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Elizabeth Shown Mills is an internationally acclaimed historical researcher and writer who has spent her life studying American culture and the relationships between people--emotional as well as genetic. Featured on BBC, CNN, PBS, and other networks in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, she has guest-blogged for the NEW YORK TIMES and has been widely cited as "the genealogist who has had the most influence in the post-Roots era."
Her 13 prize-winning books range from reference works such as "Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace" (Library Journal 2007 Best Reference) to the historical novel, "Isle of Canes," which chronicles a family of freed slaves across four generations, and is drawn from Mills's own research in the archives of six nations.
Her latest work is the greatly enlarged, revised edition of the Louisiana State University Press classic, THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLE: CANE RIVER'S CREOLES OF COLOR.
Every serious family researcher should be not only aware of, but thoroughly familiar with, the late Richard Lackey's _Cite Your Sources,_ which, on its publication in 1981, quickly became the Bible of genealogical source citation. Many, however, are not aware that Lackey was inspired by an article published more than two decades ago by Elizabeth Mills -- another name that all genealogists should be familiar with. Ms. Mills, one of our field's most popular and influential conference speakers, and for the past fourteen years the very capable editor of the _National Genealogical Society Quarterly,_ has steadily promoted the cause not only of improved genealogical writing but of the rigorous and systematic analysis of material that must precede good writing. This relatively brief and very accessible volume distills and codifies her advice in three main areas: the principles behind source citation, the formats in which citation should be cast, and the fundamentals of evidentiary analysis itself. "Effective citation is an art," she says, but it's an art that anyone may learn who makes the effort to understand the motivation for careful citation and the factors underlying the carefully thought-out formats she recommends. And whatever the source of information -- courthouse land records, family Bibles, cemetery markers, microfilmed census registers, unpublished manuscripts, electronic e-mail, or a videotaped family reunion -- you will find multiple examples of each in this book. Even more important, to my mind, are her thirteen concisely explained points of genealogical analysis, from the distinction between direct and indirect evidence and between quality and quantity, to the importance of custodial history and her reminder that "the case is never closed on a genealogical conclusion." For all these reasons, this book is a must-have for every genealogist (and historian, librarian, and archivist).
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In this book, one of America's foremost genealogical scholars has taken on a Herculean task and accomplished it superbly. Every scholarly discipline has its own basic standards for the nitty-gritty of citational form--the sort of thing that we all hoped we had escaped after our term-paper days were over. In 1980, before genealogy was faced with the computer revolution, the late Richard S. Lackey, FASG, published Cite Your Sources, the first comprehensive guide to "Documenting Family Histories and Genealogical Records." Since Lackey's untimely death in 1983, the few attempts to update his recommendations have been Quixotic and (fortunately) unsuccessful, until the current work by Elizabeth Shown Mills, the editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Elizabeth Mills takes on more than citations. She recognizes that citations and critical analysis are closely related. We have all seen genealogies that are promoted as thoroughly documented, but when we investigate the sources cited, we find that the author was unable to evaluate them or to draw sound conclusions from them. Citations by themselves do not guarantee the quality of a published work, but they are essential so that the evidence can be judged and, if necessary, the research can be repeated. The discussion of genealogical analysis in this work is among the finest we have seen; studying it carefully will not only reward genealogists but also scholars in related fields. Evidence! provides careful and copious examples of each type of citation that the careful genealogist is likely to encounter, with charts indicating the first citation to the work, document (etc.), subsequent citations to it, and its entry in a separate bibliography.Read more ›
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Elizabeth Mills's Evidence! is the best single source for genealogical documentation. Every genealogist should be required to own it. Information technology has made the exhange of family "research" so much easier in recent years. Everyone wants to be a family historian! Unfortunately, way too many are clueless when it comes to documenting their work. It is all but impossible to go behind the majority of today's internet genealogists and review the proof of their research. In most cases, you may as well start completely over, you can't locate a thing based upon the sources they provide. :( This is an EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT little book and everyone tracing their family history ought to keep one on their desk - and refer to it again and again. I found Mill's book concise, easy to follow, and invaluable for documenting correctly all those tricky sources particular to family history. Buy one!
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Mills deserves the admiration and respect she has earned from her years of dedication to the field of genealogy. Her contributions are invaluable. And her knowledge of documentation methodology is exemplary. I wish genealogists were required to read this book before they start their endeavour. But her citation examples leave me dissappointed. I was looking forward to getting this book for the examples. They're not exactly what one would call comprehensive. And many of them, like the late Mr. Lackey's book, are superfluous. I don't know if the publisher pressed her for space or what, but I would like to see several examples for each type of source--given genealogical sources' uniqueness, it's a must. And more, I'm dissappointed at her deviations from long-standing citation practices in the field of history. It is this type of practice that still bars historians from accepting genealogists into their realm of study. As an avid genealogist and recent college graduate in history, I can attest to this personally. Documentation methods in the field of history are long-established and practiced in history departments the world over, as evidenced in the books and writings of scholars and in the many historical journals produced in this country. When will genealogy join the academic community on this matter? I can promise you it won't be on the part of scholars. Anyway, I'm most dissappointed at the lack of comprehensive examples. It is too delicate a matter for the genealogist to have to substitute their own source data into one example, when they probably obtained the info. in quite a different matter, and therefore has to guess what to put.Read more ›