Sources are the foundation of our research. They are the places from which we get information that provides evidence to form a conclusion. Examples of sources include documents/records, books, photographs, artifacts, websites, newspapers, video or audio recorded interviews, and people. Sources are classified by type; original, derivative, or authored.
Original sources are considered the first interaction of a record. For example, the first recording of a birth shortly after the birth occurs.
Derivative sources include transcriptions, abstracts, and translations. For example, using the birth record scenario above, if we requested this record from the county recorder’s office they may extract some of the information from the register and type it up on a certificate form. This certificate would be considered a derivative source since it was created based on the original register.
Authored sources are works that are created based on other sources and the author’s analysis of those sources. Sources such as family histories, local histories and case studies, would be considered authored sources.
While original sources are preferred, they are not always possible to obtain. It’s important to fully understand how to evaluate the sources used by family historians. Learn more about sources in our Skill-Building: Breaking Down Brick Walls course with The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.