The Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) provides a measuring stick by which we can determine if our research and genealogical conclusions about a research question are sound. There are five parts to the GPS, all of which must be met for our research to meet this standard.
1. The search must have been reasonably exhaustive. Note that I did not say exhaustive but reasonably exhaustive. Yet what are the practical applications of this?
Take for example that you are trying to determine the birth date of Maria Arrigo who was born in the town of Termini Imerese about 1850. You know that her husband was Lorenzo Schiavo and that she likely married before 1876, when her son Antonino was born. Termini Imerese was in the Palermo province in the region of Sicily. Since Sicily's civil registration began in 1820, it is reasonable to think that the civil record of her birth would be the document to provide the most accurate information. After all, it was created close in time to the event and likely reported by a participant in the event.
However, any record can err so it is never advisable to base a genealogical conclusion on just one record. What other documents could be researched to find this information? Marriage attachments [those documents that were to be attached to a marriage record, called allegati in this area of Italy] often contained extracted birth or baptismal records of the bride and groom. Additionally, the marriage banns and marriage promise/marriage record would give the couple's ages, providing indirect evidence of her year of birth. The birth records of her children might also provide indirect evidence of her year of birth but do not always give the mother's age.
Another important record would be her baptismal record. This would provide evidence of her baptism but may also give her date of birth. Either way, due to Italian customs, one can assume the child was born within the seven days prior to the baptism. However, in some Italian towns like Termini Imerese, access to parish records is prohibited. Can one still perform a reasonably exhaustive search in situations like this? Yes, the GPS does not say an exhaustive search but rather a reasonably exhaustive one. The inability to access records provides no evidence either way.
2. Your work must contain complete and accurate citations for all sources that provide evidence towards your conclusion. Therefore, if you had consulted all of the records suggested above (and you found them all) you would have citations to her birth record, marriage banns, marriage record, marriage supplements, and the birth records of all of her children, if her age was given within the record.
The last three requirements for the GPS will be discussed in the next post...