Tom Jones’ 2014 Course

Tom Jones’ 2014 Course

From Simple to Complex: Applying Genealogy’s Standard of Acceptability to British Research


Level: Intermediate to Advanced


Prerequisites:  Prior to class, three articles will be provided to study.


Course Description:


Through hands-on activities, lectures, and discussions, participants will learn how to use widely accepted standards to measure their genealogical work’s accuracy and to assess others’ genealogical conclusions. In the process they also will learn about genealogical research planning, its implementation, genealogical reasoning, and the preparation of credible genealogical products.


This course is based on the textbook Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Va.: National Genealogical Society, 2013), which is recommended for this course because it contains much more detail than the course handouts. Most of that exercises in the text use American research problems, but this course will use three articles applying the Genealogical Proof Standard to English research processes and outcomes. A few weeks before the course begins they will be distributed to course registrants to study.


Course Topics:

  • What is Genealogy’s Standard of Proof? – Provides a rationale for genealogical proof and an overview of the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS); introduces research and reasoning cycles that lead to acceptable genealogical conclusions.

  • Fundamental Concepts – Rationales for focused research; characteristics of effective research questions; categories and relationships of genealogical sources, information items, and evidence and their importance for successful genealogical research.

  • Thorough Research – The meaning of “reasonably exhaustive search” and its criteria; planning and executing thorough research.

  • Source Citations – Purposes and components of clear and effective citations to published and unpublished genealogical sources; types of genealogical citations; citations to sources examined via digital or other media; sequencing citation elements.

  • Evidence Assessment – Tests of analysis to determine a source’s likely accuracy; tests of correlation to determine likely correct answers to genealogical questions and to detect information errors and conflicts.

  • Assembling Evidence – How evidence conflicts and ways to resolve conflicting evidence of all types; assembling various combinations of conflicting and compatible evidence to achieve credible genealogical conclusions.

  • The Written Conclusion – Characteristics of effective genealogical proof statements, proof summaries, and proof arguments; organizing and structuring proof arguments; guidelines for clear genealogical writing.

  • Using the GPS – Criteria for assessing whether or not a genealogical conclusion should be considered “proved.”