Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FOCUS ON -

only? Do you have orig­i­nal doc­u­ments to back up the sim­ple and ba­sic BMD events in a per­son’s life?

His­to­ri­ans di­vide up sources into pri­mary and sec­ondary. Pri­mary sources are those from the time of the event, the orig­i­nal records – all his­to­ri­ans are taught to check their facts and in­ter­pre­ta­tions us­ing pri­mary sources. Sec­condary sources in­clude works oof his­tory, as well as any docu­uments that have been prooduced af­ter an event.

We must use pri­mary aand sec­ondary sources, bbut also cope with dderiva­tive sources – in­n­for­ma­tion de­rived from ot­ther sources, for ex­am­ple, in­dexes. To il­lus­trate why this iss vi­tal, let’s look at the pos­i­tives and lim­i­ta­tions of only fo­cussing on one type of source. You might choose to solely look at sec­ondary sources such as fam­ily sto­ries, un­sourced trees, dates and facts gath­ered from in­dexes rather than orig­i­nal doc­u­ments, and tran­scripts of the census and parish reg­is­ter ma­te­rial, tak­ing it all at face value and not mak­ing a note of where it came from or what the source was. This will re­sult in you not un­der­stand­ing where your ev­i­dence came from, and as the ma­te­rial only comes from sec­ondary and de­riv­a­tive sources, your ev­i­dence will lack full cred­i­bil­ity un­less you check it against the orig­i­nal doc­u­ments.

You can take a sim­i­lar ap­proach by fo­cussing purely on pri­mary sources: BMD cer­tifi­cates pro­duced by the Gen­eral Reg­is­ter Of­fice or a lo­cal reg­is­ter of­fice; im­ages of orig­i­nal en­tries from parish reg­is­ters; im­ages of census re­turns; au­then­tic pro­bate doc­u­ments from the courts or record of­fice; and ev­i­dence from tomb­stones. All of th­ese first-hand sources were pro­duced at the time the in­di­vid­ual was alive or re­cently de­ceased. This ev­i­dence has a high level of cred­i­bil­ity, al­though some could con­tain er­rors made by a clerk, or in­clude mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion given by the peo­ple at the time. How­ever, the sources and doc­u­ments

The first English his­to­rian and ge­neal­o­gist to use ev­i­dence in a truly sci­en­tific way was Sir Wil­liam Dug­dale in the 17th cen­tury. He es­tab­lished that ev­ery state­ment made should be backed up by con­tem­po­rary


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