What should a genealogist know to use and track photocopies?

A photographic copy or photocopy is the exact image of an original document, text, photo, etc. A photocopy most often refers to images made on photocopy machines and printed out on paper, but may also refer images taken with one's own camera, images photographed onto microfilm, or even digital images scanned into a computer. An untouched photocopy could also be referred to as a verbatim copy, meaning that it is not altered or abstracted in any way from the original. The "document images" we see online in commercial databases (and elsewhere) are photographic copies. It is important for researchers to understand the differences and distinguish between a document image and that same information presented in an index, abstract or transcription.

When making photographic copies in a library or elsewhere, or when researching using online document images, it's always important to document and record or cite the exact source and its location on the photocopy itself and in a research log, making it easier to transfer that information to your genealogy software program. Researchers typically accumulate a volume of photocopied documents in the course of their research: the problem then becomes organizing those documents so they can be easily located.

While any organizing system is personal and should be adapted to one's own style, a few general principles can help.

For printed documents, you want to keep them in the most logical place where they can be easily accessed. For example, keeping all documents for a particular family or individual together in one file folder or notebook. It is also a good practice to keep a list, something akin to a Table of Content at the front of the folder or notebook, listing the documents inside, providing a ready reference.

For documents stored online, a simple but consistent way of naming image files is important (e.g. name>document type>location), as it keeping the documents together in a documents folder: both such practices make searching for a document easier. Today, documents can also be attached to individual files within one's genealogy software or stored and accessed online; even so, the researcher's own practice of recording and labeling documents is still paramount.

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