Monday, January 2, 2017

GPS Study Group Week 1: Who is the father of Rebecca Horton?

Genealogical Proof Standard Study Group
Chapter One – What is the Genealogical Proof Standard?
Marceline Beem

Christine Rose. Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th Edition Revised. San Jose, California: CR Publications, 2014.

This week’s reading focuses on evidence analysis. I often have trouble remembering which elements belong with the concepts of sources, information and evidence, and have found the process map created by Elizabeth Shown Mills1 to be extremely helpful in using the correct terminology when I am analyzing a document.

The research question for this week’s topic is Who is the father of Rebecca Horton? I have two documents which will be analyzed for evidence that her father was William Horton of Anderson County, Tennessee.

Document #1: Deed Abstract, Anderson County, Tennessee

This land transaction took place in 1828 and was recorded in the Anderson County court in 1830. The abstract appears in a derivative work published in 1999. The parties to the deed – Frances Horton, Rebecca Horton, and Elizabeth Horton – would have had first-hand knowledge that Frances Horton was one of the heirs to William’s estate, making it primary information. By itself, this deed does not answer the research question, but it does provide indirect evidence of a relationship between William, Frances, and Rebecca.

Figure 1. Abstract of land sale from Frances Horton
to Rebecca & Elizabeth Horton2

Document #2: Court Minutes, Anderson County, Tennessee

In 1815, the Anderson County court named Fanny Horton the guardian of minor children Rebecca Scior Horton and Elizabeth Horton. The court record identifies their father as William Horton, who was deceased at the time of the court hearing. The court minutes used are high-quality digital images of the original books* recorded by the clerk of court at the time of the event. Although we do not have a transcript of the court hearing, it is most likely that the court-appointed guardian, Fanny Horton, or her representative provided testimony that Rebecca’s father was William Horton, making this primary information that provides direct evidence of the answer to the research focus.

Figure 2. Court minutes assigning guardianship of Rebecca Scior Horton and Elizabeth
Horton, minor children, to Fanny Horton3

*The author of our study argues that microfilmed copies of original records are derivative sources, but in her Quick Lesson on Evidence Analysis, Elizabeth Mills writes that “in our digital era, the concept of “original record” also extends to high-quality images of those originals.”4 Because the digital images used here are high quality and easy to read, I am classifying this record as an original record.

Note: At this point, I don't have enough information to form any kind of theory as to who Fanny Horton was and the nature of her relationship to Rebecca & Elizabeth. Besides these two documents, she appears on the 1830 census as a head of household, and that is really all I know about her at this point in time. More exhaustive research in other sources - one of the key elements of the GPS - is needed before I can determine her relationship to Rebecca.


1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 17: The Evidence Analysis Process Model,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage  ( : January 1, 2017)
2. S. Emmett Lucas. Anderson County, Tennessee Land Deed Genealogy, 1801-1831. Greenville, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1999, 181.
3. Anderson County, Tennessee County Court Minutes, Oct. 1814-Jan. 1819.” Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2016.  Court session 9 Oct 1815, page 58, image 158 of 688, guardianship record for Rebecca Scior Horton and Elizabeth Horton.
4. Mills, Evidence Explained.


  1. Great job! And, I love how you include the citations. The only point I'm not sure about is where you say the first document is "primary information." Yes, it would appear that whoever gave the information would know the relationship between William, Frances, Rebecca, and Elizabeth. However, the document doesn't state anything about the relationship between Rebecca and her possible father, William.

    Here's a similar example, I think. Suppose someone told all about an a car accident they were in. However, the "research question" is "when were the participants in the wreck born?" The accident report doesn't address that question at all.

    Actually, by writing this, I think I now "get it" even better. The answer to my question, I believe, is that it doesn't matter! Whether a source is original, derivative, or authored does NOT depend on the research question. Likewise, whether information is primary, secondary, or indeterminable also does NOT depend on the research question. The only aspect that depends on the research question is whether the evidence is direct, indirect, or negative.

    So, I think you got this answer right! The first document contains primary information! Great job! And, I'm glad I worked through this as it helped me understand this chapter even more deeply.

    1. Hi Dana,

      To answer your question about the first are correct that the document itself does not state the exact relationship between William and Rebecca, it just implies that there IS a relationship of some kind...that's why I classified it as INDIRECT evidence. Other documents are needed to conclude that William and Rebecca's relationship is that of father/daughter.

      Good job on working through it!


  2. Also, do you know where I can find the other panelists' homework for chapter 1? I see a post about chapter 2, but not chapter 1. Thanks!

    1. The panelists post their homework on the hangout. Head to and scroll down to the section on the study group. Click the link for the first week's hangout. You'll need to "register" to access it, but you'll be able to find the homework in the unified chat and view the video of our hangout.