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.

Using Record Copies

27 February 2014 Many of the "original" court records we consult at the city and county level are "record copies," rather than "true originals." Historically, attorneys presented the court with individual documents relevant to the case at hand. The court clerk then ...

Source Analysis 101

30 January 2014 When analyzing sources, the first question we ask ourselves should be: “Is this an original or a derivative?” However, this basic question is just a starting point for our evaluation of reliability. Some material falls clearly into one extreme or the other, but many resources fall somewhere on a sliding scale between those extremes.