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Evidence Explained: An Interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills

Dipping into the Genealogy Pointers archives, we unearthed a fascinating interview with Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.”

As one of the most respected and influential persons in American genealogy, Published widely in academic and popular presses, she was editor of the “National Genealogical Society Quarterly” (NGSQ) for 16 years.

Mrs. Mills has also taught for 13 years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for 20 years, headed the program in advanced research methodology at Samford University in Alabama.

Mrs. Mills knows records, loves records, and regularly shares her expertise in them with audiences across three continents.

“EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” is Elizabeth Mills’ third major publication pertaining to source citation. Her earlier works include: “EVIDENCE! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian” (1997) and “QUICKSHEET: Citing Online Historical Resources “Evidence!” Style” (2005). The groundbreaking “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” analyses citation principals and includes more than 1,000 citation models for virtually every source type. In the process, it covers all contemporary and electronic history sources–including digital, audio, and video sources–most of which are still not discussed in traditional style manuals.

“Genealogy Pointers” spoke with Mrs. Mills about the making “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” and how researchers can benefit from it. Here are the exchanges from that conversation:

GENEALOGY POINTERS (GP): Why did you write this book?

ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS (ESM): Researchers need help and want help, but what they need today is not available elsewhere. Those who study history now probe far beyond the materials covered by standard citation guides–combing long-ignored original, grassroots-level records for fresh insight into our world. Thanks to modern technology, billions of these original records are now easily accessible through many different media. However, today’s researchers also know two things: First, all these records are not created equal. Second, the real reason to carefully identify sources for each piece of information is to ensure that we use the best sources possible. Otherwise, we just can’t reach reliable conclusions. Analyzing evidence is no easy task, considering the volume of information available, the diversity of the records, all the quirks within each type of document, and all the media formats.

Since the 1997 publication of the original “briefcase edition” of “EVIDENCE!” (which compactly covers 100 of the most common types of history sources), researchers have deluged me with questions about thousands of other materials. I definitely understand their angst, after three decades of my own research in the archives of most western nations, as well as writing for journals and presses in several academic fields and 16 years of editing a major scholarly journal. The new “EVIDENCE EXPLAINED” draws on that experience–but it’s also rooted in four file drawers of inquiries and debates generated by the users of that first edition.

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ESMills

We’re all family. Cousins, actually

When we remember that we’re a part of the greater human family, will we be nicer to each other? Maybe, but hopefully we will at least remember to look beyond what we think we know.

Elizabeth Shown Mills is a historical writer who has spent her life studying Southern culture and the relationships between people—emotional as well as genetic. She is an accomplished researcher and writer, having her work published widely by both academic and popular press. Mrs. Mills has also taught for 13 years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for 20 years, headed the program in advanced research methodology at Samford University in Alabama.

In We Are All Cousins, a brief video produced by National Genealogical Society, Mrs. Mills discusses her own family history and the richness that can be found with the realization of our own interconnectedness. She stresses the importance of not limiting ourselves to the ethnic and religious groups we believe we belong to exclusively, as our histories are often more complex and interwoven.

Photo Credit: Samford University

Evernote for the Genealogist

Evernote for the Genealogist

As a working professional, I was forced to look for an organizational solution to my compulsive note-taking problem. I used to carry around a small notepad and a package of sticky notes. My two companions lived in my backpack as a student, on my desk at work, even in my purse as an adult. My scribbles followed me: from my colorful tabs of commentary peeking from between the pages of my books to important thoughts in meetings to my grocery list, my tiny paper trail kept me organized.

After losing one too many notepads, I started to jot my notes-to-self on my iPhone. This was a vast improvement, but not quite there. When I found my solution in the free app Evernote, I didn’t realize I was using an awesome tool for a genealogist to solve my personal organizational struggle.

Evernote is an app that has thankfully replaced my paper system. I can take notes, keep track of online articles I want to read later, open spreadsheets and other documents on my mobile device, use it as a calendar and planner, and even record passages from my e-reader.

While I use Evernote on my iPad or iPhone, I can sync what I’m working on to my computer as well. I can seamlessly move back and forth between my linked devices – two computers and three digital devices – keeping all of my notes and research in one central location. It’s password protected, giving me peace of mind that my important information is safe.

The best part? I’ll say it again, Evernote is free!

In her blog post Evernote and Genealogy: They’re Made for Each Other, Alona Tester gives a great introduction of how and why to use Evernote for genealogical research.

Think of Evernote as a shelf of blank notebooks that you can jot down all your little notes and add in those newspaper and any other clippings you find that are relevant too (you know, old-school scrapbook-style), while still keeping them in a relevant notebook … that’s what Evernote allows you to to do digitally. Yes, seriously!

Evernote Tips: The 11 Amazing Features That Make Using Evernote So Freaking Awesome

Just think if you had digital notebooks for each family group? Or for your local history study? Or a particular topic that you are researching? Or a to-do notebook? It gives you a place to enter notes that you currently have on scraps of paper everywhere (I know we all have them), as well as filing them into a relevant folder.

Additional information: To learn more about Evernote this video is a great place to start. Ready to try it? Download it for your computer or device. Evernote thinks it’s a great fit for genealogists too! Cyndi’s List has an entire category devoted to Evernote, and an entire Evernote blog to accompany it.

We’d like to thank Alona Tester for allowing us to reprint her work.

Image Credit: Evernote.com

brainpickings.org

DNA, Genealogical Research and Privacy

Building your family tree is a painstaking process, traditionally comprised of careful historical research. Using advances in science, direct to consumer DNA testing is gaining tractions as a new genealogical tool. You, the consumer, are sent a kit to collect a sample; the company will sequence and compare your results to those within their database. The idea is to match you to your genetic relatives, enabling the discovery of missing links and the ability to close doors on cold leads.

When a company can offer a quick and easy way to discover your heritage, it’s a tempting idea. That’s not to say one shouldn’t use new technologies to discover genealogy, or that there isn’t a place for DNA testing in the new research landscape. However, just as the expanding web comes with a heightened awareness of a long and lingering digital footprint, using a DNA testing service should carry at least equal caution.

What happens when you give away your DNA for testing? Do you know where it will end up, who will see it, or how it will really be used? An Alaska class action lawsuit against Family Tree DNA claims that the company posted personal information on very public websites, in violation of state law.

According to the complaint of Michael Cole, Family Tree DNA publishes the results of its genetic tests on a publicly available website, not just their customer site, as he believed. This additional access on their own site and that of an Ancestry.com subsidiary is what Cole claims is “unbeknownst to and without the consent of its customers.”

The suit claims “Family Tree’s practice of releasing information about its consumers’ genetic makeup without their permission, carries serious and irreversible privacy risks and violates Alaska’s Genetic Privacy Act.”

As with any piece of personal information, caution and good judgment should be exercised. Read the small print to learn how your DNA will be used and shared, as well as who may have access to it.

Source, Kyla Asbury, “Alaska class action lawsuit says Family Tree DNA posted info on public websites,” May 16, 2014.

Image Credit: Brainpickings.org

Carolyn L Barkley

In Memoriam, Carolyn L. Barkley

It is with the deepest sadness and a profound sense of loss that we report the death of our friend and colleague Carolyn L. Barkley.

Carolyn was the creative force behind our blog, but she was so much more. She wrote hundreds of articles for the blog, always emphasizing both the conventional and the most current electronic sources and techniques bearing on the topics. Many of her articles were rated by other bloggers as the “best of the week” on the Internet.

Carolyn also wore many other professional hats. She was a master indexer, who indexed a number of our recent reference works, including Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607-1625, by Martha W. McCartney. Carolyn was a longtime staff member of the Genealogical.com exhibits at the annual National Genealogical Society conferences and other trade shows. She served as president of a number of genealogical societies and other organizations throughout Virginia. In her professional life Carolyn was a distinguished librarian, who served thirty years as the head of the central Virginia Beach Public Library before retiring.

Above all, Carolyn was a wonderful human being. Quick to smile and possessing a hearty laugh, Carolyn was that rare combination of organizational whiz and kind personal friend. She got things done and she inspired and cared about others. We will miss her immensely.

Reprinted below is the obituary for Carolyn Barkley that appeared in a recent issue of The Virginia Pilot newspaper.

Carolyn L. Barkley (1947-2013)
Virginia Beach – Carolyn Linda (Lopes) Barkley, 65, of Wintergreen, VA passed away on Sunday, May 12, 2013 at Augusta Health. Born December 16, 1947 in Springfield, MA, she was the daughter of the late Olivio and Lois (Smith) Lopes. She was the granddaughter of Clifford F. Smith, long time City Clerk of Springfield, and Mildred Carolyn Abbe. In addition to her grandparents and parents, she was preceded in death by her husband, William L. Barkley, in 2010. Carolyn earned her B.A. from Wellesley College and her Masters in Library Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She was employed by the Virginia Beach Department of Public Libraries for over thirty years. After her retirement, Carolyn continued to work as a freelance editor and researcher. She spent much of her time traveling. Carolyn has been the genealogist for Clan Barclay International, served as President of the St. Andrew’s Society of Tidewater, the Scottish Society of Tidewater, the Virginia Beach Genealogical Society, the Virginia Library Association and many more too numerous to list. Most recently, Carolyn was President of the Wintergreen Nature Foundation. Survivors include her son, Kelley, and his wife, Kimberly (Murray) Powell, of Roanoke; granddaughters Megan Murray, Samantha Kate Powell and Mackenzie Grace Powell, all of Roanoke. A celebration of life service will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 19, at the Waynesboro Chapel of Reynolds Hamrick Funeral Homes, 618 W. Main St., Waynesboro, VA, with Pastor Matthew Coiner officiating. The family will receive friends following the service. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to donate may make donations to the Wintergreen Nature Foundation, R.R. 1, Box 770, Roseland, VA 22967. Relatives and friends may share condolences and memories with the family online by visiting www.reynoldshamrickfuneralhomes.com.

Published in The Virginian Pilot on May 15, 2013