Saturday, February 28, 2009

Looking at the original record

Many states recognize the validity of a holographic will, that is a will written entirely by testator in his or her own handwriting. Some states recognize the validity of such a will even if only the dispositive provisions are handwritten. In a recent case involving a dispute over the validity of such a handwritten document, the document was scanned into a computer. When the scanned copy was viewed on the screen, it was evident that the document, which appeared to written at a single time, was actually a composite.

In this case the scan was more "accurate" than an examination of the original. It was apparent that the document had been written by three and maybe four different pens. The scans revealed details undetectable to the unaided eye. We have found that scanned documents often reveal more information about the "original" than a visual examination. I have heard genealogists over the years admonish me to "look at the original" in order to make sure I have gleaned all of the possible information from a documentary record.

Is this concern about examination of the original documentary evidence outdated in our era of digitized and scanned documents? Before answering this question, read about the Canon DR-4010C Color Scanner:

The DR-4010C scanner was built for up most productivity, with 100-sheet ADF at rapid speeds of up to 42 ppm and 84 ipm in color just as quickly as in black and white, your documents are scanned in seconds. This scanner easily handles a wide variety of document sizes from business cards to legal size document and up to 39" in long document mode. With its ability to handle a range of document types and sizes, the DR-4010C scanner provides the utmost document scanning flexibility.

The DR-4010C features a versatile dual paper path designed to accommodate diverse document types. The default U-turn paper path handles batch scanning at high speeds, while a straight paper path provides the flexibility to scan plastic cards, fragile and thick documents.

Fine lines and intricate image details are captured with utmost precision and clarity thanks to the DR-4010C device's advanced scanner technologies. The 3-line sensor combined with the pinpoint color matching of the 3-Dimensional Color Correction chip reproduce exceptional vivid 24-bit color images.

The DR-4010C desktop scanner is packed with advanced image processing features to boost your scanning efficiency. For fast, unattended batch scanning, this scanner automatically detects page size, skips blank pages, straightens skewed images, and rotates images that are sideways or upside down, and much more. The DR-4010C scanner is equipped with Automatic Color Detection for easy, low-maintenance scanning. By detecting color, it eliminates the need to separate black-and-white and color documents prior to scanning.

For added value, the DR-4010C comes bundled with Canon's CapturePerfect 3.0, Adobe® Adobe® 8 Standard and a full featured ISIS®/TWAIN driver.

Now back to the question, when would it be better to examine the original record? Not in the circumstance usually meant by the genealogy instructors of the past, that is, look at the microfilm, but likely only in those extremely rare cases when all of the "copies" fail to provide a clear image. Even then, the real "original" such as the original census record, may now be much less readable than the older microfilm image taken by camera when the original had faded much less than at the present time.

Thirty years ago, it was absolutely necessary to produce the "original" of a contract or other written document in court, now, the question of the "original" is never even considered. Copies are accepted for all purposes, unless there is an allegation of tapering or changing the original. Maybe we need to move on to a new level of concern in genealogy also, considering that the accuracy of a scanned copy may reveal more information about the document than an examination of the actual original handwritten document.

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