Book Review: Evidence Explained, Third Edition

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

Evidence Explained
Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace
Third Edition Revised. By Elizabeth Shown Mills. Genealogical Publishing Co., 2017. 892 pages.

Now, this is a TOME.

Heavy in weight, thick in size, and rich in content. It’s so dense and daunting that the author wrote a comforting QuickStart Guide on the very first pages, to wit: don’t be intimidated by the book’s size, read chapters 1 and 2 (on the basic principles of history research), then go back to doing your research and refer just to the parts of the book that you need right when you need it.

This is the third edition of Evidence Explained, which hardly needs an introduction to the vast number of genealogists who have been working in the field for some time. For new genealogists may not know what the fuss is all about, Evidence Explained has influenced the genealogy world beyond measure. , Eventually every genealogist worth his or her salt acquires the book as a most necessary aid for citing the genealogy histories.

In simple words, this is a style guide. A style sheet, or style guide, establishes standards for consistency in usage and composition in writing. Well-known examples are The Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, but no style guide had addressed the particularly unique needs of genealogists.

Evidence is the style guide for genealogists in composing source citations.

There is no “right way” of doing citations. You can write your citations however you want; you are not tied in to anyone else’s interpretation of the “right way.”

You can cite your gravestone source as ”FindAGrave,” or you can cite your gravestone source as “Ancestry, FindAGrave, database with images ( accessed 1 January 2017), memorial 926656, Dr. Daniel Hull (1714-1744), Old Burying Ground, Cutchogue, Suffolk County, New York, gravestone photograph by GFord.”

Or you can write anything in between, two words or many words. Eventually you’ll decide the more info you record, the better off you are, because someday, you’re going to have to defend your findings. The better cited you are, the better prepared you are to support your findings. And the easier it is to find your stuff again!

Evidence is full of models from which to format citations, but it’s also explanatory as to why. Following the pages of citation model examples, which are colored gray for easy finding, there are explanations as to the patterns of formatting, the whys of doing them that way, and the many subtle differences among the many types of records.

The book has sections on records of archives, businesses and institutions, cemeteries, the censuses, churches, and the many governmental agencies, state, local, and national, and more.

How is this edition different from the Third Edition published two years ago? There are updates in the text and index of about 75 pages; modified citations for the National Archives website; alterations for citing DAR’s revamped website and databases; and updated immigration citations reflecting changed records at the Ellis Island website.

I bought and still have her first book, Evidence! I have the second edition as a downloaded PDF, which is handy, because I can take pages out of the binder and use them one at a time. And scribble all over them.

This hard-bound copy is bulky to move around, but it’s indispensable.

Evidence Explained is available from the publisher, Genealogical Publishing Co., at as well as from Amazon in hard cover at and as a Kindle ebook at

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