Everyone is familiar with the multitude of devices equipped with a Global Positioning System. The Global Positioning System helps keep us on course and avoid confusing twists and turns in our travels. While this kind of GPS is often a key part of most genealogists’ kit, there are a number of amateur family historians who aren’t familiar with the other equally important kind of GPS — the Genealogical Proof Standard.
For those who haven’t heard of the Genealogical Proof Standard, it is a set of guidelines used by genealogists that keeps us on course and helps us navigate the often complicated web of relationships and evidence that we run across in our searches.
When asking the ultimate question, “How can I prove (or disprove) that I have a Native American ancestor?” this GPS should be your guide. Let’s examine the Standard in more detail.
The Genealogical Proof Standard is composed of five guidelines:
1. Reasonably exhaustive research has been conducted.
2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
3. The evidence is reliable and has been skillfully correlated and interpreted.
4. Any contradictory evidence has been resolved.
5. The conclusion has been soundly and coherently written.
The statements that I have placed in bold are areas where I see a lot of searches for Native ancestors fail or result in bad conclusions. Many times those bad conclusions are passed on to other researchers as fact and once ingrained in the consciousness of a group of family members, these falsehoods prove difficult to correct when new evidence is uncovered.
If I had to sum up the impact of the Genealogical Proof Standard on Native family research, I would say that you should always be critical when evaluating information (especially family stories), always document the source(s) of that information and make sure you look at all the information on an ancestor before you make a determination about that person’s ancestry.
After all, it’s all about working smarter, not harder and avoiding bad information or poor conclusions is a smart thing to do.
Like its technological namesake, the family historian’s GPS will help keep your search on a clear path and save you a lot of wasted time and energy that comes from driving in the wrong direction.