Nine years ago - while I was still dashing about the country to earn a living as a same-day courier - I had just embarked in my 'spare' time on a project that took almost a year to complete. One of the most significant false trails I'd followed in my family history researches derived from the fact that there were several families in the small Suffolk town of Stanton all bearing the same name. By the mid-nineteenth century they had become very distinct from one another and distant from what had probably been a common origin centuries earlier.
I decided that it would clarify things in my own mind, and possibly help others following the same name, to attempt a sort of 'one name study' of all the Sturgeons in Stanton during the 19th century. By the following summer, I'd compiled a massive spreadsheet, and offered it via the internet to any who thought it might be useful. I had about a dozen expressions of interest, and there the matter lay, done and dusted ...
... Until this week, that is. I had an e-mail from a lady in Australia who has become confused by finding a number of family trees on a well-known website that purport to represent some of her ancestors, but with significant differences from her own understanding of her forbears. She has had correspondence with the owners of some of these trees, who are adamant that 'she has got it wrong'. Since some of her researches were based on the results of my project, she has come back to me for re-assurance that her version of the story is the right one, and that it is these other tree-owners who are mistaken.
This puts me in something of a dilemma. My distribution of the results of my project was accompanied by the usual disclaimer that "while I have checked this data and believe it to be accurate, I can take no responsibility for any residual errors and it is for the user to check the details therein against their own research and with original sources where possible, before adding anyone in it to their own tree." Although probably about 90% of the details included were not part of my own tree, I would hate to have misled anyone with it. So I'm now wondering what errors I might have made.
If you've tried digging back through reams of correspondence and tried to follow lines of thought and research that many years' hectic living have forced into the farthest reaches of your memory, you'll have some idea how I feel as a new weekend dawns. On one hand I'm fortunate that I don't have to take work into consideration now, as I did back then. On the other hand, my 'normal' week is taken up with the many things that have filled my retirement, and these are not easily laid aside in order to do the necessary checking and re-checking.
At a personal level, I would like the satisfaction of saying, 'I know I'm right because of this, this and this.' and, although it won't further my own research, that end-result will motivate me in this un-sought task. However, my enthusiasm is blended with the resentment that is echoed by one of the early sentences of my correspondent's e-mail: "I just wish people would check their facts properly before they put them on line!" and also the fear that the same condemnation could apply to me!