Broadly speaking, genealogists can put sources in one of three categories:
- Original-the first time the document was recorded.
- Derivative-when the document was reproduced, whether by hand or some sort of “image reproduction”
- Authored Narrative-usually a written compilation of original and derivative records along with analysis, interpretation and summary
This classification scheme is not perfect. No scheme is perfect. This classification scheme does not comment on the accuracy of the record. That’s the job of the researcher as some original sources are virtually worthless and some derivative sources are excellent.
Thinking about what type of source you have in your possession helps you to think about how accurate it could be and the limitations that it might have.
For more about record classification and analysis, consult Evidence Explained.