Duh! This sounds too simple. If you didn’t know anything about the Internet, you wouldn’t even have found this site.
Although the pre-internet days were more difficult for a researcher, there are many more pitfalls for a researcher today. Before, if a researcher realized he had given someone the wrong information, it could easily be retracted by a followup letter. Today, communication is so fast and widespread, if someone erroneously places a “fact” in a website gedcom, then goes back to correct it, it may already be too late. A dubious genealogy business may have lifted the data from the site and burned the info into CD’s, marketing it to others unaware of the wrong data. I’m using this in the extreme case, but it does happen. I have obtained information through gedcoms, but I have always confirmed the information through census and other records, such as marriage and death records, and newspaper notices (wedding, obituary) or found someone close to the family for a “second opinion.” As mentioned before, the number one rule at all times is to document all info received with sources. You may come across a site that gives sources, but YOUR source should include both the site/person you obtained the info plus the source that person quoted. If at all possible, try to obtain a copy of the original source yourself. Later you may find some conflicting info and need to evaluate your sources. From personal experience, I know the importance of this. Years ago, I was passing on information to a distant cousin as to the “birth date” of Martin Loy’s son John. I had received information from another researcher that the date was 1 April 1747 and the source given was the DAR papers of descendant Jean (Waggener) Chapin in 1962. The cousin I was giving the info to asked me to document my source, as she had only found sources for the year alone. I obtained a copy of the original DAR paper and discovered that Jean had begun to type her own birth date (11 April 1887) in the “ancestor” category, with her birth place as well. She erased both of these, then typed over it John’s 1747 year alone and “Pennsylvania” over “Stanberry, Missouri.”
Not only are gedcoms subject for followup documentation, but also the IGI found on the LDS site, which is basically just information individuals have submitted. I know firsthand that some people, though not even related to the family, will submit information they gleaned from genealogical society queries, just to have more to submit. Unfortunately, the genealogical society quarterly that published my query left off a whole line, so one relative was “married” to his wife’s sister, that is, it showed his wife’s first name combined with his sister-in-law’s name and birth date. It showed the same in the gedcom I found.
As for the computer, if you have family info on it, and 99.99% of you do, there are three things you should remember. 1) BACK UP 2) BACK UP 3) BACK UP. You never know what might happen to your computer or even external drive. I make a habit of putting my 25 MB of Loy info on my keychain USB “memory stick,” as well as two backup Zip copies, besides the working copy on my hard drive. If at all possible, along with a backup copy, make a backup copy of the software you are using it on. These can be kept on a USB “memory stick” keychain, or on zip disks in your desk at work or safe deposit box. (If you have old family pictures scanned, put them on this backup too, or another disk with it.) In case of a major catastrophe (house fire, flood, earthquake, for example) you’ll at least have your files and software. If you update files often, you could put these on a separate disk and exchange with a freshly updated one as often as you need to.