Proving and Citing
We now come to the two most difficult things for a beginning genealogist. In fact these are the deadly failures of many more experienced genealogists.
Consistent age from several censuses is reliable. The date of a christening found in a church register is usually reliable but a date of birth in the same record may not be. A civil registration certificate is quite reliable and on its own can be regarded as proof.
What happens if you don't find the evidence you are looking for?
First, remember the rule - Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Ministers sometimes forgot to put the entry in the record book. The person recording the information may have mis-heard the name and written down something else, a problem that often occurred when there was an unfamiliar accent. Becoming very creative about spelling may help you find the doucment you're looking for.
This rule particularly applies to information gathered from the Internet. Remember:
Unfortunately genealogies supplied on the internet rarely cite sources, so most of the information supplied on the Internet is only a starting point for your own research. The information is an interesting idea, worth slightly less than family legends, but requires you to verify the facts before it becomes valuable data.
An excellent resource book is Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills, available through the OGS Store.
Nothing is true until you have proven it true and cited your sources so that others can check your facts.