler’s, including the “Benjamins”!

    I am definitely going to read this book. Although I document my sources, I have never been taught the correct way to analyze or write about them (although I think my research is pretty thorough). Thank you for this post!

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