Evidence Explained. 4th Edition

Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace


Author: Mills, Elizabeth Shown
Pages: 744 pp.


For today’s family historians, records abound. In courthouses and warehouses, town halls and rectories, archives and attics, we find old records in every form imaginable. Technology also delivers documents and relics through many digital formats. Audio files, podcasts, and YouTube stream insight into past lives. Libraries offer film and fiche, reprints, and revisions, translations and transcripts, alongside digital access to books and journals published previously in print.

However, all records are not created equal, and history is not just a collection of “facts.” Critical analysis is essential, and since 2007 Evidence Explained has been the definitive, go-to guide for those who explore history and seek help with understanding, analyzing, and citing the materials they use. Evidence Explained has two principal uses: it provides citation models for historical sources—especially materials not covered in standard citation guides such as The Chicago Manual of Style. Beyond that, it enables researchers to understand the nature of each source so that evidence they cite can be better interpreted and the accuracy of their conclusions properly appraised.

In the six years since the last edition was published, changes at major repositories and online information providers–as well as the ever-evolving electronic world–have generated new citation and analysis challenges for researchers. As a consequence, Mrs. Mills has once again updated her citation models and added descriptions and evaluations of numerous contemporary materials not included in the Third Edition Revised.

Evidence Explained’s new fourth edition significantly reexamines historical resources and simplifies long-standing practices. Highlights of the Fourth Edition include:

  • Updated Chapters One and Two (“Fundamentals of Analysis” and “Fundamentals of Citation”), continue to lay the foundations for successful research.
  • An entirely new Chapter Three, “Building a Citation,” provides a tutorial for the construction of citations. Here, you learn to work with seven basic building blocks that can be mixed and matched to create a citation for any kind of source.
  • Chapter Three’s 14 streamlined templates replace the previous 170 QuickChek Models, assembling the basic building blocks as needed to create citations for every type of material—whether accessed as an unpublished manuscript, print publication, database, or online image delivered at a specific URL or through a complex path and its waypoints.
  • All examples in the twelve “Records” chapters (Chapters Four through Fifteen) are keyed to the specific templates that work best for each source or situation.
  • Hundreds of new citation examples emphasize modern modes of access, particularly the layered citations that modern media require.


“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.”—Randy Seaver, “Genea-Musings,” 02/18/2024

“Since the first edition was published in 2007, this has been the gold standard for understanding and citing genealogical sources.  Actually, it’s the platinum standard because of the clear, robust explanations about the wide variety of resources we use to research and document our ancestry. Mills well goes beyond how to cite specific sources–she delves deep into source quality and what that means for the credibility of evidence and, ultimately, the credibility of our conclusions.—Marian Wood, “Climbing My Family Tree,” 02/25/2024

“Elizabeth Shown Mills spent almost a year working on Evidence Explained, Fourth Edition; she has done a fabulous job! I really like this “slimmed down” version of the best guide out there that teaches us how to correctly record all the necessary details to build accurate citations for our genealogical research. . . . The Fourth Edition, with Chapter 3 leading the way, makes the process of creating source citations seem much more manageable.”—Linda Stufflebean, “Empty Branches on the Family Tree,” 02/24/2024

“The definitive guide for how to cite every conceivable kind of source a historian might use, from traditional archival materials to digital media to the most arcane sources imaginable.”–John B. Boles, William P. Hobby Professor of History, Rice University

“Evidence Explained has a fantastic opening section that really changed my perspective on ‘evidence.’ The citation formats are handy but honestly, it’s the commentary from ESM that made me want to buy myself a personal copy sooner rather than later.”–Kim Phillips-Sasso, Clarksville-Habersham County [Georgia] Library, as quoted on Goodreads

“Historians will welcome the publication of this detailed guide to citations. Even avid users of The Chicago Manual of Style regularly encounter sources for which that handbook gives no guidance. Now we can turn to Elizabeth Shown Mills’s comprehensive work.”–Journal of Southern History

“This is an essential resource for family historians; highly recommended for all libraries.”–Library Journal (First edition: Library Journal Best Reference 2007)

“I purchased two copies of this book, one to mark and one to keep in “great” condition. I am underlining, circling, adding sticky notes and such to assist in assimilating what Mrs. Mills has put forth in this definitive work.”—Dear Myrtle

“A staple for any genealogy library. It should be one of the top ten books in any genealogist’s collection.”—Deborah Sweeney, as quoted on Goodreads

“Meant not only as a style guide for the types of source citations used by historians and genealogists, this book also discusses why analysis of information within the total context of a source is imperative to understanding the nature of a fact. Citations not only tell where the source was found, but also can indicate a level of confidence to knowledgeable researchers.”–Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly

** Library Journal’s Best Reference 2007 **
** Winner of the National Genealogical Society’s 2008 Award of Excellence**

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