Personal Knowledge for Names and Birthdays - Primary vs. Secondary

Hi, I'm curious about how I should classify my personal knowledge of another person's full name, maiden name, and birthday. Let's say my mother, for example. I obviously was not present at her birth, but I have celebrated her birthday with her every year that I can recall. Does that give me primary knowledge of the day, but not the year? Or would my knowledge be considered entirely secondary information?

I also wasn't alive when my mother still used her maiden name, though I know what it is. Could this even be considered personal knowledge? Or would it be considered something I learned in an interview? I assume it would be primary information if it were the interview. If it were considered personal knowledge, would it be secondary information?

Finally, if I know someone's full name -- first, middle, last -- but don't routinely call them by the whole thing and have never seen a vital record proving that that is, in fact, their legal name, can I consider my personal knowledge of their name to be primary information?

Submitted byEEon Fri, 09/10/2021 - 19:38

Hello, Sombody. Welcome.

  • You have primary (firsthand) knowledge of the day and month on which your mother celebrated her birth each year.
  • You have secondary (secondhand) knowledge of the day, month, and year on which she was born, because you were not there to witness her birth.
  • When your mother tells you her maiden name, she has primary (firsthand) knowledge of her birth name—or (if, say, an adoptee) the surname she used because that was the family in which she was reared. You have only secondary knowledge. (On the latter point, realistically, there have been many people in this world who took on a new identity in adulhood and their spouse and children knew them only by who they said they were, not the identity they abandoned.)
  • If you know that someone used Firstname Middlename Lastname but have not found a document that supports all three names, then you have primary (firsthand) knowledge that they used all three names (in various combinations?).  You would not have firsthand knowledge of what their legal name might be on a legal record unless you have seen that legal record--in which case you would be citing the legal record and not yourself.
  • If you are taking information from an interview, then the point-of-view to evaluate would be that of the person you are interviewing. Any piece of information asserted by that person would be evaluated as to whether that person had firsthand or secondhand knowledge. Your knowledge would not be irrelevant.