Archiver > GEN-MEDIEVAL > 2000-08 > 0966984705

From: Renia <>
Subject: Re: Primary and secondary sources
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2000 23:51:45 +0100

Nathaniel Taylor wrote:

> Bernard Schulmann wrote:
>> > To give an example, I have seen some genealogists refer to
>> published
>> > parish register transcripts (even very high quality ones) as
>> secondary
>> > sources. On the other hand, if a historian cites a highly
>> regarded
>> > critical edition of a contemporary medieval chronicle whose
>> manuscript
>> > is unavailable for examination (which I think is an analogous
>> > situation), I do not believe that that historian's colleagues
>> would
>> > accuse the historian of using secondary sources, simply because
>> the
>> > original manuscript was not consulted.
>> Actually it would be considered a secondary source. . .
> Stewart was referring to the usage current among historians, not
> genealogists, and he is correct: the published transcription of some
> document would generally be referred to in historical writing and
> teaching as a 'primary source'.

Transcripts and abstracts are secondary sources. Anything produced
contemporary with the era you are examining, is a primary source.
Anything produced later, including transcripts, are secondary sources.
Never heard of tertiary sources - they are secondary sources. (Primary
sources can include exact copies, such as by microfilm, microfiche, or
photocopy.) In some cases, certain secondary sources can be utilised in
lieu of primary sources, where the primaries have been lost or destroyed
(though they are still secondaries). I am thinking, for example, of
Betham's extracts of Irish wills, made before the wills themselves were
lost in 1922. You just have to hope that those extracts are accurate!


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