APG-L ArchivesArchiver > APG > 2008-11 > 1225913975
From: "Suzanne Prosnier" <>
Subject: [APG] Citation on document
Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 12:39:35 -0700
I am pleased to see this discussion on the list as it does need clarification. Certain photocopies are LEGAL documents and writing a citation on them invalids their legality. Because my specialty is French genealogy, I will use that country as an example, but the same applies to Haiti and some African countries.
Many years ago, if someone was to be married, needed a passport, or for any other matter, a request had to be made for legal proof of birth. The same applies for proof of marriage, divorce, or death. The Mayor of the town in which the person was born would write out in longhand, or occasionally fill in a form authenticating the birth. An official seal from the Mayor, signature and date would be placed either in the margin, or at times on the reverse of the document. This document was legal and would be accepted by any authority.
With the advent of photocopy machines, local authorities began to photocopy the actual register book entry, place the appropriate seal, date and signature in the margin or on the reverse. That photocopy was then an official, legal document. Writing of any kind on the document would render it invalid.
France began digitizing civil records long before the US. My French husband was, himself, astonished in 1993 when he went to the Mayor of the town where he was born to obtain a copy of his birth certificate. Within seconds a photocopy spit out of the machine--the Mayor put her seal on it and it is a legal document. Many French archives today provide photocopies of ancient records which are authenticated with the seal of the archives. These are legal documents and should not be defaced by writing on them. A photocopy obtained by an individual from a microfilm is, of course, not a legal document and writing a citation on it is acceptable.
Suzanne Prosnier, CG