Elizabeth Shown Mills
Originals? True originals? Duplicate originals? Record copies? Certified records? The ‘most original'? How do I tell the difference? Does it even matter?
Many of the property and probate records we consult at the city and county level are record copies rather than 'true originals.' Historically, citizens created deeds, marriage contracts, probate inventories, and a host of related records in the private office of an attorney, a notary, or a justice of the peace. On those occasions, duplicate originals were typically made—a true original to be kept by the official who created the record and one or more duplicate originals for the key parties involved (say, the grantor and grantee in a land sale).
Depending upon the law at the time and place, either the official who created the document or one of the parties to the transaction might bring one of the duplicate originals to the town or county record office. There, the document would be recopied into a record book. Depending upon law and custom, the originals might be returned to the individuals who submitted them for recording—or they might be kept by the clerk. Retaining the original was a common early practice for probate records, less so for deeds.
As careful researchers, we want to seek the 'true original' or the copy closest to the original (the so-called 'most original'). If a city or county has preserved probate files (packaged or bundled loose papers), you would give more weight to the documents kept therein than to the record-book copies that might be easier to read. As a legal and practical matter, however, record copies officially created and maintained by public record offices are treated as original records, unless a “more original” version is known to exist.
*Adapted from EE 10.4.
PHOTO CREDITS: "Woman mows split ends of hair with scissors," CanStockPhoto (http://www.canstockphoto.com/problem-with-hair-16537218.html : accessed 26 March 2015), image csp16537218, uploaded by raduga21, 30 October 2013; used under license.
Posted 27 March 2015