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.

Does This Call for a Source Discussion or a Proof Summary?

Mary is perplexed. As a family researcher, she has found a derivative source (a newspaper account) that mentions an original court record. But diligent efforts to find the original have been fruitless. How does she report this? she asks, in another forum. As usual, she received a variety of opinions. As usual, there were substantial contradictions between them and some confusion over concepts. Let’s try to iron out a few of them.

Quality vs. Quantity

It never fails. When I publish an article or present a case study in an educational forum, curious souls ask the same question—over and again. How long did that research take? The answer often triggers a gasp—or dead silence—followed by ... The answer often triggers a gasp—or dead silence—followed by, “But if I spend that long on each problem, I’ll never get My Project done!” So? What is the goal of historical research? ...

Clues from a Processioning List: Part Four

This week we've focused on a critical skill for researchers: Taking research notes that do not simply “extract facts” but permits study of the context of those facts. We challenged you to study a “research note” detailing the 1755 processioning of lands. Yesterday, in response to Glenn's and Scott's comments, we addressed clues to landownership vs. leases. Today we tackle the sequence of names and kinship clues.