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:


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.

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