Here's a scenario that I suspect will be familiar to most genealogists. You receive an email from a stranger who excitedly writes that she is descended from the same ancestor as you. Your common ancestor was born in the early 1800s.
Your new "cousin" goes on to say that her great aunt Martha always said that Common Ancestor was Irish so she isn't sure why you are saying on your website that he was of Dutch descent. She goes on to add that she is new to genealogy and has been researching for one year but has a "ton" of information from great aunt Martha.
You've been researching this family (including Common Ancestor) for over 30 years. You've carefully scrutinized and assessed various records. You've cited your sources. You've searched in obscure record sets for every scrap of detail no matter how small. And nowhere does any hint of Irish or Ireland come into play.
You don't have an exact town of origin for Common Ancestor but you have miscellaneous records (census, obituaries, death records etc) that indicate the family's ethnicity was Dutch.
Thorny question - how do you convince your new "cousin" that she's wrong. I've encountered this many many times over the past dozen or more years. I've tried explaining the contrary evidence that substantiates my research. I've tried various methods - the long-winded explanation/argument, full of examples and source citations. All I usually get back is "hmm that's not what great-aunt Martha told me"
I've tried the short version - "The family is definitely Dutch in origin as shown on census and land records. Perhaps the notion of them being Irish came into being with the marriage of Common Ancestor's son to Sally O'Brien who was from Ireland" I've explained that family lore can't always be trusted to be 100% correct. Still no agreement from "new cousin" that my research findings might in any way have merit.
Second thorny question - is it necessary to convince "new cousin"? I've done good research. I stand by my findings. Is it enough to simply present her with those findings and let her draw her own conclusions?
Even if she continues to argue that great aunt Martha TOLD her the family was Irish, ergo they are Irish - is it my responsibility to try to convince her of the correctness of my research and the error of hers?
Perhaps it's enough for me to simply state that the evidence I have found indicates the family was Dutch in origin. Enough said? Maybe I need to back off and let "new cousin" think whatever she wants?
Sometimes I feel like responding the way my 12 year old grandson does when his sister keeps arguing with him over something he knows absolutely is incorrect thinking on her part. His ending comment is "Well, you can think that if you want but it's wrong"
So now I've come to wonder if it is up to me to convince any other genealogist of the "rightness" of my research. Should I shrug my shoulders and let it go? Or should I continue to attempt to convince a new cousin of the thoroughness of my research?
I'd love to hear thoughts and opinions on this!