Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.

Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1997. 124p.; hardcover. $16.95. ISBN 0-8063-1543-1.

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 a few years before 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 many 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 citations 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the source of information — courthouse land records, family Bibles, cemetery markers, microfilmed census registers, unpublished manuscripts, electronic e-mail, or a videotaped family reunion — you will find multiple examples of each in this book.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, Evidence! is a must-have for every genealogist (and historian, and librarian, and archivist).

Note that there is also a successor volume to this one, Evidence Explained (2d ed., 2007), which is much fatter (and much more expensive), and I shall be reviewing it in the near future — but while it’s especially useful to the regular genealogical writer, it’s not nearly so much a key work as this original volume. And it will never go out of date. Don’t borrow this book at the library, either. It isn’t expensive. Buy it. Read it. Learn it.

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Published in: on 27 July 2011 at 2:17 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I’m convinced that this book is one of the best available family history books as of 1/16/12. I was going to check out How To Do Everything With Your Genealogy from the library, but then I wanted to get reviews so that I could make the very most of my efforts.

    It pays to take the time to read more reviews although it’s challenging for me. However, Philpians 4:13 from the Bible says that “I can do all things through Jesus who strengthens me.” All good things, that is and this excludes what the world calls “good” but isn’t such as drunk dancing. Being drunk is harmful to your brain so it doesn’t make it good. I do believe that this type of biblical advice is so good that it should be communicated everywhere allowed. Thanks!


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