Friday, June 4, 2010

Elizabeth Shown Mills

I attended three different classes taught by Elizabeth Shown Mills. She "wrote the book" on genealogical research. Actually she has written hundreds of books and articles. Quoting from her web site we read: Two of Elizabeth’s twelve books are considered "classics" and "essentials" to the field of genealogy: Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore: GPC, 1997) and Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians (Baltimore: GPC, 2001).

Besides being such a great authority on her subject, she is a very good speaker. Her presentations are well-organized and entertaining. She prepares interesting visuals in her PowerPoint presentations. Here are the three classes:

1. What Kind of Document is This: Original? Derivative? Primary? Secondary? Or Whatchamacallit? In this class Elizabeth Shown Mills defined all of these terms and more. Her entry in the syllabus included a glossary. Here are just two of her quotes. "Sources contain information from which we select evidence ." Grandpa's Words of Wisdom are "When you drink from the water, remember the source!"

2. Hell on the Home Front: War-Time Damages & the Claims They Generated. This class focused on war involving the United States and primarily on civilian claims for war-time damages & confiscations. Elizabeth Shown Mills outlined a basic strategy for using these sources in your research and gave many suggestions. One note of caution were these wise words to remember "Where money is involved, truth flies out the door!"

3. Finding & Using Birth, Marriage, & Death Records Prior to Vital Registration. Elizabeth Shown Mills writes, "In many areas--perhaps most--the civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths did not begin until the twentieth century." Therefore, documenting these events requires "an imaginative search for records" and "innovative methodology for linking facts." She then proceeded to explain how to accomplish these tasks by explaining the basic problems, the historical background, common pitfalls, safeguards, and ways to be successful.

I enjoyed my classes with Elizabeth Shown Mills and look forward to applying what I learned and to reading her book Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian (Baltimore, GPC, 1997).

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