Foundation 1: What is Your GPS (the Genealogical Proof Standard) & How to Apply It?

The Genealogical Proof Standard is a series of steps outlined by the BCG (Board for Certification of Genealogists), which if followed, allows you to present your case provably as a combo Sherlock Holmes-Perry Mason (my analogy) in a repeatable, reconstructable scientific method. These steps are not just non-essential busywork (as you might mistakenly dismissively think), which is easily illustrated by the litany of “he said-she said” unprovable family-legend lore encountered by family historians who know the consternation of roadblocks when those precious stories are often contradicted by other branches of the family, or negative evidence in glaring evidence of supporting documentation. What do you do with those discrepancies? How do you solve them? Follow your research plan in GPS (Genealogical Proof Standard) format! The steps do flow consecutively, but can and often are, revisited concurrently when new data comes to light. These successful Genealogy Methodology steps (briefly) are:

1) Reasonably Exhaustive Search
2) Complete & Accurate Citation of Sources
3) Analysis & Correlation of the Collected Information
4) Resolution of Conflicting Evidence
5) Soundly Reasoned, Coherently Written Conclusion
6) A bonus: how to utilize Negative Evidence

Although there are many ways to learn this, one of the quickest and most concise is presented by my favorite online teacher, Crista Cowan.

The best online tutorials I’ve found for concisely teaching beginning researchers (and refining old seasoned ones) are by Crista Cowan, known online as the “Barefoot Genealogist.” When I first found her, about two years ago, I’d been surfing the internet viewing various webpages about ‘breaking through your genealogy brick walls.’ After more than three decades of researching on my own, I was open for any suggestions, including going back to square one and re-examining everything I had compiled over the years. At that time (2014) Crista had a channel by that name (Barefoot Genealogist) on YouTube containing about 80 videos. Crista Cowan is an amazing former hobbyist-turned professional from Pleasant Grove, Utah, who has been employed at since 2004 and who has prepared (as of 17 January 2016) 301 training videos in their Desktop Education Series which can be accessed either through the homepage in the Follow Us on YouTube link, or directly through YouTube. What is different about Crista’s presentations over any others I’ve watched, is her animated lilting (non-monotone) down-to-earth friendly & likable next-door-neighbor voice. I can listen to her for hours on end with great focus & attention — without drifting off to sleep as I sadly do with the majority of well-qualified others. The info just flows naturally from her without any halting nervousness. It puts the viewer immediately at ease. For examining the validity of your own family tree, her presentations are worth their weight in gold. Be aware, the channel at, has multiple playlists, Crista’s are contained under “ Desktop Education Series” (quantity 301) and “Genealogical Proof Standard” (quantity 7) which is the genealogist’s essential foundation to ensure reliablity and accuracy! Whether a newby, advanced, or pro, I recommend watching them all. It’s like having your own personal mentor and will help you identify any holes in your research or reasoning. Whether novice, advanced or professional, I recommend watching ALL of those pertaining to research methodology, even the ones titled Beginning, Tips, Mistakes, 101, Proving… Even though I’ve done research at an advanced level for years (unknowingly utilizing some of her recommended methodologies), her “new” eyes on the problem have enlightened my understanding and helped me see data with a new perspective enabling me to push through and over and around my various brick walls!

Though I’ve never met Crista, I’m greatly indebted to her, having benefited from her pointers, unashamed to get back to the basics! I believe she will be a blessing to you, too. It’s free training!!! Take advantage of it!!!

SOURCE 1: Crista Cowan, Barefoot Genealogist, at, tutorials at under “Genealogical Proof Standard” & “Desktop Education Series.”

By researcher, Rose H. Bonnell, 17 January 2016
Citation: This blog post is the Intellectual Property of Rose Herndon Bonnell, you may use it with my permission when properly cited.


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