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