Recently, I was interviewed on the Meet the Elite Podcast, which highlights new entrepreneurs across a variety of industries. A key question asked was, what have I learned to be highly beneficial to me as a genealogist? My answer, don't assume anything.
When researching family history, the three key elements we focus on are names, dates, and places. Upon initial thought, one knows how to spell the family surname or a given name so some people assume they can rule out other spelling variations. The current common spelling for a name may not be what was used by previous generations. Our ancestors did not always have documentation with their names printed on it, so they would state their name and a clerk, the clergy, a family friend, etc. would write what they heard. This is how one of my ancestor's has been documented as Alpheus, Alpha F., Alf, and A. F.
Births were not recorded in many states until the late 19th and early 20th century, hence our ancestors may have struggled when stating their age or their birthdate. It is not surprising to find people aged only seven years between the ten-year census timeframe.
Even the locations of documents can be impacted by assumptions. I was married in Marion County, Indiana, but lived in Allen County, Indiana while my husband was a resident of Eaton County, Michigan. One would need to understand the laws governing marriage licenses to locate our marriage record.
These our just some examples of how not making assumptions can impact our family history research.