If you had a birth record for a child that gives the date and place of birth and his parents’ names, would that be enough? Would you stop there or would you look for other records? I hope you said you’d look for other records and sources.
If you had a birth record AND a christening record and they have different dates on them, would you care? Which one would be right? I hope you said, “It depends.” It depends on the place and circumstances.
Would you like to know if your research measures up to the standards set forth by the Board for Certification of Genealogists?
The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) requires five steps. Let’s work through a case study as I describe these steps [see The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual for more information.] :
I asked the research question, “When was Michael Farrell born?”
1. “We conduct a reasonably exhaustive search for all information that is or may be pertinent to the identity, relationship, event, or situation in question.”
Previous research had informed me that Michael Farrell was born in Manchester, England about 1854. After searching for all types of records, I found a civil registration for his birth, a baptism record, one census, an immigration to Boston, Massachusetts, and his death record at age nine at Boston.
2. “We collect and include in our compilation a complete, accurate citation to the source or sources of each item of information we use.”
Civil Registration: England birth certificate, Michael Farrell, 1854; General Register Office, London. GRO 1854, Dec Qtr, Manchester District, vol. 8d: 131.
Baptism Record: St. Patrick’s, Livesey St., The Baptism Registers of St. Patrick’s, Livesey St., Manchester, 1832-1860 (Images with Index), CD-Rom (Catholic Family History Society, 2007) entry for Michael Farrell, born 19 Aug 1854, baptized 27 Aug 1854.
Immigration: Boston Ship Passengers, 1857, S. Curling, dated 19 Dec 1857 [the ship actually arrived 30 Nov 1857], ship entry no. 22; Massachusetts State Archives, Boston, FHL microfilm 2412294, item 4.
Census: 1860 U.S. census, Suffolk Co., Massachusetts, population schedule, Boston 7th ward, p. 136, dwelling 451, family 1129, Thomas Farrell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 Apr 2011); National Archives microfilm M653, roll 522.
Death Record: Massachusetts Archives, “Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841-1910,” digital image, AmericanAncestors.org (www.americanancestors.org : accessed 14 Apr 2011), Michael Farrell, death, Boston, vol. 176: 102.
3. “We analyze and correlate the collected information to assess its quality as evidence.”
The date of birth on Michael’s civil registration is 4 November 1854, but his baptism record reveals he was born on 19 August 1854 and baptized on 27 August 1854. Thus, the baby was baptized BEFORE the stated date of his birth in the civil registration! The information found in the birth record is what the parents have told the civil registration authorities. I’m sure the authority was not present at the time of the birth. I’m pretty sure the priest was present at the time of the baptism, but again, he’s relying on the parents for the date of birth. The baptism date is the only one recorded at the time of the event.
4. “We resolve any conflicts caused by items of evidence that contradict each other or are contrary to a proposed (hypothetical) solution to the question.”
According to the baptism record, the date of birth on Michael’s civil registration is 4 November 1854, but his baptism record reveals he was born on 19 August 1854 and baptized on 27 August 1854. I can resolve this conflict by arguing that England required the parents to pay a fee to register a child’s birth. The parents had a window of time to register the birth before the fee increased. If the parents didn’t have much money, they would have waited until near to the last day to register the birth before the price went up, or if they missed that window, they may have pushed the date of birth back to still be within the window of the first fee.
5. “We arrive at a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.”
Based on the information found in his baptismal record, Michael Farrell was born on 19 August 1854 and baptized on 27 August 1854 at Manchester, England. [I would then explain the conflict with the civil registration and my resolution for the conflict].
Now I ask you: Would your research have passed the test for the Genealogical Proof Standard? Have you used the Genealogical Proof Standard to prove an identity or relationship?