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From: "Craig Kilby" <>
Subject: Cite Your Sources!?
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 2006 05:07:29 -0500


List (and especially Elizabeth):

I sat down tonight to begin compiling the bibliography for the land/family research report I am going to use in my portfolio for submission to the BCG.

That was at 11:00 p.m. and the next time I looked at the clock, here it is almost 5:00 a.m. I must admit I have several chuckles to myself while going through this exercise. Even the all-encompassing Elizabeth Shown Mills has not covered some of the sources I will be citing. The judges will probably have a jolly laugh at how I have cited some of my sources--but if one gets and "E" for "Effort" I should be alright. After all, the point is to cite your sources, preferably in a way that the reader can follow (assuming the reader even reads the bibliography....now I know all of you good researchers, like me...do read the bibliography, right after you browse the index, but we all know that most people just want the meat of the matter, which of course is what the narrative is for.)

Anyway, a couple of questions spring to mind, especially over what is an "original" source (used to be a primary source) and a "derivative source" (used to be a secondary source).

As I understand it, anything but an original document (say a deed or will) is a derivative source. A derivative source would include all recorded copies of any document, or microfilmed copies of original documents. It would be a rare find to stumble upon the actual paper, signed will or deed. So, recorded copies at the court house are derivatives.

Now, to find those derivative recorded copies, one has to consult the county's index to, say, wills and deeds. Is the General Index an original or a derivative? Was it copied at some later date by a clerk because the "original" index was tattered? We all know that General Indexes can contain omissions and errors. So, it the only extant copy of a General Index to Deeds at the court house considered an "original" or a "derivative"?

How about modern day tax maps? There is only one place to get them, and in this case (Lancaster County, VA) it is at the Commissioner of Revenues office. But those are only based on records of land transactions that pass through their hands from the Circuit Clerk's office (usually) or by someone presenting a will saying they are the new owners. Is that map an "original" or a "derivative."

What about tombstones? They are certainly very real, physical markers created by a person who makes tombstones. But, the tombstone maker takes his information from the undertaker, who heard it from the next of kin, who heard it from hearsay. So, is a tombstone an original or a derivative source? I just want to cite the tombstone as a source. Is it derivative even if I have personally seen it and photographed it?

I have come to the conclusion that there should be three categories for a bibliography.

1. Original paper copies of say, a will. (But even originals can contain errors).

2. Derivatives, Primary Sources. This would include recorded copies of deeds and wills. (But do we do with handwritten plats in Land Cause Books? That is not really the original survey, but often drawn in by the surveyor as the only copy of it).

3. Derivatives (Secondary Sources). This category is rather simple. If someone else abstracted, wrote, published his/her interpretation of records, or a county history, etc., then that goes in this category.

Just food for thought. I am sure the judges on my portfolio will have fun dissecting my way of building a bibliography.

I can't wait to get to the footnotes. (Actually, that should be easier).

Craig Kilby
Lancaster, VA

P.S. For those of you who may have research in the Northern Neck, I highly recommend the Mary Ball Washington Library in Lancaster. Chocked full of goodies. I even joined as a member and have volunteered to man the library two afternoons a week. (Selfish reasons of course, but it is a great organization and their collection of materials is really astounding).


Craig Kilby



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