How Do I Prove It?

Creating a family pedigree chart is easy. Creating an accurate pedigree, properly analyzed and backed with evidence is less easy, and sometimes downright difficult. However, who wants a pedigree chart full of errors? Who wants to spend time tracing down ancestors only to learn a mistake took the researcher down the wrong path, wasting countless time and energy?

Genealogy is a science, and like any science it has standards and procedures. Learning and following these standards does not require a PhD, but a little knowledge can go a long way towards maintaining pedigree accuracy. “Are you picking your ancestors out of a Hat? Or have you really proved each linkage? How Do I Prove It? 3rd Edition, by Dr. Penelope Christensen, attempts to resolve this conflict, helping the researcher accurately document their family’s history.

How Do I Prove It? is a practical guide for family historians, which, “demystifies the requirements necessary for establishing a pedigree.” This book provides the researcher with a professional approach to research without complicating the issue to a level impractical application. In other words, learn to take the scientific approach to research with the same ease as a beginner’s course in genealogy.

The guide is broken into three sections; theoretical background, practical techniques, and problem solving. The theory section provides definitions, concepts and seasoned advice on the nature of proof with discussion on information and sources. Practical techniques is about identifying and solving research problems. The final section, problem solving, helps researchers resolve specific difficulties as they come along.

How Do I Prove IT? is book 19 in The Heritage Book Series. This series represents a collection of professional genealogical guides published in Canada. As a Canadian genealogy guide many of the research examples are represented using Canadian vital records. However, this does not diminish the value of the techniques taught in the book. Regardless of which organization or government issues a records, the evaluation process remains the same.


Table of Contents

How Do I Prove IT?


Meaning of Proof

  • Concepts of Face, Deduction & Assumption
  • Necessary Proof or Sufficient Proof?
  • What is Proof in Genealogy?
  • Three Linkages
  • CHART 1: The Three Pedigree Linkage

Required Level of Proof in Genealogy

  • Preponderance of Evidence
  • Beyond Reasonable Doubt
  • The Genealogical Proof Standard

Source, Information & Evidence

  • Physical Types of Sources
  • Reliability Categories of Sources
  • CHART 2: Categories of Genealogical Sources
  • CHART 3: Five Main Original Sources of Genealogical Information
  • Reliability of Sources
  • Reliability of Civil Registration
  • CHART 4: Evaluation of English Civil Registration as an Original Source
  • CHART 5: Evaluation of B.C. Vital Statistics as an Original SourceCHART 6: Double Entry on the 1851 Census
  • Kinds of Information
  • Kinds of Evidence
  • CHART 7: Types of Evidence
  • CHART 8: Summary of Kinds of Sources, Information & Evidence
  • Selection of Evidence Used in Proof
  • Constructing Hypotheses & Theories from the Evidence
  • CHART 9: Hypothesis I – Eleanor’s Mother was a Billinghurst
  • CHART 10: Hypothesis II – Eleanor’s Grandmother Dartnall Remarried a Billinghurst

Value of Previous Research

  • Scriptures
  • CHART 11: A Rough Guide to Genealogical Epochs
  • Legends, Oral Traditions & Ancient Pedigrees
  • Royal Pedigrees from Charlemagne Onwards
  • Mid 19th to 20th Centuries
  • Technological Age
  • CHART 12: Standards for Use of Technology in Genealogical Research

Unprovable Links


General Advice

Focusing a Search for Evidence

  • CHART 13: Evidence of Matilda’s Birth Date
  • CHART 14: Evaluation of Birth Date Evidence

Pedigree Analysis

  • CHART 15: Pedigree Analysis Step 1 – Organizing Known Facts
  • CHART 16: Pedigree Analysis Step 2 – Making Estimations
  • CHART 17: Pedigree Analysis Step 3 – Estimates Added

Family Reconstruction

  • CHART 18: Brown Family Reconstruction
  • CHART 19: Children of Charles and Ann Kent

Killing Them Off

  • Chart 20: Philpot Family from IGI
  • Chart 21: Wrigley-ing Around a Problem

Use and Abuse of Indexes

Negative Proof


  • Description of Source
  • Recording of the Relevant Items
  • Images of Significant Items

Go Sideways

Know the Use Alternate Sources

Serendipity and Intuition

  • What Is Serendipity?
  • What Is Intuition?
  • Examples of Serendipity and Intuition
  • How Does Serendipity Work?


Problems with Starting Information

Assumptions a.k.a. Presumptions

  • Fundamental Assumptions
  • Valid Assumptions
  • Unsound Assumptions

General Problems with Records

  • Non-Existent Sources
  • Cannot Find Sources
  • CHART 22: Two Gladys Dashwoods
  • Cannot Find an Entry
  • Record Insufficient
  • Clerks’ Inaccuracies
  • Inaccurate Published Pedigrees
  • Illegible Writing
  • CHART 23: Sawyer or Lawyer?
  • Information Seen But Not Understood
  • CHART 24: Tooslo & Browne
  • Damaged Records
  • Gaps in the Records
  • Incorrect Transcriptions
  • Records Altered
  • Family Did Not Use Usual Records
  • Have You Been Thorough?

Conflicting Evidence

  • CHART 25: Who was Edith Jupp’s Father?

Name Changes

  • Spelling Variations
  • First Name Variations
  • CHART 26: First Name Spelled Creatively
  • CHART 27: Common First Name Abbreviations
  • First Name Changes
  • CHART 28: Five Sons Named William!
  • Surname Variations
  • CHART 29: The Lyons Family
  • CHART 30: The Chowens Family
  • CHART 31: Surname Spellings Variations Often Found in Genealogy
  • Surname Changes
  • CHART 32: Scots on Census
  • CHART 33: Sarah Hammant on 1851 Census
  • CHART 34: Sarah Hammant on 1861 Census
  • CHART 35: Siblings’ Names
  • Legal Means of Changing a Name

Finding the Right Parish

  • Understanding Indexes
  • Birthplaces
  • Using Maps & Gazetteers

Migration and Movement

  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Movement Within a Country
  • CHART 36: Army Births 1761-1924 for Norrie

Age Problems

  • CHART 37: Example of Variety of Ages Given on Censuses


  • CHART 38: Terms Used for Illegitimacy
  • How to Find the Father
  • CHART 39: The Saga of a Bastard


Proscribed Marriage

Delayed Marriage

Female Ancestors

  • Two Wives Name Sarah?
  • Sources for a Woman’s Life Story
  • Matrilinear Descent – the New Order?

Paupers Disappearing

  • Apprenticed Out of the Home Parish
  • Removal to Parish of Settlement
  • Service in the Army, Militia, or Navy
  • Runaways

If All Else Fails, Write an Article!





How Do I Prove It? 3rd Edition is available from Family Root Publishing; Item #: HB19, Price: $21.56.

One thought on “How Do I Prove It?

  1. I’m an 80 year old dumb Frenchman and can always use more help. I just ordered the book . I started family history and genealogy in 1954 when the first ship I was on went to Europe and I went to Darcey France to get some info on my roots . Haven’t stoped since then . Ed Perreault

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