This morning I was adding a few facts to my Roots Magic database and I sinned. I added an index, Dibean Michigan Marriage Index, as a source for the marriage of Frank H. Glover and Hattie Fenn. One of the themes I heard at the FGS Conference in August was 'an index is not a source'. Now, before you quit reading this or call me out for my sin, let me explain.
I use my Roots Magic database as a research log of sorts. I record all sources, whether I find information or not. I record primary and secondary sources, original and derivative, and direct, indirect and even negative searches, and Indexes. This is one of the reasons I like Roots Magic. It allows me to evaluate my sources. I can keep a record of where I have looked for information and whether I found what I was looking for or not. It helps with where to look next.
I don't stop looking for sources once I find information in an index. Usually, I will add a to-do item to my database. For the above example, I would write, "Find the marriage record for Frank H. Glover and Hattie Fenn who were married 12 May 1882 in Jackson, Jackson, Michigan." I might not have known the marriage date without the information from the index.
Once I had the information from the index, I knew I had to look for the marriage record in Jackson County, Michigan. Eventually, I followed up on this 'to do' item and went to Jackson County and got a copy of their marriage record. Additionally, I was fortunate to be gifted Hattie Fenn Glover's Family Bible and the original marriage certificate was in the Bible. In this case, the information in the index was accurate. This isn't always the case. That is why it is important to follow up on the index information by looking for the original record.
Technically, an index is not a source, but I still record it as one. I think where researchers go wrong is when they rely on an index as the only source. It is like an index in a book. It is there to help you find what you are looking for, the original record in this case. It is important to find a primary, original source when possible. An index is a way to start you on the path to that primary source.
What do you think? Do you record indexes as a source?