UGA logoThirty-six professional genealogists met at the first annual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Colloquium, moderated by Craig R. Scott, CG. Three papers were presented and discussed.

J. H. Fonkert, CG, presented the first paper titled, “The GPS and Beyond: Challenges for a Genealogy Profession.”

Fonkert stated that genealogy as a profession is more disciplined than in years past, but we have a long way to go. At the same time, we have more people who don’t know what they’re doing.

On the scale between avocation and profession, Fonkert said there are signs the profession is maturing. For instance, forensic genealogy has advanced the image of the professional genealogist.

Fonkert suggested specialized research as a place for genealogy in the academic world, such as studying the percentage of people with wills, compliance rates and accuracy of vital records, rates of census coverage by ethnicity, location, income, etc., guardianship practices, obituary patterns, unrecorded deeds, bounty land assignments, and military pension rejections.

Thomas W. Jones, editor of the NGSQ, and Christy Fillerup, editor of the APGQ, said they would consider publishing these quality research findings in their periodicals.

The second to present, Jean Wilcox Hibben, PhD, MA, CG, titled her paper, “Field-Dependency of Arguments/Stories as it Relates to Genealogy Instruction.” She said we need to put LOGIC in “Genealogical.”  She said, “Paradigm shifts change lives,” but they can be pretty extreme and and not well embraced by others. Thus instead of a paradigm shift, Hibben suggested a “paradigm wiggle,” called “field dependency.”

Hibben presented “field dependency” as a tool for analyzing evidence gleaned from Toulmin, Rieke, and Janik in their work, An Introduction to Reasoning.1 “Field dependency” is using evidence from specific areas of research. Introducing new terminology, field dependency incorporates the “field” (the government or creator of the document), “grounds,” (assessing the evidence), qualifiers such as “likely,” “most likely,” etc., the “warrant,” (the resource’s location), the “backing,” (the actual research taking into account the guidelines for creating the document), and finally the “claim” (our conclusion).

Borrowing from Aristotle and studies in rhetoric, Hibben suggested four types of proof:

  • Ethos = the source’s credibility and background
  • Logos = facts and figures. Is it logical and relies on facts?
  • Pathos = the emotions of the informant
  • Mythos = the stories and traditions that come from social or cultural norms

Hibben suggested we need to teach how to use evidence. She demonstrated how these types of proof may be applied to a case study, and recommended we step back, look at the big picture, consider name variations, cultural elements, etc., and then draw conclusions.

Thomas W. Jones said that Hibben went beyond the gross analysis to a more detailed, intricate look into the reasons the document was created, and the emotions and reasons why the information may be altered.

Those in attendance agreed that we need to take these analysis process concepts and teach them in a way that’s understandable.

Blaine Bettinger, PhD (Biochemistry/Genetics), The Genetic Genealogist, presented the third paper titled, “Genetic Genealogy Standards.” Bettinger addressed the need for genealogy standards because of ethical issues. He reported that to address this need, a committee was formed, ideas debated, and standards defined.

These standards were officially presented for the first time today at this colloquium and the link to these standards is available at The Genetic Genealogist website. The standards define ethical  practices for “obtaining, using, and sharing genetic genealogy test results,” and also for the interpretation of the results.

Discussion items included how to put these standards in front of the people working with DNA. It could include incorporating these standards into the current genealogical standards, and how to give to those submitting a DNA test the information they need to give informed consent. Bettinger elaborated that this is the first step in defining the standards and the next step will be to add “flesh to this scope.”

At the conclusion of Bettinger’s discussion, Scott opened other topics for discussion, such as misunderstanding negative evidence, which is the absence of information where you expect to find it and you use that evidence to support a conclusion.

All in all, it was a great day of enlightened presentations and interesting discussion. When interviewed after the event, SLIG Director, Christy Fillerup, stated next year’s colloquium will be open to all, but on a first come, first served basis.

Thank you, Utah Genealogical Association and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy!

  1. Steven Toulmin, Richard Rieke, & Allan Janik, An Introduction to Reasoning, Second Ed., New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1984, pp. 237 & 271.