What do you with conflicting information on Primary Sources?

+4 votes
asked in Genealogy Help by Beverly Robinson G2G Rookie (250 points)
retagged by Dorothy Barry
Do you have any examples of the conflicting information, and possibly a profile that can be reviewed?
Ditto, what Steven said.  Primary sources is a generic term.  We need to see what you are talking about to evaluate the quality of the sources.
Sorry, a Primary source is not a generic term.It is a very specific classification of source type and its meaning in genealogical terms is well defined by all major genealogical associations. It is considered to be the best type of source. Please refer to any genealogical learning institute for a definiti0n in detail
Do you mean "conflicting information _on_ sources" (the conflicting information is about the sources -- their location, author, whatever) or "conflicting information _in_ sources" (the conflict is between the information contained in the sources)? Either way, more details would help people answer your actual question instead of needing to stick with generalities. (Such as, all else being equal, the source closer to the event is generally more trustworthy.)
George, please see Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills, Vol. 3 p. 22.  Classes of Evidence 1.12  Generic Labels

Preference for evidence analysis is to define sources as Original, Derivative or Authored, the information contained in the source as Primary, Secondary or Undetermined and the Evidence as Direct, Indirect or Negative (not to be confused with Negative Findings)

Without knowing what the actual source is, we cannot evaluate its usefulness and judge its quality.
Exactly; primary source is not a generic term. It is specifically defined.

A primary source is any record created during the time you are researching - an eyewitness account. Primary sources can take many forms, such as newspapers, letters, journals, tax lists, court documents, church records, or a census. Even published books can be considered primary sources if they were printed during the time of your study.

A secondary source is a record created later by someone who did not experience the time period or events that you are studying. Most histories are secondary sources.

George - I think what Michael meant by 'generic term' is that there are many different types of primary sources (i.e. news articles, birth certificates, death certificates, etc.) - which I think we all agree with here. However, without knowing what the OP is looking at, it is hard to give advice, because no example of a primary source has been given.

As an example:

  1. Birth Certificate lists DOB as 2 Jan 1928
  2. A small town newspaper has a 'Current Events' section and lists that Mr. and Mrs. XX just had a baby boy, born 3 Jan 1928.

In the examples above, even though they are both considered primary sources, it is easier to say to go with the Birth Certificate information, not the newspaper article based on the evidence and type of source given.

Now, it should also go without saying that there are obvious caveats; such as amended birth certificates. In my family line, even as recent as my parents and grandparents generation, official birth certificates were released with no child name. They would be documented as "Baby boy Harris" or "Baby girl Harris". After the child reached a certain age and was named, a birth certificate amendment would be filed.

Again, I don't think Michael was implying here that the term 'primary sources' is generic, but the use of primary sources in this particular thread is generic and does not provide enough information to provide a clear and concise answer.

Kudos Steven for keeping us focused on answering Beverly's question.  Once we see the sources, we also need to know what question she is trying to answer.

As for "Primary Source".  While I enjoy most "Ice Cream" , at home I prefer Edy's Slow Churn French Vanillia in the 1.5 qt. container from Stop 'n Shop.  

Unfortunately they have stopped carrying it.

4 Answers

+4 votes
Mark as uncertain and look for more sources, is usually the answer. If you can't find more you have to make a judgement about which source is most likely to be accurate, perhaps by thinking about how the mistake might have come to be made. For example in censuses a birthplace is perhaps more likely to be a mistake if it's the current residence, or if it's the same as everyone else's in the household. If it's a unique place it's harder to see why the census taker would have made that mistake. (Though of course that doesn't stop them spelling it very wrongly.)
answered by Deborah Pate G2G6 Mach 1 (16.1k points)
+3 votes
If it's a marriage date, and there are two sources check to see if one is the date it was registered. Sometimes it will be a few days sometimes a few months. Death can also be confused with burial, so again check the source carefully, especially the heading of the register.
answered by Katrina Whitaker G2G6 Mach 2 (29.3k points)
+1 vote

I have found marriage records where the name of one of the parents is wrong.  Maybe the record-keeper just made a mistake, or put it off and forgot and then just guessed.  So sometimes a "proven" relationship just isn't so.

In a different example, after a couple years of head-scratching I determined that Honor Pearce, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Pearce of Illogan (per her baptism record), was the same as Jane Pearce (the name that appears on her Illogan marriage record), wife of Henry Rogers.

answered by John Schmeeckle G2G6 Mach 8 (88.8k points)
+1 vote
Without getting into the argument about primary information vs primary sources (although I really want to), here's what I do when I find conflicting information on otherwise solid sources:

Discuss them in the narrative-- perhaps under a research notes section.

For example:

* His birth certificate<ref>cite the specific source for it</ref> identifies his father as Daniel Cole.

* His marriage record<ref>cite it...</ref> names his father David Cole.
answered by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (603k points)

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