Cite Your Sources Right! A Book Review, by George G. Morgan

Evidence Explained.bmpThe long-awaited official release of Elizabeth Shown Mills’s new book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, published by Genealogical Publishing Co., occurred at the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ 2008 Conference in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in August. And what a great book it is! It doesn’t replace her previous book, Evidence! which remains an excellent reference for a large number of source materials. Nor does it replace the laminated QuickSheet: Citing Online Historical Resources Evidence! Style, published in 2005. Instead, it takes source citations to the most current of levels and includes a wonderful collection of source materials and definitive citation examples.

The book boasts more than 1,000 examples, weighs in at 2 lbs. 4 oz., is 885 pages long (including the indexes), and retails for $49.95. While not intended to be read cover to cover, I will tell you that, as a genealogist concerned with performing and documenting research in a scholarly way, this is a must-have book for your personal reference library. Don’t skip the foreword, which is a short and concise statement of why we should all be interested in citations.

Chapters 1 and 2 are essential reading for you as well:

  • Chapter 1, titled “Fundamentals of Evidence Analysis,” presents the basic principles of evidence/source analysis, classes of evidence, record formats of “processed records,” and textual descriptions; and
  • Chapter 2, titled “Fundamentals of Citation,” presents the issues of citation, common citation practices, and citation rules and recommendations for LDS Family History Library materials, online resources, organization of materials, and stylistic matters.

What follows are twelve additional chapters that cover just about every type of evidence, reference material, publication, online material, artifact, periodical, online broadcast, and other source of information you might encounter. Let me give you two examples that Elizabeth has included that come from my own experience and my own office.

  • In Chapter 3, titled “Archives and Artifacts,” section 3.33 on page 148 includes a citation for my Grandmother Morgan’s wedding band, which was engraved inside with the date of her marriage to my grandfather. Elizabeth shows how entries should be written for a Source Entry List; the First Reference Note; and a Subsequent Note.
  • In Chapter 14, titled “Periodicals, Broadcasts, & Web Miscellanea,” Section 14.30, pages 815-16, The Genealogy Guys Podcast is cited, again with the three formats of entry, depending on the use of the source. In this case, Elizabeth cites the exact location in a specific podcast and the minute(s) at which time the source information occurs.

The book uses easily seen icons to draw attention to online databases and images (a computer icon); DVD databases and images (a CD icon); and microform materials (a film reel). These make locating those resources’ citation simple. In addition, for each chapter, there are QuickCheck Models, each with an actual example and captions for each component piece of data. As a result of these additional references, there are two indexes in the back of the book: one for the QuickCheck Models, and one for detailed citation descriptions. What great ways to present the concepts and formats of citations!

Evidence Explained includes two appendices. Appendix A is a concise glossary of terms used in the book, and Appendix B is a bibliography of other reference sources for citation, evidence analysis, and style and legal reference materials.

I’ve already spent several hours poring through this wonderful new reference so that I can make the best use of it. I am truly inspired to prepare better-quality citations, all based on the organized and detailed presentation of the concepts and examples that are included in the book. I’ve now seen examples of citations that were perhaps fuzzy in my mind before. Now I have no excuses for not knowing how to cite my evidence sources correctly. And now neither do you.

By the way, Footnote.com is selling an electronic version of the book for $24.95. It is in PDF format. You have to register at their website for support purposes, which costs nothing. However, if you think you’ll save half the money by downloading the book, let me assure you that the cost of printer paper and ink will more than make up for the difference in cost, should you decide to print all 885 pages!

My warmest compliments go out to Elizabeth Shown Mills for her brilliant success with this definitive reference book. I hope she sells millions of copies. The book is worth every penny and much, much more. Congratulations.

Happy Citing!
George

Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.

George’s book, The Official Guide to Ancestry.com, is now available from his company’s website, Aha! Seminars, Inc., personally autographed by the author. Listen to The Genealogy Guys Podcast each week for fun, entertaining, and informative genealogy discussions.

One thought on “Cite Your Sources Right! A Book Review, by George G. Morgan

  1. George, I am a very new user of Ancestry.com and my grandmother’s maiden name was Morgan. Will you refer me to a site or reference where I might be able to check our ancestry and see if we are related? My Morgan started out in PA and end up in Southern Ohio.
    Jim

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