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What is a fact? Google the definition of “fact” and you’ll get a variety of answers. Most definitions hinge on the concept of truth; so, a common definition would be that a fact is something that can be proven to be true. Then how do you define “truth?” Well, one definition asserts that truth is a fact that has been verified. We’re back where we started.
Abraham Lincoln addressed the dilemma of truth by positing this question: “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four — calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” That’s the “aha” moment for genealogists; simply saying your ancestor was born on such and such a date in such and such a place doesn’t make it so. Unless you can travel back in time and witness your ancestor’s birth, you’ll never know the absolute truth about that happy event. Even eyewitnesses to events can mangle the facts; just ask any police detective investigating a crime.