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09 September 2014

Primary May Not Be Good and Secondary May Not Be Bad

Primary information is typically defined as information that was provided by someone who had first hand knowledge of the information. Secondary information is typically everything else. I can provide primary information about my date and place of marriage and secondary information about my date and place of birth as my knowledge of the marriage is because I was an adult when it happened and hopefully was aware that it was taking place.

My knowledge of my birth is because I've read it somewhere and have been told it.

Just because information is primary does not mean it is correct--I could have my anniversary wrong. And just because information is secondary does not mean it is wrong.

The correctness of information has more to do than whether it is primary or secondary.


  1. I have seen many incorrect statements in primary documents -- completely wrong names, incorrect dates, locations, even incorrect land descriptions in deeds. The info is only as good as the informant or the person filling out the document.

  2. I was the informant for the funeral home’s records when my mother passed away. The funeral home took care of providing the death certificates. When I received the death certificates two weeks later, absolutely everything was totally wrong! The funeral home had mixed up their records and several other families were also provided with the wrong information. When I contacted the funeral home about their errors, they told me I had to go to the court house to see about having the record corrected. At the court house I was advised it was too late to make changes but I could add an addendum for a fee of $30.00. I paid the fee and two weeks later I received the original death certificate with all the errors and stapled to it was the addendum form. It also had some errors repeated from the original certificate. Contacting the court house again, I was told I would have to pay another fee of $30. So, it is perhaps not the informant that gave the wrong information, but the carelessness of the recorder or the incompetent staff at a court house.