What is Proof?
Proof in the genealogical sense, is nothing more than reliable evidence, preferably from multiple sources, about
whatever you are trying to prove. This can be for an event: a birth, a christening, a marriage, a death. It can
be for a name. It can be for a location. Proof can be a little subjective, but the quality of the evidence is
your only way to know that your information is correct.
Knowing what is reliable can be a little tricky, but keep the following points in mind. This is by no means a
comprehensive discussion of genealogical proof, but it should help you to get started.
- The best proof is an original, official document of the event, created at the time of the event by a person
who witnessed the event.
- For other information, like names and locations, some document created at the time the naming or change of
location took place is best, but other documents are also useful for corroboration.
- Although copies of official documents can be used, beware of forgeries or unintentional mistakes made
during copying. Photocopies are less susceptible to copy errors if they are clear, but they can still be
- All other records are secondary and should be treated as less reliable. This includes published genealogies,
histories of an area, and other such works.
- Published genealogies, while useful, should be met with some scepticism. Many, especially those created by
well-respected genealogists, are highly reliable, but they may still contain errors, either from insufficient
information or from (perhaps unconscious) bias.
- Finally, take almost all online genealogies with a grain of salt. The attention paid to reliability will
vary wildly. Use these only as starting points.