Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
A compiled source is information abstracted or otherwise drawn from various original documents or sources into one record. A compiled source is considered a secondary source, rather than a primary or original source. Compiled sources are highly useful tools, but are subject to error in the process of abstracting and/or transcribing.
Indexes are one of the most common and useful compiled sources in genealogy. Other compiled sources include biographies, histories, military rosters, family trees -- and the list goes on. Any information that has been gathered from an original source into a single resource qualifies as a compiled source. Compiled sources increase access, allowing researchers to find relevant information more easily and more quickly than combing through volumes of original documents. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when using any compiled resource is the margin of error; any time information is transcribed from one source to another or information is gathered from multiple sources (such as family trees and family histories), the potential exists for misreading, misinterpreting, misspelling, or in some cases, downright misrepresenting. Evaluating sources and information is an important step in genealogy research.