The most important thing I've learned through this research project is don't get too attached to the details. Some things just roll off the tongue. Great Grandma Johnstone, who was born Mary Alice Coleman and came from County Cork Ireland. That must be so, right? Except her death certificate lists place of birth as Bristol England. But that might not be so either. It is her death certificate. A secondary source with information provided long after the time of her birth and by someone who was likely not present at her birth.
Perhaps the family story was really referring to her mother, Mary Coleman. Mary's death certificate says that she was born in Ireland. But the town, Carrick-on-Suir, is in County Waterford. I looked at a current map and believe that Waterford and Cork are neighbors. I need to check an historical map from that time to see if county lines have changed. Perhaps Carrick-on-Suir WAS in County Cork. Maybe there is a grain of truth to the family lore, afterall.
So who do you believe? Well, I believe no one. If/when I find her actual birth certificate or a church record of her baptismal, than I'll believe (a little bit) the information provided. In the mean time I take the clues that I find and search for the primary source. Some people might find this frustrating, but to me it's almos the most fun part of the journey. I feel like I'm channeling my inner Sam Spade here. There's one thing that is for certain. I'll never run out of things to look for.