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Question on primary/secondary sources


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#1 donlance

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Posted 01 October 2004 - 06:52 AM

I have a question or two about properly documenting sources. It is related to proper use of the source type options you have in Rootsmagic (primary/secondary/questionable/unreliable).

I understand the concepts behind a "primary" source (information directly from an original record) versus a "secondary" source (information from a derived record, like a census transcription). However, I sometimes don't know how to classify a source.

My trouble is how far to go in classifying a source as "direct" or "derived."

Does anyone know the standard for classifying the below sources as "primary" or "secondary"? If you know of a web site link that will help me, let me know.

1) Original newspaper clipping (original info, or derived info from interviews in the article?)

2) Personal interview, in which a person heard a piece of information from someone else (not direct personal knowledge, per se, but indirect knowledge from someone else)

Please pardon my ignorance on how to properly classify this genealogical sources...

#2 Guest_Guest_Laura_*

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Posted 03 October 2004 - 06:10 PM

Here is what I would do in my database.
1) Original newspaper clipping (original info, or derived info from interviews in the article?)
Original Info - "Secondary"
Interviews or derived info from interviews in the article - "Questionable" at best, but would probably be "Unreliable".

2) Personal interview, in which a person heard a piece of information from someone else (not direct personal knowledge, per se, but indirect knowledge from someone else)
"Unreliable". (i.e. Gossip = Unreliable. biggrin.gif )
Also, some sources won't have the same quality for each fact..
My Grandma's death certificate is wrong for her birth year athough her birth day is correct. So that source is "Unreliable" for the birth fact and "Secondary for the death fact, parent's names, etc.
Laura

#3 MikeB

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Posted 27 February 2005 - 07:07 AM

I know this is an old posting, but this may be helpful to someone - here is what I put together as a personal guide. I am very fussy about what I consider to be a "primary" source. I would be very interested to read anyone else's ideas.


1) Primary
Primary info from a government or church document (e.g. date of birth on birth certificate)

2) Secondary
Secondary info (e.g. parent's info from a birth certificate) from a government or church document
Other secondary government info (e.g. census data)
First hand knowledge from an individual (e.g. personal and immediate family data)
Professional compilations
Primary information on a news notice (e.g. date of death on an obituary)

3) Questionable
Amateur compilations
Professional compilations unsourced or with known errors (e.g. Tanguay)
Secondary information from a news notice
Secondary knowledge from an individual (e.g.. family knowledge not experienced personally)

4) Unreliable
Questionable knowledge from an individual (e.g. not sure or guessing)
Amateur compilations unsourced or with known errors
Guess or speculation from a news source
Calculations or guesses

5) Blank
unknown

Mike

#4 Kathy Fowler

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Posted 05 March 2005 - 09:40 PM

Just a cautionary note about those reliable government documents: Consider whether any parties responsible for the information had a reason to misrepresent the facts.

The marriage license for my grandparents lists my grandmother's age as 18. I'm sure that's what she told the clerk, since anyone under 18 needed a parent's permission to marry (in Georgia in the 1920s). But the bride was just six weeks past her 17th birthday.

I'll trust Grannie's marriage papers for the marriage date, the location, and the names of the participants (bride, groom, minister, and witness); too many people were "witnesses" to those details. Beyond that, this official document--with age information given by the bride herself--is not to be trusted.

(My mother also married at the age of 17, but she swears she had her parents' permission...) wink.gif

#5 wilcox5

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 06:01 PM

Regarding sources:

If you can locate a copy of Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD, 1997, or just buy a copy, then you will be well informed regarding primary/secondary sources. This book is easy to read, has many examples, and is considered to be the best current book on this topic. The price is just $17 and doesn't take up much desk/bookcase space.

Maggy

#6 milowright@comcast.net

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Posted 10 May 2005 - 10:06 PM

Folks:

From Chapter 4, Genealogy Fundamentals, Laureen Jaussi

A record is either an original or a copy.

The source for an item of information is either primary or secondary.

By definition, primary source information is provided by a witness or participant at or near the time of the event.

A source that does not meet this definition is classified as a secondary source.

For example, a death certificate may be an original or a copy; but each item of information in a death certificate is classified as either primary or secondary. The death information would be from a primary source if supplied by a witness near the date of the death. The birth date of an elderly decedent would be from a secondary source.

Using newspapers as an example, the newspaper record may be either an original or a copy; an item of information may be from either a primary or secondary source. A marriage notice printed soon after the event would be a primary source for the marriage date and place, if provided by a witness or participant. A marriage date provided in a newspaper obituary would be from a secondary source.


Donít become entangled in deciding if a record is a primary or secondary source, because a record is neither.


Milo