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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." These models provide a simple, "view-at-a-glance" template for the various types of records referenced by that chapter. The "QuickCheck" models are easy to locate, appearing on pages with a greyed background to help them standout while looking at the the edge of the book.
To aid navigation, each chapter's title page contains a table of contents to the QuickCheck Models. However, supplying a TOC for these brief sections seem unnecessary. The models, themselves, appear one to a page with the desciption (or title) of the model at the top of the page. Rather, the user of the style manual would have been better served if a TOC had been created for the main text of each chapter, which is much more detailed and offers information not provided by the models.
Paragraphs within each chapter are identified by a two level numbering system (chapter, paragraph). Mills mentioned that she modeled her manual after the Chicago Style Manual (CSM), which also uses this numbering schema for navigation purposes. Like CSM, Evidence Explained opens each paragraph with a run-in subhead identifying the subject matter of the paragraph. However, nowhere is there a reference or cross-index to the paragraph numbers, themselves, making them somewhat superfluous.
Each chapter contains a section called, "Guidelines and Examples." This is the major text explaining issues related to each category of sources. Don't forego reading this part of the text in favor of just using the models. Here, I recommend that the researcher employ the JIT approach to reading. JIT (meaning "just in time") is a term borrowed from manufacturing whereby parts to make a product are ordered and shipped to the factory "just in time" to assemble the product, saving time and the expense of warehousing a large inventory of parts. When searching for the most appropriate style template to use--and once you have identified the source type--,read the sub-section labeled "Basic Issues" within the "Guidelines and Examples" section. Then, proceed to the paragraph that describes the specific type of source. (This is where a chapter TOC would have helped.) Reading the "Basic Issues" section will help the researcher see how concepts in citations relate to that specific source.
Another feature that Mills employed in the text was the use of icons to indicate explanations of citations related to microfilm, computer databases, etc. Mills did not explain this feature in her preface, perhaps thinking that no explanation was necessary. For an example of how these icons are used, refer to page 347. As a matter of fact, the lack of an introduction and orientation to the book seems to be its greatest weakness. Any reference manual--and this book certainly fits that description--should offer the reader an orientation to the conventions used within.
Finally, Mills provided two indexes to the manual. The first is the general index. It offers the best way to apply the JIT principle, sometimes directing you to multiple examples on separate pages. In absence of a chapter table of contents, the index is your only resource for navigating the book. The second index is to the QuickCheck Models only. It is redundant of the general index, which also includes references to the QuickCheck Models. When searching the index(es), be certain that you know which index you are purusing. The two indexes do not have separate page headers.
Despite the above-mentioned weaknesses, it is a monumental and welcomed improvement over earlier works and, no doubt, will help us all become better writers of our family research. I can still highly recommend it.