Four-Generation Project Guidelines

The purpose of the ICAPGen Four-Generation Project is to test an applicant’s ability to: Conduct research based on a well-defined objective Report all research findings, analysis of evidence, and conclusions based on that evidence, as…

The purpose of the ICAPGen Four-Generation Project is to test an applicant’s ability to:

  • Conduct research based on a well-defined objective
  • Report all research findings, analysis of evidence, and conclusions based on that evidence, as if to a client
  • Properly apply the following relevant context to the research objective
    • Historical
    • Geographical
    • Legal
    • Methodological
    • Social

General Guidelines for the Project

  • The research project requires a treatment of four connecting generations that includes the starting person as a child, their parents, one set of their grandparents, and one set of their great-grandparents. Each generation can follow either the maternal or paternal line or a combination of both.
  • The person of interest in the most recent generation needs to be listed as a child in the first of three family group sheets and be listed in the first position on the pedigree chart submitted with the project.
  • The person of interest in the most recent generation must be deceased. They do not need to be married. If they are married, their spouse must also be deceased.
  • The project should present four connecting generations who lived within the same geographic region. Each generation of the families submitted must have lived in the region of interest for at least a portion of their lives as shown by at least one document showing their residence in that region, e.g. the earliest generation may have been born outside the region of interest, but died in the region; the most recent generation may have been born in the region of interest but died outside the region.
  • The presentation of four connecting generations in the project should represent the applicant’s knowledge of a variety of records useful at different times in the chosen region. The regional focus allows for practice in records that might be included in the written exams.
  • The person of interest in the most recent generation must have been born on or before a rolling birth date 80 years before the submission of the project, i.e. if a project is submitted in 2020, the most recent ancestor must have been born on or before 1940; in 2021 the birth date cut-off changes to 1941.

The Project Should Include the Following Components:


The four-generation research report should present research findings and conclusions as if to a client. It should demonstrate research strategies and methodology appropriate for the region. Consistent use of original sources (when available) should be reflected in the report. Report formats may vary; however, every report should include the basic components listed below:

  • Research Objective: The research objective should be stated at the beginning of the report. The complete name of the beginning ancestor and key identifying information such as birth date, birthplace, and relationship should be given in the research objective or in a background section at the beginning of the report.
  • Background Information: A brief summary of the factual history of the ancestor or family relevant to the research problem is needed at the beginning of the report. Background information includes the full name of the ancestor(s) or family of interest; all pertinent dates, birth, marriage, and/or death dates (if not known, approximated); event localities (known or approximated); known family relationships, and a summary of previous evidence that relates to the research problem.
  • Evidence Analysis: The information presented in the report needs to be properly analyzed and support the conclusions discussed in the report. Explanations of how the evidence supports conclusions may differ according to the applicant’s preferred writing style. The important thing is not how the evidence is explained, but that the writing style is consistent and the explanations display sound reasoning and prove the applicant’s conclusions. The report narrative must also clearly show how supporting evidence proves any generational or familial relationships.
  • Source Citations: Each fact or piece of information should be consistently cited with a complete and well-placed source citation. ICAPGen does not require any particular citation style as long as it is consistently used. The citations should include enough information for the source used to be easily located.
  • Transcriptions, Abstractions, and/or Translations (if in a language other than English): Transcriptions, abstracts, or translations of key records that identify or link generations need to be within the body of the report. Large documents should be abstracted.
  • Summary: A summary of research results is required in every four-generation report. It should include a recapitulation of the research objective with conclusions made during the research process that is based on solid evidence and sound research methodology. Researchers decide the placement of summaries according to individual preference. For example, summaries can be placed:
    • after the statement of the research objective as a preview of research results.
    • at the end of each individual generation to conclude the section.
    • at the end of the report as a discussion that includes all four generations.
  • Future Research Recommendations: Should be specific and applicable to the stated goal or related to a new goal. They should also include the reason for each search. These recommendations set the direction for future work.

An average size four-generation project research report is between 25-40 pages. Only the body of the report is included in the page count. No other pieces of the project are counted toward this page count. Projects with reports over 40 pages will not be accepted.

ICAPGen requires that candidates adopt an ascending format for the four-generation research report, i.e. begin with the most recent ancestor and work back to the remote ancestor. Descending format accepted under special circumstances with prior approval of the testing committee. Before paying fees contact the testing secretary (testing.secretary@icapgen.org) for permission to do so.

Pedigree Chart

A pedigree chart showing the four generations in the study is required as part of the four-generation project. The pedigree should reflect the following:

  • The individual in the most recent generation was born at least 80 years before the date of the project submission.
  • The pedigree chart displays only the four generations (families) in the study.
  • All dates and places designated on the chart (i.e., born, baptism, marriage date, marriage place, death, death place) for each couple is complete with either exact or approximated information from sources.
  • Items on the pedigree chart match items on the family group sheets.

Family Group Sheets

At least three family group sheets are required (one for each couple represented on the pedigree chart). If anyone on the pedigree was married more than once, you must also submit family group sheets for those additional marriages. Those marriages do not need to be fully discussed in the report unless that family is key to proving the generational links. Instead, refer the reader to the family group sheet. The family group sheets should contain the following:

  • Complete event dates and places on each individual listed on the record (dates and places may be approximated). It is understood that some vital information might not be attainable. However, a reasonable effort to find such information should be reflected in the research log or report.
  • Information on all children in the family is included. Details on living people may be left off and referenced on the family group sheet using the word “living.”
  • All events should be sourced with consistent citations.
  • Information on family group sheets should match information on the pedigree chart and in the report.

The pedigree and family group sheets should be submitted in PDF format created from personal genealogical software (e. g. Ancestral Quest, Legacy, RootsMagic, etc.). ICAPGen does not accept GEDCOM files or databases. No forms from online family trees like FamilySearch Family Tree or Ancestry.com Trees are allowed. Online family trees do not allow the same features that ICAPGen measures as part of the application.

Source Documents

Key source documents referred to in the four-generation project need to be submitted with your project. The requirements for documents are as follows:

  • Digital copies (images) of key source documents need to be submitted with the four-generation project. No more than 40 documents will be accepted. If more than 40 documents are submitted, applicant will be asked to remove excess documents from the project folder before project will be rated.
  • Documents submitted should provide generational linking evidence and be discussed at length in the research report.
  • The documents should be properly referenced in the report, research logs, and family group sheets.
  • The images should be readable without adjustments. For instance, raters, should not have to rotate images to read them.
  • Images should be labeled with a document number and a citation on the front of them so that someone can easily tell which image belongs to which record referenced in the report, research log, and family group sheets.

Research Log

It is required that research logs be submitted as part of the four-generation project. Your research logs will be evaluated based on the following criteria and should include:

  • Names of persons, events, or records searched.
  • The repository or website where the item was found.
  • A description of the source used, i.e. type of record, time-period covered, etc.
  • A call number, film number, or URL (include the date accessed) of each record searched.
  • Document numbers for all documents located.
  • Positive and negative search results.
  • Complete citations for all sources.
  • Purpose of each search.

The Level 1 Four-Generation Project Self-Assessment in the Appendix of this guide can help ensure you have included all the proper requirements in the project.