Citations (Evidence Style)

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Citation style guides can help you capture all the information about a source that is necessary for others to evaluate the quality of the source, to find your source, and sometimes to find the source upon which your source was derived. In practice, style guides are not necessary when using the latest genealogy software because the software prompts you to enter source information into forms. You only need to fill in the appropriate boxes and the program formats citations appropriately. Style guides are only necessary when using software that doesn't have forms for the many different types of sources used by genealogists.

The Basics

One citation style used by genealogists in the United States is Mills style. Mills is an extension of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) bibliography/note system. CMS is adequate for most published sources, but doesn't include many sources and elements about sources that are important to genealogists. Mills style is named for Elizabeth Shown Mills and is explained in her books (Evidence[1] and Evidence Explained[2]) and QuickSheets.

Contrary to the terminology used by PAF and other genealogy programs, a source is a person or artifact that supplies information. A citation is the entire textual reference to the source.[3]

In the CMS/Mills style, there are four types of citations:

  1. Source list. CMS calls this a bibliography. Each citation—called a source list entry— is punctuated as if it were a paragraph and each citation element were a sentence. Published works are sorted by the last name of the author. To effectively organize the source list, Mills gives considerable latitude in the treatment of unpublished works. Examples here and in her books often illustrate ordering unpublished works geographically. However, elements of the source list entry can be reordered to effect other organizations when appropriate. One source list entry can apply to multiple reference notes and excludes the detailed citation elements present in the notes. For example, page numbers would be present in notes but not the source list entry.[4]
  2. First reference note. CMS/Mills allows either footnotes or endnotes and uses the term reference notes, or simply notes to speak of both. Each note is punctuated as if it were a sentence containing a list of citation elements. As with any list, use commas to separate the elements. If commas within elements make the list ambiguous, then use semicolons to separate the elements.[5]
  3. Subsequent note. When publishing a compiled genealogy, after the first reference to a source, it is not necessary to duplicate a complete citation in subsequent notes. In fact, abbreviating subsequent citations in a published work makes notes more understandable and signals source reuse. The abbreviated style of subsequent notes should be applied only at the time of publication since the order of notes can change along the way. Always enter complete citations into your genealogical records. If you never publish, you can safely ignore this type of citation.[6]
  4. Source label. This is the citation that should appear on the front of all photocopies and prints of original records, transcriptions, and abstracts. Mills does not specify whether this citation type should be punctuated like a paragraph or like a sentence. Suffice it to say that the citation should be complete in case the page is shared independently of other documents.[7]


Some examples are shown with each citation element labeled. Don't forget to include the punctuation at the end of each element. Some examples are shown as they normally appear, except for indenting. The numbers 1 and 11 are illustrative only and are used for the first reference note and subsequent reference note, respectively.

Published Works

Simple Book[8]

Source List
Creator (Author) Mills, Elizabeth Shown.
Title Evidence Explained:
Subtitle Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace.
Place of publication Baltimore:
Publisher Genealogical Publishing Company,
Year of publication 2007.
First Reference Note
Creator (Author) Elizabeth Shown Mills,
Title Evidence Explained:
Subtitle Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace
Place of publication (Baltimore:
Publisher Genealogical Publishing Company,
Year of publication 2007),
Page 42.

Multiple authors[9]

Source List Clemensson, Per, and Kjell Andersson. Your Swedish Roots: A Step by Step Handbook. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2004.
First Reference Note   1.  Per Clemensson and Kjell Andersson, Your Swedish Roots: A Step by Step Handbook (Provo, Utah: Ancestry Publishing, 2004), 115.
Subsequent Note 11.  Clemensson and Andersson, Your Swedish Roots, 115.

Editor instead of author

Source List insert source list example
First Reference Note  2.  insert 1st ref note example
Subsequent Note 12.  insert subsequent note example

Revised edition[10]

Source List Leary, Helen F. M., editor. North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History. Second edition. Raleigh:[11] North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996.
First Reference Note  3.  Helen F. M. Leary, editor, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2d ed. (Raleigh:[11] North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996), 3-16.
Subsequent Note 13.  Leary, North Carolina Research, 3-16.

Journal article[12]

This example is online. For a paper source, leave off the elements starting with "online archives." To facilitate this change, this example deviates from Mills's example by placing the page number in the citation to the paper source instead of the online source. No change is required for the short note.

Source List Waters, Henry F. Waters. "Genealogical Gleanings in England." The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 49 (January 1895). Online archives. Google Books. : 2010.
First Reference Note   4.  Henry F. Waters, "Genealogical Gleanings in England," The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 49 (January 1895): 136; online archives, Google Books ( : accessed 4 January 2010).
Subsequent Note 14.  Waters, "Genealogical Gleanings in England," 136.

FamilySearch Sources

Historical Books

Source List
Raymond, Samuel,
Creator's role[13] compiler.
Title Genealogies of the Raymond families of New England, 1630-1 to 1886:
Subtitle[14] With a Historical Sketch of Some of the Raymonds of Early Times.
Place of publication New York:
Publisher J. J. Little and Co.,
Date (of publication) 1886.
Item type or format Digital images.
Creator FamilySearch and Brigham Young University.
Title Family History Archives.
Place of publication :
Date (of access) 2009.
First Reference Note
Creator Samuel Raymond,
Creator's role[16] compiler,
Title Genealogies of the Raymond families of New England, 1630-1 to 1886:
Subtitle[17] With a Historical Sketch of Some of the Raymonds of Early Times,
Place of publication (New York:
Publisher J. J. Little and Co.,
Year of publication 1886),
Page 143
Item type or format
digital images,
Creator FamilySearch and Brigham Young University,
Title Family History Archives
Place of publication ( :
Date (of access) accessed 10 September 2009),
Notes (optional)
reference URL is,32222 .

New FamilySearch (Common Pedigree)

insert example here

Record Search Collection

insert example here

Underlying Principles

It can be difficult to construct a citation when no matching example is given unless you know the underlying principles. This list is an attempt to summarize principles from Mills style. As such, citations are given to Mills's works in support of each principle.

  • Mills Style is grounded in the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), Humanities style.[18]
  • "Cite what [source] we actually used," not a source cited in the source we used.[19]
  • "Clarity always beats consistency."[20]
    • Cite a newsletter like a journal when the extra parentheses are necessary to separate a volume number from an issue month.[21]
  • Redundant information need not be repeated in a citation.
    • When publishing a genealogy article, once a reference note identifies the archive housing a collection, subsequent references to the collection do not have to repeat the archive information.[22]
    • For records consulted on FHL microfilm, in some cases the repository information can be specified in the source list entry and excluded from reference notes.[23]
    • When an archival set of records has both a number and a name, only the first need contain both.[24]
    • When publishing a genealogy article, ibid. may be used when a citation refers to the same source as the previous citation.[25]
    • When publishing a genealogy article, a citation may omit elements already identified in the text.[26]
    • Do not respecify baptisms in the locator information of a citation when it is clear from the title.[27]
    • Do not specify the record type when it is part of the title.[28]
    • When a location is added to the beginning of a source list entry to force desired alphabetizing, it need not be repeated in its normal position in the citation.[29] In essence, the citation element has been moved.
    • Do not specify the creator's role when it is clear from the title.[30]
    • Do not redundantly add the periodical's publication place in parentheses when already specified in the title.[31]
    • Do not specify creator if identified in the title.[32]
    • Do not specify both website name and podcast name when the two are the same.[33]
  • Default values in citations do not need to be specified.
    • "Author" is the default creator's role.[34]
    • "Paper" is the default medium.[35]
  • Cite websites like publications and web pages like subdivisions.[36]
    • On large sites, it sometimes makes sense to cite the web edition of a book using the book's "home page" rather than the site's home page.[37]
  • Information that is common knowledge can sometimes be excluded from a citation.
    • In some cases, world-famous, unambiguous cities may be specified without province or U.S. state name.[38]
  • When citing a record that degrades over time, then one should specify when the record was seen. For example, grave markers degrade over time, so the citation should include the date the marker was read.[39]

Differences from Chicago Manual of Style

Differences between Mills and CMS may be acceptable alternatives, improved practice, inadvertent, erroneous interpretation, or temporary deviations caused by different publication schedules.

  • Mills italicizes series titles if it "is considered a formal title for [the] set of materials."[40] If "the name of the series is not self explanatory," the title is not italicized.[41] CMS never italicizes a series title.[42]
  • "Evidence Style identifies [periodical] issues by their dates rather than issue numbers, because unrecognized typing errors are more common with numbers than with words."[43] CMS allows either, but recognizes that "although not all these elements may be required to locate an article, furnishing them all provides a hedge against possible error in one or another of them."[44]
  • "Because abbreviations rarely save a significant amount of space, the thoughtful writer avoids all but the truly obvious ones."[45] This includes state names when included in the place of publication.[46] By contrast, CMS specifies, "If the city of publication may be unknown to readers or may be confused with another city of the same name, the abbreviation of the state, province, or (sometimes) country is added."[47]
  • Mills allows an optional space after the colon separating volume and page numbers.[48] CMS, on the other hand, specifies that no space be present. "But when parenthetical information intervenes,"[49] such as "12 (Winter): 345" then a space after the colon is required.


  1. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian (Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, 1997).
  2. Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace (Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, 2007).
  3. Mills, Evidence Explained, 820, 828. Also note this quote from p. 42: "The term citation is obviously not synonymous with the term source, and the two should not be used interchangeably."
  4. Mills, Evidence Explained, 43, 60-1, 67-71.
  5. Mills, Evidence Explained, 43, 46, 60, 77, 86-7.
  6. Mills, Evidence Explained, 46, 62, 64-6.
  7. Mills, Evidence Explained, 43, 66-7.
  8. Mills, Evidence Explained, 646.
  9. Mills, Evidence Explained, 669-70.
  10. Mills, Evidence Explained, 649.
  11. 11.0 11.1 The state was excluded here because it is present in the title and publisher's name. See Mills, Evidence Explained, 806-7. See pp. 221-2 for another instance where state name can be excluded.
  12. Mills, Evidence Explained, 779-780, 791-8.
  13. Mills, Evidence Explained, 666.
  14. Mills, Evidence Explained, 80; in this example the subtitle was truncated so ellipses are not necessary.
  15. 15.0 15.1 QuickSheet, Citing Online Historical Resources, Evidence! Style 1st rev. ed., 4 page pamphlet (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007), 2.
  16. Mills, Evidence Explained, 666.
  17. Mills, Evidence Explained, 80; in this example the subtitle was truncated so ellipses are not necessary.
  18. Mills, Evidence Explained, 61.
  19. Mills, Evidence Explained, 52.
  20. Mills, Evidence Explained, 462.
  21. Mills, Evidence Explained, 806-7.
  22. Mills, Evidence Explained, 384.
  23. Mills, Evidence Explained, 56.
  24. Mills, Evidence Explained, 118.
  25. Mills, Evidence Explained, 205, 273.
  26. Mills, Evidence Explained, 259.
  27. Mills, Evidence Explained, 324.
  28. Mills, Evidence Explained, 453, 495, 556.
  29. Mills, Evidence Explained, 462.
  30. Mills, Evidence Explained, 666-7.
  31. Mills, Evidence Explained, 806-7.
  32. Mills, Evidence Explained, 807, 812.
  33. Mills, Evidence Explained, 816.
  34. Mills, Evidence Explained, 666.
  35. CMS 15th ed., 684.
  36. Mills, Evidence Explained, 57-60 (par. 2.33-7), 626 (par. 11.55).
  37. Mills, Evidence Explained, 767.
  38. Mills, Evidence Explained, 221-2, 369.
  39. Mills, Evidence Explained, 214.
  40. Mills, Evidence Explained, 716.
  41. Mills, Evidence Explained, 718,721-2.
  42. CMS 15th ed., 669.
  43. Mills, Evidence Explained, 794.
  44. CMS 15th ed., 690.
  45. Mills, Evidence Explained, 71.
  46. See "Cooperstown, New York" on p. 98 of Evidence Explained.
  47. Chicago Manual of Style 15th ed., 672.
  48. Mills, Evidence Explained, 77.
  49. CMS 15th ed., 692.
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