I attended a seminar this weekend led by Michael John Neill. He mentioned something that I had not thought much about. He explained the importance of noting the type of document you are looking at – is it an original or a copy? Have you ever thought about why this is so important and how it might apply to your research?
When a black and white copy is made, you will not be able to distinguish if different color inks were used and if things may have been written at different times. If there is a name that is faint, someone might use a pen to write what they think this name might be over the faint spelling. If they misspelled the name, you would probably not be able to tell with a black and white copy. Viewing the original, you can decide for yourself what the faint spelling might be.
Think about possible documents you have and think about how they were created:
- Is it the actual deed, the original?
- Is it a photocopy?
- Is it copy of microfilm?
- It is handwritten copy, a transcript?
- It is copied in color or black and white?
- “Original sources – material in its first oral or recorded form.”
- “Derivative Sources – material produced by copying an original or manipulating its content.”
- Taken from Elizabeth Shown Mills in Evidence Explained
When you have a record you wish to use for your research, here are three ways to consider using this document:
- Abstract: Write down the key points or ideas that you need for your research.
- Extract: Taking a part of the record and copying it exactly word for word. This should be in “quotation marks”.
- Transcription: Copying the entire record exactly as it is. If a word is misspelled, you copy the misspelled word just as it is.
The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual states, “Because every repetition or recopying of data is an opportunity for error, the closer the derivative is to the original the more reliable the data are likely to be.”
A great reference to learn more about these terms is George G. Morgan’s book, How To Do Everything With Your Genealogy.