Genealogical Maturity

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Genealogical Maturity is a system of self evaluation and self improvement first proposed by the Ancestry Insider in 2009. The Genealogical Maturity improvement system measures one's understanding and use of the Genealogical Proof Standard and the associated Evidence Analysis Research Process Map. The system encourages improvement in five categories: sources, citations, information, evidence, and conclusions.


Terminology used in the Genealogical Maturity improvement system uses common, dictionary definitions. Definitions for the following terms are taken from the dictionary, with clarifications from leading genealogists.

source – 1. the origin that supplies information.[1] 2. “an artifact, book, document, film, person, recording, website, etc., from which information is obtained.”[2]

citation – 1. “citations are statements in which we identify our source or sources for…particular [information].”[3] 2. “a citation states where you found [the cited] piece of information.”[4]

information - 1. “knowledge obtained from investigation.”[5] 2. “the content of a source—that is, its factual statements or its raw data.”[6]

evidence – 1. “something that furnishes proof.”[7] 2. “information that is relevant to the problem.”[8] 3. analyzed and correlated information assessed to be of sufficient quality.[9] 4. “the information that we conclude—after careful evaluation—supports or contradicts the statement we would like to make, or are about to make, about an ancestor.”[10]

conclusion – 1. “a reasoned judgment.”[11] 2. “a decision [that should be] based on well-reasoned and thoroughly documented evidence gleaned from sound research.”[12]

Step 1. Self Evaluation

The self evaluation step of the Genealogy Maturity system consists of reading through the following five tables, placing a check mark next to each statement that describes you. There is one table for each of the five categories. Ignore row number and maturity level during the self evaluation step.


# Maturity Level Sources Check
1. Entry Typically relies on compiled genealogies.
2. Emerging Mostly relies on compiled genealogies and online sources.
3. Practicing Uses a limited number of record types and repositories. Mostly relies on online and microfilmed sources.
4. Proficient Uses a wide variety of record types. Often contacts record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.
5. Stellar Insightfully pursues research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a plethora of records and record types. "Burned counties" are not roadblocks.


# Maturity Level Citations Check
1. Entry Captures URLs for online sources and citations for published sources.
2. Emerging Increasingly captures necessary information for manuscript sources.
3. Practicing Typically produces complete source citations.
4. Proficient Gives complete and accurate source citations including provenance and quality assessment.
5. Stellar Overcomes limitations of genealogical software to create well organized, industry standard reference notes and source lists.


# Maturity Level Information Check
1. Entry Typically does not realize the need to judge information quality and has no basis for doing so.
2. Emerging Emerging realization that information quality differs. Muddles evaluation by thinking of primary/secondary sources instead of primary/secondary information, leading to muddled evaluation when sources contain both.
3. Practicing Judges information by source type, informant knowledge, and record timing. Applies "primary/secondary" to information instead of sources.
4. Proficient Additionally, learns history necessary to recognize and evaluate all explicit information in a source.
5. Stellar Additionally, utilizes implicit information in a source. Finds information in cases like illegitimacy that stump most researchers.


# Maturity Level Evidence Check
1. Entry Limited understanding of evidence and the role it plays. Typically ignores conflicting evidence.
2. Emerging Captures direct, supporting evidence and increasingly depends upon it.
3. Practicing Additionally, captures directly conflicting evidence.
4. Proficient Additionally, recognizes and captures indirect, supporting evidence.
5. Stellar Additionally, recognizes and captures indirect, conflicting evidence.


# Maturity Level Conclusions Check
1. Entry In the absence of analysis, reaches conclusions by instinct.
2. Emerging Learning to evaluate the quality of sources, information, and evidence. Emerging ability to resolve minor discrepancies.
3. Practicing Additionally, resolves conflicting evidence or uses it to disprove prevalent opinion. Usually applies correct identity to persons mentioned in sources.
4. Proficient Additionally, when necessary creates soundly reasoned, coherently documented conclusions utilizing direct and indirect evidence.
5. Stellar Additionally: Publishes clear and convincing conclusions. Teaches and inspires others.

Step 2. Inventory

Identify the first blank row number in each category table.  For example, in the Conclusions category if I placed check marks in rows 1 and 2 and no other rows, then row 3 is the first row without a check mark.

Write the first blank row numbers in this inventory table:

First Blank Row #





Step 3. Identify

Identify a category for improvement. The category can be the one with the lowest number in the inventory table, or another category of interest. Go back to the chosen category table. From the first blank row of the chosen category, note the description. The description identifies the skill or practice that you must adopt to advance to the next maturity level.

For example, if I chose the Conclusions category and row 3 is the first blank row, I identify that I need to learn to use or resolve conflicting evidence and I need to correctly identify persons mentioned in sources.

Step 4. Improve

Set a S.M.A.R.T. goal to improve in the identified skill or practice. A SMART goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

For example, to improve in row 3 in the Conclusions category, I might set a goal to ask a certified genealogist to recommend a book, article, or class that I might use to learn how to resolve conflicting evidence, and to complete this goal by the end of the week.

Step 5. Iterate

At the end of the time period for the goal in step 4, go back through steps 1 through 4 and set a new goal. Do this whether or not you successfully completed the last goal.

For example, if I completed a goal to get a recommendation on a resource for learning how to resolve conflicting evidence, I might set a new goal to use that resource.


  1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, online edition ( : accessed 23 November 2009), “source.”
  2. Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FNGS, FASG, FUGA, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 2nd ed. [hereinafter, EE2] (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009), 828.
  3. Mills, EE2, 42.
  4. Patricia Law Hatcher, CG, FASG, quoted in The Source, ed. Loretto Dennis Szucs, FUGA, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, FUGA, 3rd ed. (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2006) p. 24; citing “How Do You Know?” in Producing a Quality Family History (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1996), 117.
  5. Merriam-Webster, “information.”
  6. Mills, EE2, 24.
  7. Merriam-Webster, “evidence.”
  8. Mills, EE2, 822.
  9. Christine Rose,CG, CGL, FASG,, Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case (San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2005), 2.
  10. The Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG), The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual, ed. Helen F. M. Leary, CG, CGL, FASG, (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2000), 8.
  11. Merriam-Webster, “conclusion.”
  12. Mills, EE2, 820.