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Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace

4.8 out of 5 stars 87 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0806317816
ISBN-10: 0806317817
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Editorial Reviews


"This remarkably useful book is the definitive guide for how to cite every conceivable kind of source that a historian might use, from traditional archival materials to digital media to the most arcane sources imaginable. This volume will be indispensable to every serious scholar, writer, and editor." --John Boles, Editor, JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY

About the Author

Elizabeth Shown Mills is a historical writer with decades of research experience in public and private records of many Western nations. Published widely in academic and popular presses, Mills edited a national-level scholarly journal for sixteen years, taught for thirteen years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for twenty years, has headed a university-based program in advanced research methodology. Mills knows records, loves records, and regularly shares her expertise in them with live and media audiences across three continents.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 885 pages
  • Publisher: Genealogical Pub Co (June 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806317817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806317816
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By BookMan VINE VOICE on December 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources . . . is, arguably, one of the most important works that any genealogy buff should have on his/her bookshelf. Citing sources consistently and meaningfully is the single most important criteria by which a family history is judged and failure to properly document these sources not only completely invalidates many family histories (as they cannot be viewed with confidence) but is quickly recognized by others who are searching for the same ancestors. Without question, my criticisms of genealogical research have focused on the shoddy and haphazard approach that genealogists (including hobbyists) have had to use because there simply have been no standards for doing so. This is something that I've struggled with, over the past twenty years myself - I've used Richard Lackey's now very outdated "Cite your sources: a manual for documenting family histories and genealogical records" (copyright 1980) when I first published my own family history well over a decade ago and have since howled in dismay at the lack of standardization for citing sources in essentially all of the software applications created since then (RootsMagic 4 appears to be the first to address this problem in their latest program). This has caused me considerable grief whenever I've tried to update my own databases.

Evidence Explained (second edition - I don't own the first) has done an exceptional job in providing a strong starting ground for the standardization of genealogical citation practices and provides a nearly encyclopedic approach in covering the topic. While genealogical citation practices are still developing, Elizabeth Mills has created an exemplary work on the topic - this book is long, long overdue.
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Format: Hardcover
This book fulfills a long needed addition to Mills' 1997 effort Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian. Genealogy, as a discipline, has practioners that range from the casual gedcom collector to professional and academic researchers. For the last several decades, there has been a strong movement toward standards in genealogical research, in an effort to gain credibility on par with historians and other social sciences. At 816 pages (884 total pages), reading it from cover to cover is a bit like reading a dictionary, which few of us rarely do.

Judging from the buzz on various mailing lists before the book was released, you might expect that Mills was providing merely a reference manual or citation style manual for genealogists. However, the title, Evidence Explained, hints at more. Throughout the text, Mills uses the term "historian" over the use of the term, "genealogist." This shift in terminology is perhaps in keeping with the direction that the discipline is moving. Additionally, Mills devoted the first chapter to the subject of evaluating sources and evidence contained within them, a subject that still causes confusion for many experienced family historians (i.e., genealogists).

For those of us who would rather read a novel than a style manual, I recommend reading the first two chapters in their entireity. Both chapters cover general concepts that are prominent in genealogical research and citation writing. The remaining twelve chapters deal with the various types of historical records or artifacts encountered while researching family history. Starting with Chapter 3, Mills provides the historian with a section, entitled "QuickCheck Models.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Evidence Explained is just that - evidence explained. For a family historian or genealogist who wishes to be taken seriously, citing each and every fact is critical. But with so many obscure sources, using a handbook for writing just is not enough. Having taught college students how to cite sources for various disciplines, I thought citing genealogy sources would be a cinch...right? Not so much. Really, how do you cite a probate record or a copy of a probate record, or even a digital copy of the probate record taken from a database??? This book offers standards and expectation on citation in general, quick reference guides, and the details and examples to get it right. A real must for family historians and genealogists.
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Format: Hardcover
I admit it -- when a new book is announced by Elizabeth Mills, I immediately put in an advance order, without even reading any reviews. I've heard her speak at dozens of conferences and seminars, local and national, and I've read (I think) all of her published articles. My regard for her professional expertise is such that anything she cares to say, I want to hear.

Taken by the main title alone, and by the announced length of the book, I was hoping for a grand collection of the author's thoughts on the ferreting out of sources, the evaluation of evidence gleaned from them, and the knitting of that evidence into a provable case. Sort of a distillation of her forty-plus years of accumulated wisdom in an area of family research in she is arguably the leading expert. The subtitle, though, is more accurate. Only twenty-two pages at the beginning address the subject of evidence and what to do with it.

The bulk of the volume is given over to a series of topical chapters of various types of source materials -- published books and articles, unpublished manuscripts, business and institutional records, census, church, and cemetery records, local and state records produced by courts and clerks, national governmental records, and laws and court cases. Another sizable section covers handwritten and electronic correspondence, records and other materials (often ephemeral) found on the Internet, and broadcast or televised source material. Each chapter and section is preceded by a "QuickCheck" list of concise models and examples of the citation formats under discussion. (Those for electronic sources expand on Mills's "QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources," a four-page laminated ready-reference tool also published by Genealogical Publishing (revised edition, 2007).
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