Applicable to Guests & Callers
Legitimate Primary & Secondary Sources
Deanna Spingola
July 26, 2020

There are purported researchers who are actually cognitive infiltrators contributing to a virtual feeding frenzy. I have callers who consistently, with every call, introduce "information" as if it were fact. I am pretty intuitive and can see a pattern with people who would fall into what Cass Sunstein refers to as cognitive infiltrators or provocateurs. Sunstein, Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, in office from 9/10/2009 to 8/21/2012, suggested that the government should attempt to discredit the "truth movement," with preposterous propaganda disguised as legitimate information presented by seemingly credible people, only to be shown later for what they actually are. Then those who may have believed the fabrications would lose all confidence and faith in the so-called movement. They may then move on to believe in what the government wants them to believe, such as the Israelis did not attack the USS Liberty, and that the US government and Israel did not collaborate, along with some well-connected corporations using highly-developed weaponry, did not orchestrate 9/11 and other events. These provocateurs seem to be drumming up dissent, division, and distrust within the so-called “truth” movement. Repetition of those seemingly reasonable questions on various radio shows lends an air of credibility to them. Thus, change agents who never actually change their static positions, find it essential to have others embrace and redistribute those easily-remembered propaganda phrases. The already-answered questions, really talking points, remain the same, retaining the same basic implication that the officials have lied to the population and that astute truth-seekers need to courageously demand answers at all costs as if, officials had not previously supplied all of the answers.

Essentially, there are two kinds of sources 1) primary or original and 2) secondary or compiled. Primary sources are records that were created at the time of the event or shortly thereafter by someone who has personal knowledge of the event. This might be a birth or death certificate. However, even if a death certificate contains the date of birth; it is not the primary source for that birth. Even if the date is correct, it is not the primary source. The primary source is the birth certificate. A marriage record is the primary source for a marriage. Family historians and other researchers should always use primary sources, when available, when they compile a written account of a family or event. If a researcher uses an image or photo, he/she needs to state the source and date of the image. If it is part of a set of images, he/she needs to provide the number, relative to the other images.

Secondary sources are typically compiled sources that are sometimes based on memory, speculation or circumstantial evidence. Every researcher should cite their sources so that others might verify them by viewing the same information. Without verifiable sources, people may regard the information as hearsay or merely an opinion, which, like a smile, everyone possesses. Currently, one of the biggest collections of secondary sources include compiled data on Internet, such a YouTube videos, some of which are very professional and created and presented by unknown entities, people who use pseudonyms, and by others who may identify themselves. If one just compiles and presents a lot of "information" without citing sources or viewing any official records, then that person certainly cannot completely interpret an event. Naturally, there are many "official" records that are nothing but stacked commissions such as the Roberts Commission regarding Pearl Harbor, the Warren Commission and the 9/11 Commission wherein the federal government chose certain people on whom they could count on to arrive at predetermined conclusions determined by the consensus of the comprised members. Using the basic criteria, a commission constitutes a compiled source: hearsay, opinion, or deliberately subjective information designed to influence public perceptions. Other compiled sources include but are not limited to census records, databases, family histories, probate records, land records, pension files, etc. A census record is only the primary source for the census, not for a birth. 

In addition to college, in order to gain further specific proficiency, I took numerous classes and was very close to obtaining a degree in the field of family history. Family obligations prevented me from finishing the final two courses which had to be accomplished onsight, several states away. From 2000 to 2010, I was the director of a genealogical research center which had fifty volunteers. I took a class at the local college in MS Access in order to create an integrated database of the records of that repository. During that 10-year period I taught numerous classes in beginning and advanced research as well as specialized areas such as probate or census records at the center and at various conferences where I was invited to speak. One of the key principles that I learned and taught was CITE YOUR SOURCES!!!! Otherwise, your work is just rumor or hearsay. I started conducting family history research in my teens. For decades, I visited various courthouses, repositories such as state libraries and state historical societies around the country. I have spent hundreds of hours in the National Archives branch in Chicago and other repositories looking at rolls of microfilmed records. In as much as I
have some Quakers in my background, I attended one of the annual Quaker conventions at Quaker Hill in Richmond, Indiana. While there, I researched some of the Quaker records at Earlham College. Italian officials standardized the records in 1809 in a more easily-read format. Prior to that baptismal, marriage and other records were in "long form," obviously in Italian. Therefore, I attended an Italian language class two nights a week at a local college for a year so that I could read the microfilmed vital records from a particular area of Italy in which some of my husband’s ancestors had resided.

In research, if one continues to work on a specific research problem, there is a natural progression if evidence exists. Now, if warfare has destroyed an area, then many records are lost. If one continues the research, going from question to question, verifying each and every clue, finding supportive evidence, not just circumstantial evidence, he/she may establish a fact. Research, if done properly, is NOT static. It is also not based on suspicions, speculation, suppositions, circumstantial evidence and obvious fabrications. Because anyone may post their opinions on the Internet, people may post and promote nonsensical theories that many ignorant and/or gullible people accept because they lack research skills themselves. People with integrity who are sincerely seeking answers readily accept evidence that addresses their issues, even if it contradicts their previously-held views. However, change agents, cognitive infiltrators or provocateurs whose objective is to impose their key talking points upon a gullible, suspicious population never change their positions.