Genealogical Proof Standard

Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be accepted as “proved.”  — From the Board for Certification of Genealogists.

You may already know about the Genealogical Proof Standard. Here is a list of its five main requirements, as presented by Crista Cowan[1] (genealogist at Ancestry):

  • Reasonably exhaustive search
  • Complete and accurate citation of sources
  • Analysis and correlation of the collected information
  • Resolution of conflicting evidence
  • Soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

I try to use primary sources whenever possible. But even original documents, ones that seem to be patently correct, can end up being dead wrong.

Over ten years ago I found this interesting photograph in the archives of the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College:

FRONT.
BACK.

Of course I assumed this photo showed my grandmother’s unmarried sister, Edith Bunting, 1890-1960. (Now that I know better, I’ll admit that the family resemblance seems weak.)

Then the other day I was searching for documents related to Morgan Bunting[2]. He was another Bunting family genealogist, and a well-known architect in Philadelphia. His wife (who was also his second cousin, née Bunting) was Anna Miller Bunting.

Back in 1921, husband and wife could share the same U.S. passport when traveling together. Here are the photos from their joint passport:

Anna Miller Bunting and Morgan Bunting. Passport photos, 1921.

The woman in the photograph is Anna Miller Bunting — Edith’s and my grandmother’s third cousin, once removed (i.e., a distant relative). The photo in the Swarthmore Library’s collection was the same image provided for the passport, so now we have proof that this was Anna, and not Edith.


  1. [1]  Here is a link to Crista Cowan’s 7-part video series on the Genealogical Proof Standard. These are YouTube videos, with a combined time of approximately 3.5 hours. Amazon sells the definitive book on this topic: Genealogical Proof Standard (4th ed., 2014, 72 pages), by Christine Rose.
  2. [2]  Eventually my website will have a page for Morgan Bunting. Meanwhile, here is a brief bio, from a website called Philadelphia Architects and Buildings.

Tetramitus rostratus Bunting

Martha Bunting did extensive work with an amoeboflagellate called Tetramitus rostratus Perty. Her major paper on its life-cycle, published in 1926, brought her (briefly) to national attention, as articles about this work appeared in several newspapers around the country, including the New York Times. The title of her paper was: “Studies of the Life-Cycle of Tetramitus rostratus Perty.” It was 59 pages long, including 14 text figures and 5 plates (44 figures).* Her work appeared to show that tiny organisms can sometimes age backwards, returning to an earlier stage of development.

At some point after this (I’m not sure when or how), a strain of Tetramitus rostratus was named after Martha Bunting. You can still purchase a batch of this today, for your own experiments, from the ATCC Standards Development Organization: Tetramitus rostratus Bunting.


  1. * Journal of morphology and physiology. Vol. 42, no. 1, June 1926, pages 23-81.

Edith and Isabel Bunting

New pages have been added with information about my grandmother’s sisters: Edith C. Bunting (1890-1960) and Isabel P. Bunting (1892-1976). Both had interesting careers and never married.

Not mentioned in the articles — As a young woman Edith Bunting spent several summers working in Brattleboro, VT, for the Cutting family, as a cook and helper. (Edith was a trained dietitian.) The father in this household, Starr Willard Cutting (1858-1935), was a renowned professor of German at the University of Chicago, author of numerous books, who was born in West Brattleboro and maintained a summer residence there.

Also, both Edith and Isabel spent at least one summer working at Camp Wyonegonic, a camp for girls (which is still active today), in Denmark, Maine.

Charles Bunting

I’ve added a page about my great-grandfather, Charles Bunting (1863-1933), which includes one of his pen & ink drawings at the bottom.

Charles Bunting was trained as an engineer (Swarthmore College). He worked in the steel industry as a factory superintendent, and later supervised other industrial concerns. I’ve listed his employment history, as described by his sister, Martha Bunting. One oddity in this history was the year he spent working at Swarthmore College, during the school year 1899-1900 (or perhaps 1900-1901; the time frame isn’t clear), as superintendent of the school. This was clearly quite different from his previous and later positions. I believe that his duties were limited to financial supervision. (His cash book for the year 1900-1901 is archived at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College.) After this year he returned to industrial work.

Charles suffered from severe deafness in his later years. His condition was attributed to auditory nerve damage, from his many years of working in noisy environments. But according to Martha, although he was “shut out of much which would have given him pleasure and information,” he remained happy, “taking his affliction philosophically.” In fact he seems to have had an extremely pleasant personality. The eminent surgeon Edward Martin, who knew Charles for over half a century (they were friends at Swarthmore), wrote about him to Martha after his death: “This is to thank thee for thy letter bearing on Charlie, a heart of gold, a certain splendor in his attitude towards life, a joyous glory in service to others and complete forgetfulness of self.”

Helen Pyle

Here is a page about my great-grandmother, Helen Pyle (1863-1948). This page shows the general type of family history info that I want to publish: real stories, accurate genealogical data, transcriptions of original records, and images.

I forgot to mention that Helen Cyrus Pyle and her future husband Charles Andrews Bunting spent four years together at Swarthmore College, graduating in 1883. Her degree was in literature; his was in science (engineering). They were on the tennis team together. The “List of Class Presents” from 1883 shows that Helen received a “Sunday School Book” and Charles was given a “Potato Masher.” Charles and Helen were married 5 years later, on her birthday, April 12, 1888.

By the way, if you’re active on Ancestry.com, please check out my family tree: Bunting-Sheldon-Green. These 3 family names are the primary focus, but many other surnames are also there, or will be added soon. I’m trying to build a very solid tree, using lots of documentation (attached documents), with everything carefully checked and any discrepancies resolved. So far there are 91 people and over 200 attached records.

Quaker Influence in America

Recently added: The Influence of Friends on Colonial Life, extracts from an address delivered by Elbert Russell in 1922. It describes many of the important contributions made to American society by Quakers, during the colonial era and afterwards: the quest for religious liberty, the separation of church and state, “liberty of conscience even in matters of state policy,” the principles of democracy, equal rights for women, the ideal of peace (“the substitution of organized Justice, self­-government, and active good-will in place of warfare”), peace with Native Americans, and the fight against slavery.

Elbert Russell (1871–1951) was an eminent theologian and scholar. He was also a Quaker, addressing a group of other Quakers, in these remarks from nearly a century ago – please bear in mind that his observations may have been slightly idealized. It’s a good overview, however, and since the Buntings and many of the other people discussed on this website were Quakers, it is important to establish this context.

I’ve also added a short letter from Elbert Russell to Martha Bunting, dated May 7, 1942. He had very nice penmanship, but I have transcribed his letter anyway. (Note the use of “thee” and “thy.”)

Buntings All the Way Down

I’ve just added a definitive Bunting line of descent chart. It goes from Anthony Bunting and wife Ellen Barker (both died 1700) to the children of Charlotte Andrews Bunting and Sheldon R. Green.

This is mostly the work of Martha Bunting, compiled around 1935, here updated and slightly edited. Please contact me if you have any questions, comments, or possible corrections.

Martha in Biographical Dictionaries

Martha Bunting has been listed in many biographical dictionaries over the years. Here are 6 examples, carefully transcribed, spanning the 20th century. These vary in quality and contain several mistakes in the original documents, from trivial to important. Some of these errors were copied in subsequent volumes, like “photo”zoology, instead of protozoology (Martha’s main field), found in the 1994 and 2000 vols.

Who was Martha Bunting?

Yesterday I published Martha Bunting’s autobiographical sketch from 1935. It’s just over 1000 words long. This is the first time it has been published anywhere, either on the web or in print. It will give you some idea of Martha’s life and accomplishments. (Martha Bunting was also my great-grandaunt.)

Right now there still isn’t much actual content on BuntingTree.com, but more will be coming soon. For an overview of what this website is about, please visit the home page.