Glossary search

chain of custody


n. ~ 1. Records · The succession of offices or persons who have held materials from the moment they were created. - 2. Law · The succession of officers or individuals who have held real evidence from the moment it is obtained until presented in court.


In both senses, the ability to demonstrate an unbroken chain of custody is an important test of the authenticity of records or evidence.

(Bastian 2001, p. 96) Custody, both the legal and physical ownership of records, has long been recognized as a fundamental principle of archival management. . . . Hilary Jenkinson based the sanctity of evidence on the ability to prove continuous custody. T. R. Schellenberg, while rejecting 'continuous custody' as unworkable for the National Archives of the United States, still considered that having custody of the records that crossed the threshold of the Archives was essential to protecting their integrity.