Many genealogists, both professional and amateur alike, tend to depend on publications to perform their research. There is nothing wrong with this and many times it is the only way to find any information on a particular family or person(s).
I am fortunate enough that half my family has had many genealogical studies made on them over the years by various serious and well respected genealogists, published in peer reviewed journals. Most of my genealogical research has been based on the works of others before me (apropos for genealogy I think) and it’s perfectly fine.
However, since these books are publishing second or third hand information and to “err is human” one should keep President Ronald Reagan in mind by always thinking “trust but verify“.
Case in point a recent discovery of mine in my Chilean genealogy.
According to all sources I could get my hand on, my great-great-grandmother Javiera Ortúzar Bulnes, who married Fernando Edwards Garriga, was the daughter of Ángel Ortúzar Montt and Elena Bulnes Pinto. I was happy with this information and confident it was correct. I mean, it was published in the official, peer reviewed journal of one of the most respected genealogical societies of the world: the Instituto Chileno de Investigaciones Genealógicas (ICHIG).
With President Reagan’s saying in mind, I’ve been collecting copies from the original sources by working with official government authorities or ecclesiastical sources.
In one of these documents I got my surprise: My great-great-grandmother was the daughter of Adolfo Ortúzar Gandarillas and Carmela Bulnes Pinto. Oddly enough, Adolfo was the half brother of Ángel and Carmela the full sister of Elena!
So, what does this mean? First of all, you can never trust the books 100%, though they may just be the best alternative, but always try to get original primary sources. Secondly, a big chunk of my family tree is not really mine!
This second part is the one that really hurts – it means that several generations of people from my tree belong to someone else! The time spent on that part of the tree will never come back… oh well… lesson learned and one to share with everyone doing any genealogical research.