Those beginning in family history research often are not sure how the classification of the information found really works. To do research properly and to understand the value of what you find it is important to learn how to group your information into classifications. As well, it is also good to learn how the review process works. Confused yet?
What A Source Is
When doing family history research you find out information from various sources. Sources are things like family bibles, tax returns, census data or things your grand mom said. More specifically we can classify sources into the below Types.
Sources are considered "original" or "derivative". An "original" source can come in various forms. We are not concerned with the reliability of the information at this point, but simply the type of information such as visual, oral or written down. How was the information distributed to you? To be original it needs to be straight from the source and not derived from some other source.
A "derivative" source is information that originally came from another source and so is repeated or copied in written, oral or visual format. Such records include things like indexes, a typed copy of a record, transcribed wills, etc.
Having gathered your sources you will then have "information" to look at and sort through. This information is classified into "primary" or "secondary" types. Many researches get confused at this stage, by those two classifications.
Primary information is written or oral communication that comes from a primary witness to the event or from a person with first hand knowledge. An official who is responsible for directly dictating records of a court proceeding will produce primary information. A relative who was at a wedding of your father will produce a primary oral history of the event. A family member writing down births in a bible right after the event is producing primary information. The form of the information is not important and the accuracy is not guaranteed either, but it is primary.
Secondary information is information received from a secondary source such as a story handed down verbally through the generations. Such a story is far removed from the original witness to the event. Again, the form of the information is unimportant here. If the information you have on hand was written or spoken by someone not directly knowledgeable to the event or officially appointed as the recorder of the event, then it is secondary.
Determining The Evidence
With your sources and your information in hand, you can now determine how strong the evidence is for your family history questions. Ask yourself, "What is the relevance of the information I have and how well can it answer my family history questions?" Evidence is born from information and comes in two types, Direct and Indirect.
In family history research "direct" evidence is evidence that is complete in itself. You don't have to fill in missing pieces or assume things. This evidence includes all the details you need.
"Indirect" evidence is incomplete and needs more supporting evidence before you can reach a decision as to its conclusiveness. It can be compared to the circumstantial evidence decreed in law courts. If you are looking at evidence that seems to need some assumptions on your part before you can reach a conclusion, than it is "indirect" evidence.
For more tips on doing better family history research read Family History Blog [http://www.genealogyblog.familyhistoryresearch.net/]. The author, Mark D. Jordan writes from and resides in Pennsylvania.
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