I love history. But I don’t enjoy much of history from text books; a great deal of history is a recounting of data and has no soul.
There are two general kinds of history, documented and lore. There are potential problems with both.
Documented history relies on government and vital records, written accounts, newspaper stories, letters, journals, books contemporary to the time, etc. Lore is generally oral history passed down through generations, or firsthand memories of participants. The best kind of history incorporates both sources.
I usually consider personal memory and family lore as based in truth, but it’s usually imprecise, because it relates the story and feelings not necessarily the exact, date, time, place, and people.
I consider documented history to be precise to the degree that the original source was precise, and accurate to that same degree. It is most reliable when you have multiple unrelated sources.
For example a ranch family arrived in Gila County in the late 1880's and set up camp at Bloody Tanks near current-day Miami. They ranged their herd in the nearby hills. One day the men were out working their cattle, the women and older children engaged in camp chores, and the young children playing. Geronimo and a band of Apache's with war point on their faces rode into camp, watered their horses, and demanded coffee beans. They took the beans and rode away to the east. The women were so frightened that when the men came back they demanded that they break camp and move immediately to Wheatfields, a more populated area. I believe everything about the story is true except one point. At that time Geronimo and his band had been taken prisoner and were in Florida.
Either the Indians used the name Geronimo to frighten the women, or the women made an assumption that is was him. Either way they truly believed it was the infamous raider and the were truly terrified. So I will tell their story exactly as they experienced it, but will then explain why it could not have been Geronimo.
When I assemble a history I start with the documented history and create a chronological timeline using birth, death, marriage records, census records, newspaper articles and other dated sources. Then I work through the lore and memories and place them in the logical sequence of possible occurrence.
Then I write the story as a chronological narrative with the dates and facts in order, and references available, as the skeleton of the story and the lore and memories as the flesh of the story. Without the facts of documentation it isn’t really history, and without the elements of humanity it is dry and boring.
The biggest problem with almost all historians is that they tend to filter the story through their own experiences, beliefs, and values. Once a historian starts using terms like “greedy” capitalists, or “greedy” union members they stop being historians and become propagandists.
So when I write history I try not to judge, just relate what happened, and if available I'll include what the antagonists and protagonists gave as their reasons or thoughts on the matter. We cannot possibly pass rational judgement on a time that had a completely different understanding and experience from our own.