How many copies?

During recent discussions in the FHISO Sources and Citation Exploratory Group, Nick Hall suggested this baptism as an instructive example:

1845, 30 Nov, Alfred son of James & Lucy Munday

This entry, numbered 123, is recorded in the parish baptism register for Abinger St James on page 16 of a bound book of printed forms.

It is likely that you would not be permitted to inspect the original register, but would be directed to a copy instead. Popular records like parish registers would deteriorate through being handled by many people. The primary concern of archives is the long term preservation of documents in their care. The archivist is not being an obstructive pain, but doing their job.

Copies offer much wider access, especially to those who cannot easily travel to the archive. However, copies are not equal, so it is important to know exactly which copy of a record you are using.

I have tracked down as many copies of this baptism record as I can find. Here is how the copies were derived:


Derivatives of Abinger Baptism Register (Follow link for an interactive version)


I count 18 versions in addition to the original register. Can you find any more?


© Sue Adams 2015


10 Comments on “How many copies?”

  1. Russ Worthington says:


    First, Thank you for ALL of the work you are doing with FHISO, just awesome work.

    I do hope that the new Standard will allow us to document which version that I actually looked at in the Citation. As you have illustrated, not all copies are equal.



  2. Jan Murphy says:

    Sue, a question about your diagram. On the right, where you have the two Ancestry databases on one leaf node, and a specific image on the other, are you counting that as two copies? Aren’t the database names just big umbrellas for the smaller collections?


  3. It’s interesting just how many copies there are! It could be argued that the copies in different country versions of Ancestry are different sources (essentially different repositories) as some people would reference a link on, some on, some on (etc) depending on the subscriptions they have.

    There’s another at Findmypast (.com and at which merely quotes as the source: “Index (c) IRI. Used by permission of FamilySearch Intl”.

    That id “r_940752567” is the same as the id in the embedded json record within the source of but on FS the id is not part of what is shown to the user (nor can it be searched for).

    So, the the FMP copy is derived from the FHL film 307739/40 (dark blue on your diagram), but on FMP there’s nothing which tells you that, and there’s no automated way to discover it.



    • Sue Adams says:

      Hi Rob

      I missed the findmypast version, so thank you. I agree that findmypast do not clearly identify where their record came from. How did you find the id “r_940752567″ embedded in the FamilySearch json record?

      I don’t know whether the presentations of database entries and digital images on the various regional websites (.com,, .ca etc.) derive from the same databases and image collections or not. The websites certainly do not keep in sync, as it has been noted that new ‘features’ are rolled out at different times.



  4. […] How Many Copies? and A Ghost and More Copies I explored a variety of derivative forms of the baptism of Alfred […]


  5. […] recent posts, The Original in Context and How Many Copies?, I examined how an original item fits into the collection and how originals are copied into many […]


  6. […] between original source items and copies or derivatives made from them that I discussed in How Many Copies?. For an adequate analysis of any source for genealogical purposes these 8 elements are the minimum […]


  7. Digital Archivists would tend to refer to these copies as manifestations, following the terminoolgy of ISO 14721:2012 Space data and information transfer systems — Open archival information system (OAIS) — Reference model (the standard was originally developed by Nasa as they were one of the first bodies to develop a substantial digital archive and have to think about how to control it, hence the reference to Space data in the title). This allows an easy link with the one original item and makes it clear the others are derivatives of it. The metadata for a manifestation will usually have a field for a parent manifestation to allow the relationships you illustrate to be tracked.


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