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Where we often used to talk about primary and secondary sources when discussing records, their provenance and their value, we now talk about whether documents are original or derivative and whether sources are primary, secondary or tertiary.
Understanding the types of records we use is critical to interpreting the information they provide us. Was the information collected in real-time and from someone involved? Was it collected later and something heard third-hand?
Natalie D. Cottrill has an excellent article at ProGenealogists, What Every Genealogist Should Know ... About Original and Derivative Records and Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Sources of Information, where she discusses this topic in great detail and with examples.
REMEMBER -- Not all records are created equal!
Some additional resources on this topic:
- Skillbuilding: Guidelines for Evaluating Genealogical Resources (BCG)
- Five Steps to Verifying Online Genealogy Sources (Kimberly Powell, About.com)
- Original or Derivative Source? Bible Records (Randy Seaver, Genea-Musings)
- Consider the Source: Original, Derivative, or Copy (Dick Eastman, Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter)
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