I picked up Tom Jones new book Mastering Genealogical Proof when I was at the NGS conference and started reading it seriously tonight. I’ve read through the text of chapter 2 and so far the book is real good. The goal of the book is to teach one good practices and sound reasoning to make solid genealogical proofs. Remember that something isn’t true in genealogy just because it shows up in a record, it has to be weighed against all the other things you can find out and these things need to be documented and assembled into a proof report. This book explains that process, based on the Genealogical Proof Standard.
Before getting into the first part of the GPS, the reasonably exhaustive search, Jones defines some basic terms and then gets into a discussion of the different levels of sources, information, and evidence. This chapter was very valuable, and while I know the concepts, some of the examples he gave explained things I wasn’t sure about. For example, genealogy books, family histories, and articles are not considered derivative sources, as I had always assumed. The information in the sources is the result of the author’s own analysis, so such sources are generally considered original. He credits Elizabeth Shown Mills for explaining this distinction on the Evidence Explained web site. I have heard that before, but not explained as well as in the book so now I understand it better. Having said that, I’m not sure I agree. Derivative sources are generally (but not always) considered inferior to original ones, and I’m not sure why I should give more credence to someone’s article than to a transcribed document. Either way the authored work is derived from other records, as long as the author is not making things up in their head.
Another helpful example was that of someone providing their birthday. This is considered secondary information, as someone had to tell them when they were born.
Because of Jones’ teaching experience, he has provided a good set of examples to illustrate his points, which is very helpful. He does this succinctly and clearly.
Another feature of the book is that each chapter ends with exercises, so you can put what you have learned into practice. I’m now on the exercises for chapter 2, which include reading two of his articles from the appendix.
In spite of my disagreement with the one example, I’m so far very pleased with the book. By explaining the whys behind good genealogical practice and giving clear examples this book is very helpful. I look forward to reading the rest of it.