Want to keep your family history research on course? Let the Genealogical Proof Standard be your guide to evaluating and citing research sources.
Many of today’s drivers rely on GPS technology to get from place to place. GPS units—global positioning systems—calculate the best routes and give step-by-step directions, even in unfamiliar territory. They advise you where to stop for lunch and instantly recalculate the route when you miss a turn.
Another type of GPS can guide your family history journey. The Genealogical Proof Standard
serves as a “genealogical GPS” that teaches basic navigational skills: how to plot your research course, track your progress, read conflicting sets of directions and share your journey with friends and family.
A screenshot of The Genealogical Proof Standard.
Once you’ve navigated your research path with genealogical GPS, you won’t want to be without it. And you might as well learn from the best: Here, follow three expert genealogists as they handle the twists, turns and potholes on
Rules of the road
Genealogical GPS gives you rules for the genealogical road to make your research journey less risky and, eventually, more rewarding. Just as it’s not always fun to drive within the speed limit, genealogical GPS isn’t built for thrills. Instead, it emphasizes the long-term joys of the journey: the unfolding scenery, time spent with ancestral traveling companions, and a safe and satisfying arrival at your destination.
The Board for Certification of Genealogists
developed the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) in the 1990s to help researchers navigate the newly constructed information highway. “The internet was booming and we faced old challenges in a new sense,” says renowned genealogy scholar and author Elizabeth Shown Mills. “There’s always been a problem of people not understanding what they found and passing it around, but the introduction of the internet exploded those negative consequences. … People coming into the field were overwhelmed by all they found. They needed a test they could pose.”
The GPS filled the bill, Mills explains, by offering a way to measure the reliability of all family tree data—whether found online or not. If the information doesn’t meet the five coordinates of genealogy’s GPS, you’re likely not to be in the place you think you are. Instead, you may have found incorrect information or even be tracing the wrong ancestors.