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ThinkGenealogy Innovator Award #1

Tuesday, 16 Dec 2008 | by Mark Tucker

The winner of the first ThinkGenealogy Innovator award is Elizabeth Shown Mills and her book, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.

Ten years passed between the publication of Evidence Explained and its predecessor, Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.  Even with the passing of a decade, I consider Evidence Explained an incremental innovation that has caused some beneficial side effects. 

Incremental Innovation

Whereas Evidence! simply gave citation examples for primary, subsequent, and bibliographic entries, Evidence Explained gives citation examples, explanation of record types, and QuickCheck Models:

Each QuickCheck Model shows a sample citation that is annotated with descriptions of what type of information goes where in the citation.  The model shown above is for a digital image of a census record on an online commercial web site (see EE, page 240).  The parts of a citation are identified as Census ID, Jurisdiction, Schedule, Civil Division, Page ID, Household ID, etc.  The model looks like a form that was then filled in with a citation.  The innovation of the QuickCheck Model for citations makes it easier to understand the citation format and apply it to your own sources.

Side Effects

A side effect of this innovation is that now citation models following Evidence Explained are showing up in genealogy software.  The format of the QuickCheck Model also makes it easy for developers to code the templates into their software.  Two examples are Legacy 7 and RootsMagic 4.  It is likely that this trend will continue as it has already been announced as an upcoming feature of Family Tree Maker 2009.  As more and more software applications include citation models from Evidence Explained, it will become a standard and one day be as commonplace as GEDCOM is today. 

Watch out for online database sites such as Ancestry, FamilySearch, Footnote, and WorldVitalRecords to see which is the first to follow Evidence Explained.  Whether or not QuickCheck Models were created with software developers in mind, it is apparent that this incremental innovation is having some real side effects.

To learn how to make a ThinkGenealogy Innovator Award nomination, check out the Innovator Awards page.


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