Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SOURCES: Research logs are not proof arguments


Over the past few days, Suzi has been working hard on developing her research log, but there is a difference between a research log and the final proof argument.

Research Log - lists everything you've done to find info about an ancestor. You'll perhaps start with an ancestor interview and a compiled genealogy, then move on to abstracts or indexes of original records. If you are wise you'll then locate the original records on paper, film or fiche. A few documents may be available in scanned image format on the web. Some records may only be available in derivative form such as the published Pennsylvania Archives, where many of the original documents cited from the colonial period no longer exist. If the research log is kept in digital format it may be created in chronological order but can also be sorted by name, date, record type, etc.

Proof Argument - is the conclusion you write after a reasonably exhaustive search of extant records for the localities where your ancestor lived. We learned in the online Inferential Genealogy Course with Tom Jones, CG that sometimes we have to look at records over a 150 year period to find information providing evidence of kinship or identity.

Composing a proof argument is the process of inferential genealogy where you piece together documents to make kinship determinations, particularly where no single document has the information you require.

YES, write it out, just like you are explaining things to Ol' Myrt here.

You will be surprised at what your writing uncovers about the "completeness" of your research plan.

Even if you only place the proof argument in notes for the ancestor or family, it must be clearly written to demonstrate careful consideration of all sources of information in the kinship determination. See: BCG's Genealogical Proof Standard.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. Thank you for the reminder. I need to create a research log and, then, a proof statement for the project I'm currently working. I'm sure they will help me clarify some things for me.

  2. Not sure if you have seen any of the catch-up research logs I've posted, but I sort of make a "logical, well-formulated argument" for each fact I'm researching (birth, marriage, death, etc.) that isn't documented in a single source, per our inferential genealogy course. I plan to compile all those arguments into footnotes for my final "biography" for each person. The research logs have been immensely helpful in showing me new leads to pursue.

    I guess I should probably work on some kinship proof as well, huh? :)