Evidence Explained, 4th ed. by Elizabeth Shown Mills: Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purposes of review and I have received other books from Genealogical Publishing Company, also for review. However, my opinions are my own and not influenced by outside sources.

It’s not often that a classic reference book is given a massive update, but Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS, FUGA, has done just that with Evidence Explained: City History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, 4th Edition.

Not to worry – All of us using her templates from earlier editions don’t have to start over!

What has always been true remains so: Evidence Explained is built on one core principle: We cannot judge the reliability of any information unless we know exactly where the information came from and the strengths and weaknesses of that source.

What has changed? Well, for one thing, the 4th edition is about 100 pages shorter than the 3rd edition, Revised. Some of the source citation examples have been moved to different chapters and a few examples like Family History Library microfilm and DAR application are now more generally included under the terms ‘microfilm’ and ‘lineage society applications.’

While those are minor updates and changes that I noticed while moving all my color-coded tabs from the 3rd Edition, Revised to the 4th edition, they are indicative of the massive increase of digital resources available online today. Mills has accordingly expanded the examples of online records that need to be cited in our research.

The 4th Edition opens with a QuickStart Guide, introducing the basics of citing our sources.

The Table of Contents provides an overview of the types of records that researchers will seek out and need to cite in their work:


QuickStart Guide
1 Fundamentals of Research & Analysis
2 Fundamentals of Citations & Style
3 Building a Citation/Templates 1-14
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
14 Publications: Periodicals, Broadcasts & Web Miscellanea

1 Glossary


Although the Table of Contents provides an overview, each chapter has an opening page of its own called Guidelines, which allows the reader to easily locate the type of citation in the chapter. Here is the Guidelines page for Chapter 2:

Chapter 3 – Building a Citation – is a completely new chapter. The Basic Seven Building Blocks for a citation are explained as are the methods for crating layered citations.

Also found in Chapter 3 are the newly simplified 14 templates that can be used to cite any and every type of item of which a genealogical researcher might need. Therefore, the crux of this new edition is Chapter 3.

The remaining chapters discuss the various types of records and items to be found under each of the chapter headings with citation examples provided for them. The excellent addition to each of the examples is the inclusion of WHICH of the 14 templates is to be used to create the citation.

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.

I have to admit that the earlier editions of this book felt a bit overwhelming, especially for a beginning genealogist. There was so much to take in, I approached the book with somewhat of a tunnel vision point of view – my goal was to find what I needed as quickly as possible and then to close the book.

The Fourth Edition, with Chapter 3 leading the way, makes the process of creating source citations seem much more manageable. I understand why Chapter 3 was placed after Fundamentals of Research & Analysis and Fundamentals of Citation & Style, but Chapter 3 will become the initial “go to” chapter for most of us as we seek to master citing our sources.

Evidence Explained, Fourth Edition should be in every researcher’s reference library! Experienced researchers will want to integrate these new templates into their work and beginners should definitely start down the research path building excellent research habits, which include accurately citing their sources.

Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained, Fourth Edition can be ordered online from Genealogical Publishing Company. The $65.00 cost is worth every penny!

Friday’s Family History Finds

The best Family History Finds this week:

Family Stories

The Crash of Lt. Dan Wilson’s P-38 Is Part of the History of Schwanberg, Austria on Joy Neal Kidney

Bequeath the Story with the Heirloom! by Marian B. Wood on Climbing My Family Tree

Two Family Heirlooms by Lisa S. Gorrell on My Trails into the Past

Moonshiners in the Tree by Carol on Piedmont Trails

The Everleigh Sisters: Those Places Thursday by Gwen Kubberness on Criminal Genealogy

Research Resources

Maps & Mapping Resources for Genealogists and Family Historians by Kelly on Wheaton Wood

Tech News

AI – Introducing My FREE Census Bots by Dana Leeds on Genealogy with Dana Leeds

AI – Fiction by Marcia Crawford Philbrick on Heartland Genealogy

AI for Summarizing and Transcribing Documents by Annette on AK’s Genealogy Research

Ancestry and Enhanced Images by Ken McKinlay on Family Tree Knots

Double Vision: RootsFinder and American AncesTREES by Doris Kenney on A Tree With No Name

Genetic Genealogy

Three Ways to Generate Hypotheses in WATO+ by Jonny Perl on DNA Painter Blog


Researching an Ancestor’s Character by History Explorer on A Genealogist’s Path to History

Seligmann Rothschild’s Sons: The Challenges of Trees Without Sources by Amy Cohen on Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Negative Evidence by Marcia Crawford Philbrick on Heartland Genealogy

Education Is for Everyone

RootsTech 2024: My Online Class Recommendations by Alice Childs on Genealogy Now

80 Old Time Illnesses and Their Current Names by Kenneth marks on The Ancestor Hunt

How to Find Out Where Your Dutch Ancestors Were Buried by Yvette Hoitink on Dutch Genealogy

4 Ways to Safeguard Your Digital Tree by DiAnn Iamarino Ohama on Fortify Your Family Tree

Research Like a Pro with DNA Airtable Base Update – 2024 by Nicole Dyer on Family Locket

Women’s Nicknames by Karen Miller Bennett on Karen’s Chatt

Worth His Weight in . . . Tobacco? by Jacqi Stevens on A Family Tapestry

Four Habits to Make Your Research Easier by Janine Adams on Organize Your Family History

Transcript, Abstract, Extract by Michael John Neill on Genealogy Tip of the Day

Dutch Term – Gedetineerde by Yvette Hoitink on Dutch Genealogy

Keeping Up with the Times


7 Resources to Add Context to Ancestors’ Lives

In the quest to document our ancestors’ lives, researchers sometimes forget that people didn’t just live in the neat little package of vital records – namely birth, marriage and death.

News and public events happenings weren’t instantaneous knowledge as we have today, but our ancestors were definitely affected by social, economic, religious and political occurrences, regardless of the time period in which they lived.

While it’s probably not likely to find a particular ancestor by name in the many resources available, it is more than possible to learn in-depth about the circumstances affecting his/her daily life.

First, here is a quick and easy list of several free online resources:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. FamilySearch Research Wiki
  3. GenWiki
  4. World History Encyclopedia
  5. Encyclopedia.com
  6. Brittanica.com
  7. Infoplease: An Online Encyclopedia

Now, let’s look at a few examples of how these can be used for family history research.

My father’s family settled in Passaic, New Jersey around the turn of the 20th century. As with most Eastern European immigrants, they worked in the textile mills. Conditions were harsh, but they needed the meager pay to live. Then came the Passaic Textile Strike in 1926. What was that and how would it have affected my family members? A quick look at Wikipedia brought up the story.

One branch of my colonial American ancestors were Huguenots. Henry Burt married Eulalia Marche in England and they immigrated to Massachusetts in the 1630s. To learn more about the Huguenots’ origins, who they were and what happened to them, visit the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

GenWiki is a relatively unknown website, but it has some great records. In some ways, it reminds me of USGenWeb. Let’s say I have family members who lived in Buena Vista County, Iowa and one of them was a farmer who served in the Civil War. What kinds of records will help tell his life story? In this case, one image is worth 1000 words:

In this list, I’d be checking out the Civil War records, the Directories, the Maps and the History categories. It turned out that one of the Military Record files was a newspaper clipping about the Civil War veterans’ reunion in 1876!

One more example and I think you’ll have the idea. One of my Scottish ancestors fought in the Battle of Dunbar in Scotland in 1650 against Oliver Cromwell’s forces. The Scots lost, badly, and the results were brutal. This led to the transportation of many Scots to the New World. Because I have two Scottish ancestors who were transported, I’d like to learn more about the Battle of Dunbar. World History Encyclopedia has a concise article about the battle.

The goal of this article is to remind everyone to think outside the typical genealogical box when researching out ancestors. Use resources like the FamilySearch Research Wiki in new ways . Look for the social, political, religious and economic stories to provide the context that changes our ancestors from “hatched, matched and dispatched” into living beings.

Genealogy Tips & Family History