Standards of Proof

It's Legendary! Separate fact and fiction in family lore

Sidebar:  Three cases from the genealogy literature

Tutorial: 12 critical thinking skills for genealogy investigation

Toolbox: Sources and download


Natural story tellers are subject to a particular bias: They want their story to be concise and coherent. In service of a good yarn, they may make too much of a particular detail or overlook contradictory evidence. And if a story can go wrong on any single telling of it, how reliable can it be after being passed down through generations?

With so many opportunities for error, either accidental or deliberate, every family legend gets distorted in a unique fashion. You have to dig into the facts to learn where on the scale from substantially true to flat-out fictitious your legend lies. Most likely it is somewhere in between. 

Read our package of articles to help separate fact and fiction in your family lore.

An edited version of this article was originally published in Family Tree Magazine's special issue "Discover Your Roots" in Summer 2014. Download a PDF of the published article.


Demo Home | Main Article | Sidebar | Tutorial | Sources

There are many reasons that genealogy investigations go wrong. Here's the skinny on genealogical proof standards—plus 12 critical thinking skills to help you separate fact from fiction in your family legends.