Sunday, February 18, 2024

Book Notice: "Evidence Explained, 4th Edition" by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Publication of  Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources From Artifacts to Cyberspace, 4th Edition by Elizabeth Shown Mills recently was announced by Genealogical Publishing Company.  This significantly revised edition builds on the previous editions, with discussion of the genealogy research process and crafting quality source citations.

There is no way for me to provide a comprehensive review of this book. The book publicity indicates that there are new features, including:

  • 14 universal templates for citing every kind of source
  • 1000+ citation examples, each keyed to a specific template
  • New tutorial: “Building Your Citation”
  • Expanded emphasis on digitized primary sources
  • Expanded international coverage
  • Updated discussions and examples for every type of source and all digital delivery mechanisms

Students, scholars, and curious sleuths all face the same questions:

  • What details must we capture for each type of source, in order to understand it and properly interpret its evidence?
  • How do we evaluate a record’s credibility—especially when its information conflicts with assertions made in other sources?
  • How do we identify each source—not just so it can be found again, but so we and others can judge its reliability?
  • How can we guard against link rot and disappearing sources when doing online research?

Evidence Explained guides us through a maze of historical resources not covered by other citation manuals—all kinds of primary-source materials, accessed through all kinds of media. More than a thousand examples for U.S. and international documents demonstrate how to handle the quirks that stump users of these materials.

The Chapters in the book are similar to earlier editions, with the newly added Chapter 3:

1. Fundamentals of Research & Analysis
2. Fundamentals of Citation & Style
3. Building a Citation, Templates 1-14 [NEW]
4. Archives & Artifacts
5. Business & Institutional Records

6. Cemetery Records
7. Census Records
8. Church Records
9. Governance & Property: Local Records
10. Governance & Property: State Records

11. Licenses, Registrations, Rolls & Vital Records: Local & State
12. National Government Records
13. Publications: Books, CDs, Maps, Leaflets & Videos
14. Publications: Legal Works & Government Documents
15. Publications: Periodicals, Broadcasts & Web Miscellanea

Appendix A: Glossary

Appendix B: Bibliography

The 14 Templates in Chapter 3 are in three sections:

  • Templates 1 to 5 are for Published Materials
  • Templates 6 to 11 are for Unpublished Material
  • Templates 12-14 are for records for which unique constructions are needed.

 Each Template has a table for the Building Blocks of the citation (e.g., author, title, place, date, descriptor, specific item), with an example, followed by a typical Citation Sentence using the Building Blocks, and Construction Notes to explain details of the citation.  Each Template has a different set of Building Blocks.

As in previous editions, there are many different types of records that are discussed and sample citations are provided, but they all follow one of the 14 Templates.  Consequently, the resulting source citation examples are significantly (but not completely!) different than in previous editions. 

an example, let me use one of my own census source citations (First Reference Note for the 1940 enumeration of my grandfather on ):

In EE 3rd Edition style (for 6.31 Census (Online image)): 

1940 U.S. census, San Diego County, California, population schedule, San Diego city, enumeration district (E.D.) 62-63A, Sheet 16-B, dwelling 444,  Lyle L. Carringer; accessed via "United States Census, 1940," images, FamilySearch ( : 2 April 2012), citing National Archives digital publication T627.

In EE 4th Edition style (Using Template 13: 7.27 Census (Online Image)):

1940 U.S. census, San Diego County, California, San Diego, enumeration district (ED) 62-63A, sheet 6-A, dwelling 444, Lyle L. Carringer; imaged, "United States Census, 1940," FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 April 2012).

The significant changes in the EE 4 citation from the EE 3 citation is adding the specific record collection URL rather than the website URL, and eliminating the "citing ...T627" clause, at least after 1900.  These changes are typical for most citation models.

It will take some time to work through ALL of the source citation models in Edition 4, but it's probably worthwhile, especially if the researcher crafting citations will publish them in  book periodical, webpage or digital formats.  

This book is a necessary work for every researcher's bookshelf or desktop, or reference book computer file folder.  I used the digital version of the First Edition for seven years, and the Third Edition for 9 years, and can't do without them.

Evidence Explained, 4th Edition is available from Genealogical Inc. at for $65.00 retail price.  The publication details are:

Evidence Explained. 4th Edition, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace
Author: Mills, Elizabeth Shown
Pages: 744 pp.
ISBN: 9780806321318

Disclosure: I was provided a published copy of this book for the purposes of the review by Genealogical, Inc.  


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