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2021 Joy Reisinger Memorial Lecture Series

Raw facts do not tell a story. They may not even tell the truth about what they do relate. As researchers, we seek original documents that offer us “the facts.” But facts are impish devils, and historical records do not speak for themselves. They cannot explain themselves. They are inert objects created by individuals of a different time, a different culture, and who-knows-what mindset. If taken at face value, records and their “facts” can deceive, mislead, or confuse us. The only voice that documents have is the voice we give them. With every document we find, and every story we tell, we have a choice:

  • We can take what we see at face value, report it devoid of context, and run the risk of misrepresenting the circumstances. Or …
  • We can seek the context we need to understand the record, the event, and the person.

Presenter: Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL

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. Published widely by academic and popular presses, she edited a national-level scholarly journal for sixteen years, taught for thirteen years at a National Archives-based institute on archival records and, for twenty-five years, has headed a university-based program in advanced research methodology. A popular lecturer and past president of both the American Society of Genealogists and the Board for Certification of Genealogists, Elizabeth is the author, editor, and translator of 13 books and over 500 articles in the fields of genealogy, history, literature, and sociology. She has delivered over 1,000 lectures internationally, has appeared on radio and TV talk shows on three continents, and was featured on BBC’s 20th and 30th anniversary specials on the novel Roots.