Primary Sources Of Information For Genealogy Research

Primary Sources of Information for Genealogy Research. There are three kinds of sources. There is a primary source, a secondary source, and a questionable source. There are three kinds of sources. There...

There are three kinds of sources. There is a primary source, a secondary source, and a questionable source. A primary source is a piece of information or a document that was generated in the presence of the person it involves. A secondary source would be a source that was generated for a person after they died or outside of their presence. A questionable source is when someone tells you a story.


Birth certificates, for example, are primary sources only for the name of the mother and your birth date and where you were born - it proves that you were born on that date and that's your primary proof of a birth date. Now let's take a death certificate. A death certificate is a primary source proving that you died because the doctor says that you died on this date, at this time, at this place and this was more than likely your name. However the name of your mother and father on the death certificate is secondary information because you didn't give it. The same applies for your address and how old you were. The information you give for paper work to join the military came from you and that's a primary source.




There is a tremendous amount of information on the web, but everybody has to bear in mind that that information is suspect until you yourself have been able to substantiate that the information is correct. When you find some information online, maybe from someone else's family history work, you don't add it to your own work until you are satisfied that the preponderance of evidence says that this information is right and belongs to your family.

That's one of the differences between the genealogist and the family historian. A genealogist is a trained and certified professional and they will never put out information without the source document substantiating it. A family historian, on the other hand, might take oral information or pick something up off the web and they don't always check to be sure that it's right. It is not fair for us as family historians to give information that is wrong to someone else. If we don't know it's right then we either say it's a best guess or something along that line. We should never pass on undocumented information as fact to someone else.

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