Genealogical Maturity Model
is made of levels
like a chocolate cake.
© 2008, Jimmy McDonald.
Used with permission.
This is the first article in a a series discussing my proposed Genealogical Maturity Model (GMM).
Cross-pollination from one field of knowledge to another is a common source of innovation. Today, I’d like to introduce a concept to the genealogy world that I learned from the software world: maturity models. Carnegie Mellon University studied software companies’ ability to successfully complete projects. Experts noticed that companies typically matured their software development capabilities in a specific order. They constructed a five level framework to model these improvements:1
|1.||Initial (chaotic, ad hoc)||The starting point|
|2.||Repeatable||The process is used repeatedly, with roughly repeatable outcomes|
|3.||Defined||The process is defined|
|4.||Managed||Process metrics are managed|
|5.||Optimized||Management includes process optimization and improvement|
I’ve applied the concept of maturity models to genealogists to describe the growing maturity, capabilities, and knowledge through which I’ve observed genealogists progress. The Genealogical Maturity Model is a work-in-progress. I invite you to leave comments with your feedback, corrections, and additions.
The Genealogical Maturity Model
The Genealogy Maturity Model has five levels, GML 1 through GML 5.
|1.||Entry||Newly interested in genealogy|
|2.||Emerging||Emerging knowledge of how to do genealogy|
|3.||Practicing||Usually produces verifiable genealogical conclusions|
|4.||Proficient||Produces verifiably correct genealogies|
|5.||Stellar||Produces well-regarded genealogies|
Sources and Citations
One can describe the genealogical maturity level for many different categories. In the tables, below, some descriptions are additive. That means a genealogist not only performs as described for a given level, but also practices all positive skills mentioned in lower levels. The citation descriptions below are an example.
Typically relies on compiled genealogies.
Captures URLs for online sources and citations for published sources.
Mostly relies on compiled genealogies and online sources.
Increasingly captures necessary information for manuscript sources.
Uses a limited number of record types and repositories. Mostly relies on online and microfilmed sources.
Typically produces complete source citations.
Uses a wide variety of record types. Often contacts record custodians to obtain copies of high-quality sources.
Gives complete and accurate source citations including provenance and quality assessment.
Insightfully pursues research at multiple, targeted repositories, making use of a plethora of records and record types.
Overcomes limitations of genealogical software to create well organized, industry standard reference notes and source lists.
Information and Evidence
As genealogists learn, we handle information and evidence in more effective ways.
Has not learned to abstract information from sources (still thinking in terms of primary and secondary sources), making analysis more difficult.
Limited understanding of what constitutes evidence and the role it plays.
Learning to separate the concepts of sources and information. Beginning to see the need for healthy skepticism.
Growing dependence on evidence. Learning to evaluate the quality of sources, information, and evidence.
|3.||Practicing||Collects information from the consulted sources and analyzes source characteristics separately from information characteristics.|| |
Correlates the evidence arising from the collected information.
Captures all information from the consulted sources.
Carefully accounts for all conflicting evidence.
Recognizes usable information where others don't.
Able to find evidence in spite of burned counties, illegitimacy, and other dead ends that stump other researchers.
Conclusions and Conclusion Trees
As genealogists become more experienced, we make better conclusions and as our conclusions get better, our conclusion trees grow in quality.
In the absence of evidence, uses logic and instinct to eyeball conclusions from available information.
Often incorrectly merges or combines individuals in trees.
May discount conflicting evidence in preference to the most prevalent evidence.
Growing hesitancy to merge or combine individuals without evidence.
Accurately assigns correspondence between records and people. Resolves conflicting evidence.
Never merges compiled genealogies into own tree. Contributes or changes community trees only with evidence.
Creates soundly reasoned, coherently documented conclusions. Can utilize indirect evidence.
Manages evidence separately from conclusion tree. Not interested in trusting high quality conclusions to a community tree.
Develops new research methodologies. Creates clear and convincing written conclusions. Teaches and inspires others.
Has put so much work into their conclusion tree, they are highly likely to publish it.
I invite the feedback of the entire genealogical community (including you grammarians, editors, and perfectionists).
- In each category, see if you think I’ve described the natural maturity progression.
- Do the single word GML names and the single sentence definitions reflect the descriptions across all the categories?
- Also, I’m hoping a majority of genealogists would score the same GML in each category (sources, citations, etc.). Score yourselves and let me know if you think I need to make adjustments to any categories. Of course, since we are all different, we should expect that some people will have different scores in different categories.
- Do you have another category you’d like to see added? Feel free to contribute draft descriptions for each level in the category. I have a couple of my own to introduce next time.
The Genealogical Maturity Model can be a useful tool for evaluating ourselves, setting goals, and improving our capabilities. Together we can fine tune this tool and we can optimize its value.
1. Wikipedia contributors, "Capability Maturity Model," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Capability_Maturity_Model&oldid=322826971 : accessed October 30, 2009).