Stevenson, Noel C. Genealogical Evidence: A Guide to the Standard of Proof Relating to Pedigrees, Ancestry, Heirship and Family History.

Rev. ed. Laguna Hills, CA: Aegean Park Press, 1989. 231p., softcover. Index. $18.80 + $5.00 s/h. ISBN 0-89412-159-6.


Stevenson was not only a Fellow of the ASG, he was also an attorney with a national reputation in techniques in cross-examination and evaluation of legal evidence. In this volume, he brings all those skills together to create an authoritative text in the examination and evaluation of legal, historical, and genealogical information, a codification of proper methods. He begins with the application of family research in probate and heirship cases, since that’s where the stuff that we do and what lawyers do most often impinge on one another.

Under “Hazards, Risks, and Remedies,” he discusses paternity and legitimacy, the problem of surnames and of proving identity (as opposed to descent), and the special problems of claims to noble lineage and false pedigrees. Then he examines the class of records that are “official and public”: vital records (how accurate are they, really?), irregular and common law marriages, civil and criminal court records, land records, and the federal census. Then come “unofficial” records, including published family histories, church records, Bible records, monuments and memorials (especially in cemeteries), and newspaper articles and notices. Finally, he provides as astute but very readable semi-technical guide to the rules of evidence and hearsay. There’s also a very good glossary of genealogical and legal terminology the researcher needs to know. Throughout, Stevenson includes synopses of illustrative law cases, research checklists, and his own informed opinions on the published work of other experts. This is the sort of book many researchers acquire with the best of intentions — you can find it for sale in the book dealers’ room at any regional or national conference — but then it often sits on the shelf unopened because the Table of Contents seems intimidating. Trust me: It’s really a pretty easy read and it will definitely enable you to think more clearly the next time you have to decide whether and how far to believe a newly uncovered piece of data.

Published in: on 7 July 2010 at 1:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

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