It is amazing to me that immigrants that came to America almost 400 years ago and that are so famous and have so many descendants in the United States, are still the subject of a considerable controversy. I have been spending some of my time at the Family History Library cleaning my records about the Mayflower families. With books and research that have been published since my last record cleaning effort, I have found all sorts of changes in my database. I have also added several sources, such as FindAGrave.com entries for all of the original families.
Few of the Mayflower passengers have a proven ancestry. If you happen to have an ancestor numbered among the original passengers, you just might want to check the latest evidence and conclusions about their ancestors. I found that the presently accepted lines differ from those I incorporated a few years back. My particular passengers were Richard Warren and Francis Cooke and his son John Cooke. The families in my database had also seemed to pick up a few extra children along the way.
These changes illustrate an important principle; genealogy and family history should be well founded in sources and reasonable conclusions. But just as important is the fact that all historical conclusions are open to further interpretation depending on the discovery of additional facts through reliable sources. In the last two days here at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah this principle has been demonstrated again and again as people in our Family History Expos group have done their research. In one case, a researcher with an ancestor, who had a recorded birth place, found that given the date recorded, neither the town nor the county were in existence at the time of the birth. This opened up a question as to the reliability of other information in the researcher's records.
In my case, a research article in The American Genealogist, dated April of 2003, and entitled "The Marriage of Richard Warren of the Mayflower," caused some major revisions to that family's entries in my own records. This was especially true when the General Society of Mayflower Descendants had incorporated the newer findings in their series of books. If you do research in this area, you will soon see that every assertion made by the researchers is supported by a source and those facts that are not are openly acknowledged as tentative or unproven.
Not all of us have legions of researchers looking at the facts about our ancestors, but the same fundamental principles still apply. We move from the known to the unknown and try not to jump out into fantasyland. Most large businesses go through an annual audit, perhaps those of us with large databases should go through a periodic audit of our records to see if anything has changed and if what we already have makes some sense and wasn't just copied from an unreliable source.