I'm still having trouble grasping the concepts behind original and derivative sources and primary and secondary information. Reading the explanations and the usual examples, they make sense to me, but when I'm actually looking at what I have in front of me, I doubt I'm doing anything right. There's also different usage of these terms, even within the context of genealogy teaching resources, that muddies the waters for me. (For example, seeing many certificates explained as "original" specifically in the sense of "not a derivative source", or reading something that seems to conflate original sources with primary information.) I've been starting over the proper way with all the documents from family I can get my hands on (practicing with the easy people and records!), and would like to classify some of them, explain my reasoning and what I believe to be the background of the source's creation (beginning to realize just how key that aspect is), and see if I'm correct, as I could really use the feedback. I don't have any knowledgeable contacts to ask about these things, so I hope this is okay. Hopefully, down the line, this can help someone who has the same problems as I have. So, here goes:
- I have a number of modern state birth certificates from family members, all of which are derivative, because they were assembled from the state's information into certificate. These were created through information gathered by the hospital, which is then given to and stored by the state, and turned into a certificate format for the parents and then further copies upon request.
- However, I also have a state birth certificate which appears, to me anyway, to be something different - it's a photocopy of what I presume is actually the form used to gather the information for a birth record. It (not the photocopy but what was photocopied) was signed by the mother and attending physician to confirm its accuracy. So, is this still the same kind of derivative as the other birth certificates? Or is it closer to an original, an image copy?
- I have a few heirloom records created by hospitals to document a birth, which are also derivative, because they came, again, from whatever records the hospital took.
- On the other hand, I have one such heirloom record which, along with the derivative form describing the birth, also has a number of empty fields for information about the parents, which one of the parents then filled out afterwards. If you are simply writing down information about yourself, that's not derivative, right?
- I have a few Catholic baptismal certificates, all of which, yet again, are derivative, because the content would have been recorded in baptismal registers, which were then referenced in creation of the certificate.
- Then I've got another church record (Swedenborgian, if that matters, as I've no idea if different denominations have different practices), a certificate for a marriage. This is not a mailed-to-you-later sort of certificate, but was signed and dated at the wedding by the couple, the minister, and the witnesses. That's really all it contains - there's not much to be derived from anything else, and at most I would think it to be sort of... simultaneous with any marriage register. Would this then be an original?
- I have various handwritten letters, each of which would be an original, because they were not taking an existing document and reassembling it in some fashion or other. The same goes for the empty envelopes from the collection (which seem to be missing their contents, but are still useful for residence info), as these would be originals as well.
- I have a family member's old address book. This... I am not sure. I suppose I consider the creator to be a compiler of sorts, but it seems strange to consider this a derivative work, because... what does it really derive from? Their knowledge of the contact information for their loved ones.
It's a lengthy post, apologies, but I wanted to make sure I'd "done the work" and shown it before asking. I'd be extremely grateful to have my errors pointed out or to know if I'm on the right track, here.