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- ISBN: 0-8063-1543-1
- Price: $16.95
- Pages: 124
- Date: 1997
- Index: 12 pp
- Bibliography: 3 pp
- Uniqueness: 5
- Website Refs: None
- Readability: 4
- Primary Emphasis: Documentation and Analysis
- Writer's Qualifications: CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS
- Reader's Level: 4
- Charts: Yes
- Examples: 5
- Accurate: 5
- Current: 4
With this book, the temptation is strong to quote large passages from it. Why? Because the writer says it better than anyone else does. I promise to resist that temptation as long as I can.
Among her many acknowledgments, Mills cites 18 FASGs. If you don’t know, there are only 50 living FASGs at any one time. FASG stands for Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists.
There are at least two dozen reviews of this book on the Internet alone. All of them say two things in common, that is “She knows her stuff” and “Buy this book!” Some reviewers would have liked more examples. I’ll address that at the end of this review.
From the Introduction:
“Research, evidence, citation, and analysis are inseparable. Evidence is the vehicle that moves our research from curiosity to reality. Citation and analysis are the twin highways that get us there, smoothly and safely.”
If you can find a better way to say that, please share it with us.
Have you ever consulted the MLA Handbook? Or the Chicago Manual of Style? If your answer was “Yes,” then you are better prepared to appreciate Mills’ work. Neither one of those cited works helps with most of the genealogical citation forms we should use. If you answered “No,” do not fret. This one is a smaller book, packed tightly with what you need to cite your sources correctly AND to evaluate the evidence soundly.
At GENTECH 2002® in Dallas, I had the opportunity of attending one of Ms. Mills’ presentations. She delivers orally with the same finesse and preciseness in which she writes. At the end of her presentation, I rushed to the vendor area and bought her book. I did not do that with any other speaker there. Has it changed my life? No, but it has certainly enlightened me about genealogical requirements of which I’d been hitherto unaware.
Part 1: Fundamentals
Elizabeth Shown Mills gives 13 guidelines for documentation and to these I’ll add my corollaries. <G> I will paraphrase them briefly here.
- Document EVERYTHING except commonly known facts.
- Source notes require two things: where to find the information cited, and information that affects the evaluation of that data. Powell corollary: Also cite WHEN you found this source, particularly with the changing Internet.
- Sources are given in two forms: bibliographies and footnotes, which are linked to unique facts. Powell corollary: Endnotes are much easier than footnotes AND do not distract the reader.
- Source notes also have two forms: full and short citations.
- If you choose to use a narrative account, you have four options: footnotes, endnotes, citations within the text itself, and hypertext.
- Number the source notes consecutively and place the numbers in the same sequence next to the referenced text.
- “Explicit source notes should also appear on ancestor charts and family group sheets.” Please hang your guilty heads in shame with me if you, too, have not done this.
- Place full citations on every photocopied sheet and every page of a research report.
- Don’t cite sources from other writers if you have not used those sources yourself.
- Often citing a source in full may not meet legal or ethical requirements when copying from another source.
- Additional citation requirements are needed for microforms, microfilms and electronically transmitted materials.
- Many details make up your citations if they are to be clear and meaningful to you and your readers.
- Because we’ve cited our sources does not mean we’ve completed the work. The best possible sources should always be sought and cited.
This book will help you adhere to these principles. Mills details the rational and methodology of each of these.
Mills gives several tips on abbreviations, source notes styles, and bibliographies. Most of this is also found in Patricia Law Hatcher’s work, Publishing a Quality Family History. Indeed, they both acknowledge each other’s assistance in their books.
Next, Mills gives 13 guidelines for analyzing evidence. This is the primary reason I bought this book. I once worked in Intelligence as a data analyst. These principles are sound AND genealogy specific.
- Indirect evidence may be just as valid as direct evidence, although direct evidence is easier to understand.
- The weight of the evidence, not the quantity, affects its reliability.
- Draw your evidence from a variety of independently generated sources.
- Original sources generally are more reliable than derivative sources.
- What affects the reliability of a derivative work is the degree of processing under which it has undergone.
- Their purpose and the motivations of those who created them influence the reliability of records.
- The most reliable recorders are those with firsthand knowledge of the events.
- The content of a record is dependent on the recorder’s skill and veracity.
- Documents are affected by their timeliness.
- “Penmanship can establish identity, date, and authenticity.”
- The history of custodianship of a record affects a record’s trustworthiness.
- Use all known records and make a thorough effort to find any unknown materials.
- “The case is never closed on a genealogical conclusion.”
Much is devoted to these vital topics. If any of these are new to you, or you do not fully understand them, you have a learning adventure ahead of you. Your research will benefit greatly from it.
Part 2: Citation Formats
The second half of this short book is dedicated to examples. She presents a chart of seven Basic Patterns of Citation: Archival manuscripts, Articles, Books, Censuses, Electronic data, Local Government records, and Microform. Can you think of any other types? What about photographs of family or dwellings? What about your personal gravesite research? What about the shared research of another family member? You’ll find examples of these in her next charts.
Mills shows a chart for Primary Citation (endnotes or footnotes), Subsequent Citations (endnotes or footnotes), and Bibliographic Entries. This chart is EXTENSIVE. This is a true reference work, indeed.
Among the Appendices are examples of a documented Family Group Sheet (FGS) and a documented Ancestor Chart (AC). Pay close attention to these, also. How many FGSs and ACs have we seen on the Internet? Thousands! How many are documented? Less than 1%, I suspect. Based on the above principles, how reliable is this information? That is my point here and the point of this book. Don’t let others think the same of your hard work when you publish your family history.
Earlier I mentioned examples.
Rather than display ALL (or even several) of them, I’ll simply end this review with a wonderful website that has done this work already.
Although this book is inexpensive, I think you’ll find it invaluable.