One of the most important considerations in your research is adhering to the basic rules of genealogical evidence. That includes evaluating the issues of original versus derivative sources discussed in the previous course and ascertaining whether a piece of information is primary or secondary in nature.
In many cases, a piece of information is the result of some occurrence such as a birth, marriage, death, property sale, voting, taxation, court action, probate process, or some other event. Sometimes, however, a record is made before the fact, as in the case of marriage banns that were read before the marriage, or marriage bonds and marriage licenses issued where the marriage never took place. Tombstones may have been created for an individual who was intended to be interred in a specific cemetery plot but who was buried somewhere else. In other cases, an agreement of sale of land or property may have been written but never executed. Are those valid pieces of evidence? Of course they are, because they were created to represent intent. While the events never occurred, they still indicate plans that were made in the context of a person’s life. The documentary evidence produced for these events are important because they place an individual in a certain location at a specific point in time, and they tell you something about his or her life. It may lead you to another clue or another piece of evidence that tells the story of another choice.
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