15 April 2014

Our Use of the Word "Proof"

I've been muddling over the concept of a style guide for some time now. Not because I like to sit down and write definitions, but because I believe that it makes for clearer and more consistent writing. It is important to say what you mean, mean what you say, and know what you are saying.

I know that few genealogy blogs do not have a style guide and that's really of no concern to me. An earlier blog post discussed how we are handling the distinction between homestead and homeplace.

The word "proof" is another word that genealogists and others throw around. "I have proof of this or I have proof of that." Usually what they mean is that they have one record or piece of paper that says something--usually what they were hoping it would say. I'm no different. I get excited when a piece of paper or a record says what I want it to say. But the excitement needs to wane so that the analysis can begin. And the analysis consists of more than simply typing up the record and saying it is true.

While I'm still refining some concepts in my head, use of the word "proof" on my blogs will mean that I have looked at all the available information (after performing an exhaustive search) have concluded that a certain statement is true based upon what I have located. That's not quite how the BCG manual defines proof in Genealogy Standards, but it's going to be the definition I use on my blogs.

Proof as a noun

Material from an exhaustive search, that when combined with analysis, logic, and reasoning supports a genealogical statement.

Prove as a verb

To write a proof or go through the process of gathering information from which a proof can be made. We will refrain from using "prove" as a verb until the material has been gathered and the analysis has been done.

We may tweak this definition as necessary. If we do, we'll simply strikeout the original and put the new text in red. That way later readers can see our thought process a little more clearly.

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