It’s the Reliability

If I could just find that one document, I would be set.

It’s not always that easy. Sometimes locating one record that specifically states a fact is difficult. Occasionally it is impossible and we are left putting together a case from bits and pieces of indirect information. If we do find that document that explicitly states that which we want to know, we have to ask:

  • How reliable was the informant?
  • How much did they really know?
  • Did they have a reason to lie on this document?
  • Etc.

Finding information is like shopping for shoes in a large store. From a distance you cannot tell if the size is right or the style is really the one you want. It needs to be seen up close to determine the size, style, and color. You’ve got to put your foot in to see if it fits. But fitting is not enough. It still may not be your shoe.

Just because it fits doesn’t mean you can stand on your feet in those shoes all day. You’ve got to walk around in them. And sometimes that’s not even enough and you only find out whether the shoes are comfortable after wearing them for an entire day. There’s a “five-minute shoe fit” and there is the “standing on your feet from 8 to 5 shoe fit.” There’s a difference.

That piece of genealogical data from a distance may look good and on closer inspection may seem like it’s right. But you’ve got to “wear that piece of genealogical data” by fitting it into the whole person. If you have to pinch your genealogy toes and suffer genealogical heel pain maybe it’s time to realize the data doesn’t really fit.

And that’s on top of determining whether it is accurate or not.

Just like that designer shoe may really be a knockoff.