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Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace Hardcover – 30 Jun 2007


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Amazon.com: 76 reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Long overdue and important book for genealogists 19 Dec. 2009
By BookMan - Published on Amazon.com
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 This is something that I've struggled with, over the past twenty years myself - I've used Richard Lackey's now very outdated "Cite your sources: a manual for documenting family histories and genealogical records" (copyright 1980) when I first published my own family history well over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. Fortunately, she has also addressed one of the most difficult tasks that has developed over the past ten to fifteen years - the need to document electronic sources - and she has done a splendid job.

Perhaps my only criticism (so far) is that this book attempts to draw attention away from genealogy by proclaiming that is is focused on citing "history sources" - sure, genealogy should be taken seriously but it should not try to piggyback on other disciplines (such as history and the social sciences); rather, it seek recognition as it's own unique topic worthy of study. I also couldn't help but notice that the bibliography cites references to other widely used citation formats (most notably the Chicago Manual of Style and the Modern Language Association of America) but ignores one of the most widely styles used by those in the social sciences - that of the American Psychological Association. Just the same, this is not a problem but is worthy of note.

At the moment, I believe that this book is exemplary and finally provides a rock solid foundation upon which citing sources in genealogical research has desperately needed for so long. At last, genealogists have a valid model upon which to guide the most important component of creating family histories - documenting sources. Anyone compiling a genealogy needs to buy this book NOW, and strive to use it.
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
A good addition to your reference library 5 Dec. 2007
By Adele - Published on Amazon.com
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." 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.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
A Must for publishing family history 15 Mar. 2010
By Maggie McDade - Published on Amazon.com
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.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
The new standard in its field -- replacing the old standard by the same author! 17 Jun. 2008
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
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). There's an immense amount of detail here, far more than in Mills's classic and now standard _Evidence!_ (1997). If you need to know how to cite the contents of the Norwegian Lutheran Church's registers, you'll find it on pages 362-65. In that regard, this volume should be considered the genealogical equivalent of the _Chicago Manual of Style,_ and as such, it's going to be the immediate standard for genealogical writing for publication. But it will probably be regarded as overkill for most hobby-level researchers. (The author would argue that every effort should be made to produce the best work possible, whether the researcher is a professional working for pay or a weekend hobbyist, . . . and I would agree. But still.) Perhaps this book would have been better conceived (and marketed) as a substantial expansion of _Evidence!_ And I'm still hoping to see that future work with Elizabeth Mills's name on it, called perhaps "Everything I Know About Genealogy."

Finally: Not to cavil, but one error on the very first page caught my eye, where the author quotes Lawrence of Arabia's warning that "All sources lie," and then refers to him (twice) as "Sir Lawrence." Actually, Col. T. E. Lawrence's given names were "Thomas Edward," and the proper style is therefore "Sir Thomas." The copyeditor really should have caught that.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Evidence or Evidence Explained 8 Dec. 2007
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was given the option to buy Evidence or Evidence Explained for a class I was taking. To save costs, I started with Evidence, because it was much cheaper. As the weeks turned into months, I found it lacking in citation examples I needed. I was constantly asking for help and having to wait for an answer. I finally went ahead and bought Evidence Explained and when I got it was instantly satisfied. There are examples of everything I needed for my research, including every situation I ran into. I only wish I would have bought it first. It has saved me hours of research just to make a proper citation. It is easy to locate examples for all your needs.
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