At one of our recent Simcoe County Branch meetings, Jane McNamara spoke about Beginning Genealogy and suggested each fact we use in our genealogy should meet The Genealogical Proof Standard:
1. Conduct the widest possible search for sources to confirm the event.
2. Record complete citations for each piece of evidence.
3. Analyze the quality of the evidence and compare to other evidence.
4. Attempt to resolve contradictory information.
5. Record both your conclusion and the thought process involved.
Read the Genealogical Standards and Guidelines recommended by the National Genealogical Society.
Invariably in genealogical research you will come across conflicting information and it will be important to know where you obtained your “facts” and have some methodology at hand so that you may weigh the evidence and draw some rational conclusions as to what is more realistic.
Primary sources tend to be more accurate than secondary (ie registration of birth shortly after the event vs. your Aunt’s recollection 80 years later). However, you should keep in mind that the informants may have provided misinformation for their own purposes at the time, or the clerk may have made an error in transcription. There are no absolutes in genealogy.
This is where careful and thorough documentation of your sources pays off not only for your own purposes, but it will allow other researchers an opportunity to verify a piece of information for themselves.