Having a Record That Says Something Doesn’t Prove It!

Every researcher has heard this advice: To prove a point, we need multiple sources: multiple sources, independently created. Not multiple sources that all copy each other. Decades ago, we were told that we needed "three sources that agree." In recent years, that "instruction" has been streamlined. Supposedly now, all we need are two. If that’s been your guidance, forget it ....

Family Meetings

Family meetings were a vital step in the succession (probate) process in the parts of America settled by the French, They were convoked when minor heirs or disabled heirs were involved. Bouvier's 1856 Law Dictionary explains the particulars this way:

The Importance of Context

We can not just take a record at face value. We must always study the context of the information. Never mind this document that seems to say Moses Hornsby married again about 1797. He didn’t. When we put this one-line entry about Moses into the context of all the other entries on this page—their construction and their wording—we’re left with a totally different interpretation of the record.

Understanding Courthouse Records: Originals vs. Duplicate Originals

Many of the records maintained in America’s courthouses—records that historians and some other fields generically call “primary” sources—are duplicate originals or record copies rather than true originals. Does it matter? For the next several postings, we’ll consider the processes that created these legal records, the reasons why differences matter, and characteristics by which we can recognize the type of record we are using.