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Genealogical Standards

Standards For Sound Genealogical Research
Recommended by the National Genealogical Society

Remembering always that they are engaged in a quest for truth, family history researchers consistently—

  • record the source for each item of information they collect.
  • test every hypothesis or theory against credible evidence, and reject those that are not supported by the evidence.
  • seek original records, or reproduced images of them when there is reasonable assurance they have not been altered, as the basis for their research conclusions.
  • use compilations, communications and published works, whether paper or electronic, primarily for their value as guides to locating the original records.
  • state something as a fact only when it is supported by convincing evidence, and identify the evidence when communicating the fact to others.
  • limit with words like "probable" or "possible" any statement that is based on less than convincing evidence, and state the reasons for concluding that it is probable or possible.
  • avoid misleading other researchers by either intentionally or carelessly distributing or publishing inaccurate information.
  • state carefully and honestly the results of their own research, and acknowledge all use of other researchers’ work.
  • recognize the collegial nature of genealogical research by making their work available to others through publication, or by placing copies in appropriate libraries or repositories, and by welcoming critical comment.
  • consider with open minds new evidence or the comments of others on their work and the conclusions they have reached.

©1997 by National Genealogical Society. Permission is granted to copy or publish this material provided it is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.

Standards For Use Of Technology In Genealogical Research
Recommended by the National Genealogical Society

Mindful that computers are tools, genealogists take full responsibility for their work, and therefore they—

  • learn the capabilities and limits of their equipment and software, and use them only when they are the most appropriate tools for a purpose.
  • refuse to let computer software automatically embellish their work.
  • treat compiled information from on-line sources or digital data bases like that from other published sources, useful primarily as a guide to locating original records, but not as evidence for a conclusion or assertion.
  • accept digital images or enhancements of an original record as a satisfactory substitute for the original only when there is reasonable assurance that the image accurately reproduces the unaltered original.
  • cite sources for data obtained on-line or from digital media with the same care that is appropriate for sources on paper and other traditional media, and enter data into a digital database only when its source can remain associated with it.
  • always cite the sources for information or data posted on-line or sent to others, naming the author of a digital file as its immediate source, while crediting original sources cited within the file.
  • preserve the integrity of their own data bases by evaluating the reliability of downloaded data before incorporating it into their own files.
  • provide, whenever they alter data received in digital form, a description of the change that will accompany the altered data whenever it is shared with others.
  • actively oppose the proliferation of error, rumor and fraud by personally verifying or correcting information, or noting it as unverified, before passing it on to others.
  • treat people on-line as courteously and civilly as they would treat them face-to-face, not separated by networks and anonymity.
  • accept that technology has not changed the principles of genealogical research, only some of the procedures.

©1997 by National Genealogical Society. Permission is granted to copy or publish this material provided it is reproduced in its entirety, including this notice.

Standards For Using Records Repositories And Libraries
Recommended by the National Genealogical Society

Recognizing that how they use unique original records and fragile publications will affect other users, both current and future, family history researchers habitually—

  • are courteous to research facility personnel and other researchers, and respect the staff’s other daily tasks, not expecting the records custodian to listen to their family histories nor provide constant or immediate attention.

  • dress appropriately, converse with others in a low voice, and supervise children appropriately.

  • do their homework in advance, know what is available and what they need, and avoid ever asking for "everything" on their ancestors.

  • use only designated work space areas, respect off-limits areas, and request permission before using photocopy or microform equipment, asking for assistance if needed.

  • treat original records at all times with great respect and work with only a few records at a time, recognizing that they are irreplaceable and that each user must help preserve them for future use.

  • treat books with care, never forcing their spines, and handle photographs properly, preferably wearing archival gloves.

  • never mark, mutilate, rearrange, relocate, or remove from the repository any original, printed, microform, or electronic document or artifact.

  • use only procedures prescribed by the repository for noting corrections to any errors or omissions found in published works, never marking the work itself.

  • keep note-taking paper or other objects from covering records or books, and avoid placing any pressure upon them, particularly with a pencil or pen.

  • use only the method specifically designated for identifying records for duplication, avoiding use of paper clips, adhesive notes, or other means not approved by the facility, unless instructed otherwise, replace volumes and files in their proper locations, before departure, thank the records custodians for their courtesy in making the materials available.

  • follow the rules of the records repository without protest, even if they have changed since a previous visit or differ from those of another facility.

©1997 by National Genealogical Society; includes material ©1995 by Joy Reisinger, CGRSSM. Both copyright owners grant permission to copy or publish these standards, provided they are reproduced in their entirety, including this notice.
National Genealogical Society, 4527 17th Street North, Arlington, VA 22207-2399
Tel. (703) 525-0050 or (800) 473-0060