Brief Timeline of Genealogy Evidence & Citation

Sunday, 15 Feb 2009 | by Mark Tucker

As part of revising my presentation, Navigating Research with the Genealogical Proof Standard, I decided to create a timeline of some key milestones in the development of current evidence and citation standards.

A discussion about modern American genealogy cannot begin without first recognizing Donald Lines Jacobus.

“During his lifetime, Jacobus was widely regarded as the dean of American genealogists, and he is recognized as the founder of the modern school of genealogy in the United States.  On his death, he was described by his colleague Milton Rubincam, as ‘the man who more than any other single individual elevated genealogy to the high degree of scholarship it now occupies.’”  See National Genealogy Hall of Fame.

His many works include Genealogy As Pastime and Profession which was published in 1930.

In 1940, The American Society of Genealogists (ASG) was founded to “elevate the profession of genealogy to the same literary and scientific level enjoyed by history.”

In 1964, The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) was founded by a few fellows from ASG, members of NGS and others.  The purpose of BCG was to “set scholarship standards for professional genealogists.”

Noel C. Stevenson was a lawyer and genealogist who tried to bring principles of evidence from the field of law to genealogy.  He proposed that genealogists follow the principles of Preponderance of the Evidence, a standard used in civil cases.  For the next two decades, genealogists used the POE although with a higher standard than used in law.

One of Stevenson’s important works was Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History which was published in 1979.

Also in 1979, Gary B. and Elizabeth Shown Mills wrote an article for The Genealogical Helper titled, “How to Properly Document Your Research Notes.”  This helped spawn the idea of writing a citation guide specifically for genealogists.  Richard S. Lackey took up the project and published Cite Your Sources in 1980.

In 1997, the BCG dropped the use of POE and adopted the Genealogical Proof Standard. In that same year, Elizabeth Shown Mills published an updated citation guide, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.  In 2000, the BCG published the GPS in the BCG Standards Manual.

In 2001, Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians was published with Elizabeth Shown Mills as editor.

In 2007, Elizabeth Shown Mills’ work, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, is published – almost 30 years from that first citation article published in The Genealogical Helper.  The first article was 5 pages whereas Evidence Explained contains 885 pages.

I am open to any other suggestions of what to include on this timeline.

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Mark, I have tired to get in touch with you for a quite a while. I don’t know of you re getting my messages but I will try once again. Among the things I want to talk to you about, beside the fact that we both live in Arizona, is that I am research my Tucker line. Can you tell me if your Tuckers were from New York in the early 1800s?



    Comment by Daniela Moneta — 10 Oct 2010 @ 12:27 pm

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