Genealogical Maturity Model – 2012 Assessment

Late in 2009, the Ancestry Insider started a series of posts proposing a self-assessment model for genealogists, which culminated in the Genealogical Maturity Model.  While I don’t agree with all the descriptions, it can be a useful way to measure one’s skill set.  I’ve used the tool before, but did not keep a record of my results.  As part of my work of the US-REC Study Group, here’s an updated assessment. . .

Step 1. Self Evaluation

In each table below, read the descriptions for each level. Place a check mark in the row that best describes you.


1EntryTypically relies on compiled genealogies.
2EmergingMostly relies on compiled genealogies and online sources.
3PracticingUses a limited number of record types and repositories. Mostly relies on online and microfilmed sources.
4ProficientUses a wide variety of record types. Often contacts record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.x
5StellarInsightfully pursues research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a plethora of records and record types. "Burned counties" are not roadblocks.

As a genealogy hobbyist with a full-time job, my time is spent mostly using online records.  However, I do use a wide variety of record types and I’m not afraid to contact record custodians if the document I seek is not available online.  I personally think this section needs to be re-written to take out the bias against online records.  If I can access images of documents online, then it is a more efficient use of my limited time to do so, rather than writing or driving to a far-away repository to access the same records.


1EntryCaptures URLs for online sources and citations for published sources.
2EmergingIncreasingly captures necessary information for manuscript sources.
3PracticingTypically produces complete source citations.
4ProficientGives complete and accurate source citations including provenance and quality assessment.x
5StellarOvercomes limitations of genealogical software to create well organized, industry standard reference notes and source lists.x

I agree with Michael Hait’s assertion that 4 and 5 should be reversed.  The ultimate goal should be to give complete and accurate source citations, whether one uses genealogy software or not.  I’m giving myself a 5.


1EntryTypically does not realize the need to judge information quality and has no basis for doing so.
2EmergingEmerging realization that information quality differs. Muddles evaluation by thinking of primary/secondary sources instead of primary/secondary information, leading to muddled evaluation when sources contain both.
3PracticingJudges information by source type, informant knowledge, and record timing. Applies "primary/secondary" to information instead of sources.
4ProficientAdditionally, learns history necessary to recognize and evaluate all explicit information in a source. x
5StellarAdditionally, utilizes implicit information in a source. Finds information in cases like illegitimacy that stump most researchers.


1EntryLimited understanding of evidence and the role it plays. Typically ignores conflicting evidence.
2EmergingCaptures direct, supporting evidence and increasingly depends upon it.
3PracticingAdditionally, captures directly conflicting evidence.
4ProficientAdditionally, recognizes and captures indirect, supporting evidence.
5StellarAdditionally, recognizes and captures indirect, conflicting evidence.x

RootsMagic  4 and 5  have a great little feature in the Citation Manager that allows one to assess the quality of the source for each citation, using the evidence classification described in the Genealogical Proof Standard.  Sources can be marked as original or derivative; information can be marked as primary or secondary; and evidence can be marked as direct, indirect, or negative; all three pieces also have a “Don’t Know” option.  Using this feature has been invaluable to me, because that is when I really began to apply that level of critical thinking to each bit of data I encounter in my research.


1EntryIn the absence of analysis, reaches conclusions by instinct.
2EmergingLearning to evaluate the quality of sources, information, and evidence. Emerging ability to resolve minor discrepancies.
3PracticingAdditionally, resolves conflicting evidence or uses it to disprove prevalent opinion. Usually applies correct identity to persons mentioned in sources.x
4ProficientAdditionally, when necessary creates soundly reasoned, coherently documented conclusions utilizing direct and indirect evidence.x
5StellarAdditionally: Publishes clear and convincing conclusions. Teaches and inspires others.

I’m giving myself a 3.5 on Conclusions, because I don’t feel like I’m quite “there” yet, when it comes to creating soundly reasoned conclusions.

Step 2. Tally

This next exercise is optional. It is a non-scientific method of determining your “genealogical maturity.” Write your level number in the table below for each category above. Add up all the numbers and write the total in the last row.

I actually averaged mine, because the original article included one additional section, so the “total” ranges are inflated without that section.


Overall Rating:  Proficient

Step 3. Improve

Review the categories and pick one to work on. See what you need to do to advance from your current level to the next level. Make that your goal. Don’t try and work on all categories at once. Baby steps. Don’t try to skip levels. Baby steps. Commit to yourself and focus your efforts on that one, little goal.

Once you’ve accomplished that goal, come back and pick another area for improvement.

Writing conclusions is the area that jumps out at me and it goes along with another skill that I’m working on – writing research summaries.  Bart Brenner over at Stardust ‘n’ Roots  noted in a similar post that “having the data [is] not enough.”  It’s easy to get caught up in finding new records, extracting data, and citing sources, but without the written conclusions, we don’t really move forward with the research.

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