Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Drilling Deeper with Genealogical Proof Standard

Here is an outline of a presentation that I gave last night at the Humble Area Genealogical Society. I highly recommend that you visit the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists for more information on this topic: https://bcgcertification.org/ethics-standards/

Additionally, the following BCG website page that shows work samples can be used as a model when developing a genealogical proof: http://www.bcgcertification.org/skillbuilders/worksamples.html

The following text and images are extracted from my presentation entitled: Drilling Deeper with GPS: Case studies demonstrating the Genealogical Proof Standard.  I have added hyperlinks which will lead you to more information on particular aspects of GPS.

The Drilling Deeper Metaphor is appropriate for Texas because our oil industry is going back to these historic oil fields to extract every last drop.  Genealogists also need to "drill deeper" using the Genealogical Proof Standard as a guide.

Genealogical Proof Standard- GPS
Purpose of GPS: show minimums for work to be credible.
Five elements to GPS:
1. Reasonably exhaustive research conducted.
2. Each statement of fact has source citation(s).
3. Evidence is reliable & skillfully correlated and interpreted.
4. Contradictory evidence has been resolved.
5. Conclusion soundly reasoned and coherently written.
Any proof statement is subject to re-evaluation when new evidence arises.

Five Questions regarding the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS)
Q1:Who? A: Board for Certification of Genealogists & Christine Rose 2005 publication entitled (Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case)
Q2:What? A: Method for Solving Gen. Problems 
Q3:When? A: Prior to Publishing
Q4:Where?         A: Gen. Journals, Books and Online
Q5:Why? A: a) Accepted Standard to Build Solid Case, b) Indirect Evidence                                                          Method, c) Tool to Resolve Conflicts

Reasonably Exhaustive Search: Texas Online Records
Online Texas vital records
Portal to Texas History
Geography and Biography at Handbook of Texas Online
County records- clerk, district clerk, libraries, GenWeb
Texas taxation records
County appraisal district websites
and many more...

Reasonably Exhausive Search: Texas Archives
Genealogy & local libraries
History libraries
Regional archives
College & University Libraries & Archives
Church Archives
Fraternal Archives

Case Study #1: Buried in Colorado County:  Frank E. Little 1855-1908

Why was Frank Little buried in the Oakes Family Cemetery? What was his connection to the Oakes Family.
 • Historical Context
“ROCK ISLAND, TEXAS (Colorado County). Rock Island, on U.S. Highway 90A fifteen miles west of Eagle Lake and twelve miles southwest of Columbus in southwest Colorado County, was settled in 1896 as part of a land promotion scheme on the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. ..The town's original name was Crasco, after nearby Crasco Creek, but in 1897 the citizens successfully petitioned the post office department to change the name. Charles Petersen, a large landowner, renamed the town for the Rock Island Railroad Company. In August 1897 Petersen was appointed the first postmaster of Rock Island, and the old Crasco post office was closed. From an original core of thirty-nine farming families, the population of Rock Island had grown to 367 by 1904 and had reached an all-time high of 500 by 1925. ..”

Does "conduct a ranch" mean that he was a ranch foreman or did he purchase a piece of land in a land promotion scheme?
 • Reasonably Exhaustive Search: Oakes Family Cemetery
o Nine marked graves most related to John C. Oakes
o      There were no land records involving Frank Little so maybe the ranch foreman was the more reasonable conclusion.

John C. Oakes owned several parcels of land on which he was conducting ranch operations as shown in this tax record.

Current landowners might know more about the cemetery and the Oakes family history. The mapping function of the county appraisal district website offers some great images to help illustrate your family history and put the ancestors in a geographic context.

The is the outline of the original land grant held by John C. Oakes.

All of these images from the county appraisal district website offer interesting geographic details including this satellite view. The ownership information in the appraisal district database allows a genealogical researcher to contact the current owner for more information about the history of the property.
 • Reasonably Exhaustive Search:
o Appraisal District Land Records
Name of Property Owner
Mailing Address
Property Address
Wrote two letters with SASE & my full contact info
Asked for info on cemetery & Oakes family history
Both owners emailed back
Spoke to both owners on phone

There were no death certificates available for Colorado County in 1908 on Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org but Colorado County had these images from the original death ledger. A visit to the courthouse is an essential element of a "reasonably exhaustive search."

o Death Certificate
Earliest year available online for Colorado County death certificates is 1902. Then there is a gap in the records until 1909.
However, even though the online records show a gap for 1908, it does not mean that records do not exist
The Family Search Catalog shows microfilms of an index and death records for Colorado County Texas which includes 1908
Notes on the content of the film state: Microfilm of originals in the Colorado County courthouse in Columbus, Texas. Includes general index with some volumes individually indexed.
County clerk website offered a search for a fee. Call first!
County courthouse had a 1908 death ledger entry for Frank Little

For more information on the Frank Little case study, please read the following:


 Case Study #2:  Buried in the German Society Cemetery, Houston
Fredericka Brenner nee Eggert 1828-1901

The numerous birth dates and locations shown for Fredericka Brenner can be resolved by "drilling deeper" into parish records in Germany.

Grave markers may not always be the most reliable evidence especially if they are placed decades after the events. The German Society Cemetery known now as Washington Cemetery did not exist until the 1880s. Do not misinterpret interment dates as death dates. For example, Mina Brenner died in 1876 and was relocated to the new family plot in 1889. Henry August Brenner is known to have been buried in another cemetery.  The marker was placed recently by a descendant who was attempting to reunite the family after the fact.

The church burial record gives a place of birth for Fredericka Brenner nee Eggert as Steinke in Saxony. The parish records in Germany need to be searched to reveal the precise location and date of the birth.

It is helpful to include the page and column number in a newspaper citation. Unfortunately, this obituary record does not reveal the names of the "several children." Probate records also need to be searched to meet the "reasonably exhaustive search" standard.

For more details on the Fredericka Brenner case study, please go to this blogpost:

Case Study #3:  Murder in Stafford:  Rev. Robert S. Sloan 1858-1916

Obituary - 23 October 1916 Brenham Daily Banner-Press

Rev. Robt. S. Sloan 1858-1916
o 1858 Born near Washington on Brazos to Maria Jordan
o 1884 Constable Pct. 1 & active Republican
o 1886 accused as Democratic “bulldozer”
o 1892 Black Elephant Saloon
o 1892 son Sam death by train
o 1900 Baptist minister & financial agent for Central Texas College Waco

1892 Advertisement Brenham Banner

1903 The Democrat (McKinney, Texas)

Who Shot R.S. Sloan?

Frank Robinson Indicted 1917

Was he guilty?
What was his motive?

R.S. Sloan, Camptown Cemetery, Brenham, Texas

Robert S. Sloan is one of my favorite case studies and I have written about him in the following blog posts:




Building a Solid Case with GPS
The Process by Christine Rose p. 1
o Conduct a reasonably exhaustive search among a variety of records
o Determine the class for each piece of information within the record, i.e. whether it is
Direct or Indirect Evidence
Original or Derivative Source
Primary or Secondary Information
o Weigh each piece of data keeping in mind WHO furnished info & WHY
The Process by Christine Rose p. 2
o Evidence must all point in same direction. If not that evidence must be negated or refuted.
o If evidence points in same direction, & no other conclusion can be reached then case has passed GPS and is solid
o Write up the conclusion. Include an explanation of any opposing evidence and how it was resolved. Include citations.

Evidence Process Map- Elizabeth Shown Mills

A Metaphor for Genealogical Proof: The Jigsaw Puzzle- T. Jones, 2010
Do the puzzle pieces belong to your ancestor puzzle?
Do you have the puzzle pieces in the right place and in the right direction?
With a sufficient number of pieces, a clear picture or reliable answer may emerge even when pieces are missing.
Just as a picture emerges from assembled puzzle pieces, genealogical proof rests on the sum of evidence.

Summary Advice by Cimino
Question every date, place and name on any publication or original record
Look for the original source of all data
Look for every possible record source in online sites, microfilm, books, and archival repositories
Transcribe, analyze and compare every source record for every detail it contains
Write and re-write the story based on available evidence at every phase

For more information on Genealogical Proof Standard, please visit the following site:

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