02 February 2015

Compiled Military Records are Derivative Sources

In recent posts, we've mentioned compiled military service records at the National Archives:

Compiled military service records are derivative sources--not original ones. As derivative sources, they can easily contain errors. Muster rolls and various other records are the original records from which these compiled service records were compiled and they are the records to which researchers should refer when it is desired to view the original. 

At this stage, I've decided not to look at the original muster rolls. This is partially because it is cheaper for me at this point to obtained the compiled military service record and I'm not certain what would be gained in terms of this research problem with the additional expense. The original rolls would be helpful in learning more about the history of the unit and they could also contain additional details on the serviceman--the compiled service record's purpose was to confirm when a man was on the muster rolls for what unit so that his service could be validated.

Which means in one sense they were a finding aid and not always and end in and of themselves.