As researchers go through our Family Files and other resources, they often find “mistakes” in our records. A date may be off, a name spelled wrong, the details of an event not quite accurate. They are typically tempted to start crossing the misinformation out. Not so fast!
We don’t cross things out within our files and there are a couple of reasons why:
1) We don’t mess with original sources, no matter how inaccurate they may be. Have you ever read a newspaper or magazine article and found misinformation? It’s not uncommon. Just because there’s something wrong with an article, we are not going to head to our bound volumes of original newspapers with a red pencil. If we did this, soon our originals would be ruined. That’s not good for long-term preservation.
2) Memory is an incredibly slippery thing, so what a researcher may think is inaccurate may not actually be inaccurate at all. Whoever compiled the supposedly inaccurate information may have a reliable source that the researcher is unaware of.
If a researcher is sure that something in our files is inaccurate, here is what we do instead. We ask him or her to add to our files, which they can do by filling out a new Family Sheet or by providing copies of more accurate sources or their own research. As part of this process, we ask that the researcher identify him/herself as the source. No subtracting is allowed.
Once a person has been at this research gig for a while, s/he knows that cross-checking data between a variety of sources is a necessary exercise, and one that can be fun.