This is the third of a three-part series exploring how to use the genealogical proof standard in your family history research. Read part one here, and read part two here.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve explored the genealogical proof standard (GPS), an essential tool that all genealogists should have in their toolbox. In last week’s article, we took a deeper look at the first three steps of the standard: (1) conduct reasonably exhaustive research, (2) check your facts and cite your sources, and (3) analyze and correctly interpret the evidence.
This article focuses on the final two steps of the genealogical proof standard: resolve contradictory evidence and coherently write research findings.
Resolve Any Contradictory Evidence
“The standard is about putting together and weaving and threading and knitting different disparate items of information and evidences into a conclusion that will stand on its own,” said professional genealogist James Ison at the 2016 RootsTech conference.
Of all the steps in the GPS, this step can be one of the easiest to overlook. We’ve all found mismatching evidence at some point in our research, haven’t we? When this happens, it can be convenient to simply discount the bits of information that don’t seem to align with your gut feeling—but that wouldn’t be in line with the GPS.
The most successful researchers understand and anticipate contradictory evidence. They acknowledge, evaluate, and attempt to provide answers for each variation, demonstrating their analytical and reasoning skills. Certified genealogistHarold Henderson wrote about the importance of paying attention to contradictions: “Contradictions are to genealogists what dust bunnies are to house cleaners. They may annoy us, but they are also an important part of our life. And in both cases, to sweep them under the rug would betray our calling.”