Genealogy Standards: A Must-Read Resource

18 Feb 2014

Back in 2000, the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) published the Millenium Edition of their Standards Manual. Fourteen years later, in honor of their half-century as  credentialing organization, BCG has a issued a new version: Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition.


Genealogy Standards


At one hundred nineteen 8.5×11” pages plus a five-page index, the manual was a brilliant help to genealogists everywhere, not just those who were certified or even seeking certification. The first thirty-five pages dealt with Research Standard, Teaching Standards, and Genealogical Development Standards. These were followed by eighty pages of examples. The examples were subdivided into seven appendixes with samples of all kinds of work.

For this edition, the standards have been updated and reorganized. As editor Tom Jones explains in the introduction:

“The number of standards has increased from seventy-two to eighty-three. The increase, however, reflects reorganization more than added material. Sections of multipart standards now appear separately.”(p. xv)

These new standards have been organized in a way that places similar subjects together:

  • Standards for Documenting
  • Standards for Researching
  • Standards for Writing
  • Standards for Genealogical Educators
  • Standards for Continuing Education

While the last two sections don’t apply to all genealogists, the first three certainly do. Each standards chapter is further subdivided into sections. For example, the chapter on researching has three subdivisions:

  • Planning Research
  • Collecting Data
  • Reasoning from Evidence

Each of these subdivisions has between ten and eighteen standards. Each standard is defined by one to five words. This is followed by a more detailed description of the standard. Most of these are fairly easy to understand, but some of them took reading through a couple of times for me to exactly understand them.

The large section of examples has been removed to accommodate a smaller 6×9” size for the book. They are now available to all for free on the BCG website. A few appendixes remain, including a glossary of terms used in the standards.

One very nice addition is the Evidence Analysis research process map that appears at the end of the book. It is reproduced from Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, and is an excellent overview of the steps we take in genealogical research.

One glaring omission is the index. The absence of an index makes it more difficult to find subjects in the book. One must read through the titles of the standards and hope one can find what one is looking for.

There is another area where I think the book misses an opportunity. One common problem for genealogists is knowing what to do when they feel there is nothing left to do to solve a research problem that still has no solution. Standard 18, Terminating the Plan, provides reasons for terminating a research plan, but it does not provide any assistance on alternatives to terminating, or how to make the final decision to terminate (by alan at dh tech).  Even Appendix C, which includes references to other sources and resources, does not appear to address this issue.

Genealogy Standards is an excellent resource for all genealogists, not just those seeking certification. By following these standards,  you will be able to  be more certain that the people you have discovered in your research actually are your ancestors, instead of simply people with the same name. The book is available from Maia’s Books. The pre-pub sale price of $11.95 is still showing on the website, so take advantage of it quickly before it returns to $14.95.