The first component of the Genealogical Proof Standard as formulated by the Board for Certification of Genealogists is Reasonably Exhaustive Research. It means trying to find “all evidence that might answer a genealogist’s question about an identity, relationship, event, or situation.”1 Reasonably Exhaustive Research is one of the five requirements to consider a genealogical conclusion proven.
I thought it would be fun to give some examples of my own research, and the insights that reasonably exhaustive research have given me:
- Going through thousands of pages of court records allowed me to determine the exact location of the parental home of Hendrickje Stoffels, the mistress of Rembrandt van Rijn, and prove her origins and parents.
- By expanding my research into an ancestor from Zeeland into Belgium, I found a orphan chamber record, listing a brick wall ancestor with her parents.
- Researching all 6,000+ emigrants from my father’s home town of Winterswijk and the surrounding area allowed me to help thousands of people to find the place of origin of their immigrant ancestor.
- Researching the ancestors of both candidates to be the father of an illegitimate child allowed me to identify several DNA matches who share ancestors with one of the candidates, providing evidence that he was the father.
- By expanding the research into a formerly enslaved man in Groningen to plantation-owning families in his neighborhood, I was able to find a will that mentioned him, his mother, and grandmother as bequests; tracing the family back two additional generations.
- Studying the relevant laws underpinning the documents I found about my ancestor Gerrit Jan Kastein allowed me to identify which of two same-named cousins he was. It turned out that for years, I had identified the wrong cousin as my ancestor. Reasonably exhaustive research – the most common cause of former ancestors.
How many brick walls of yours can be solved if you take the time to find all the records relating to the person, his associates, family, and neighbors?
- Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th-anniversary edition (Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry, 2014).