Are you a typical
genealogist with boxes or file cabinets bulging with census records, deeds,
and marriage certificates? You probably have some military pension files
and a collection of flowery obituaries. Perhaps you found some long-lost
cousins and have pages and pages of correspondence and photocopies of documents
from shared research.
But if you are a typical genealogist, you also want more! You want the
maiden name of your great-grandmother. You want to know exactly when your
immigrant ancestor arrived in the United States. Or maybe you cannot figure
out where your great-great-grandparents married.
The answers to your genealogical puzzles may be buried in periodicals.
Have you looked? If not, you are missing a gold mine of information.
Why are Periodicals Important to Research?
Indexes and Abstracts
Periodicals (a.k.a. journals, newsletters, magazines, and quarterlies)
are filled with indexes or extracts of every type of record imaginable,
such as cemetery inscriptions, baptisms, naturalization records, and homestead
applications. These periodicals, usually published by local genealogical
societies, provide a constant stream of newly indexed resource material.
Compiled Genealogies and Corrections
Some journals, such as The American Genealogist (a.k.a. TAG) and
the New England Historical & Genealogical
Register focus on publishing compiled genealogies of families,
or correcting previously published family histories. For example, the
75th anniversary issue of TAG (July 1997) includes an article titled "Margery
(Maude) Fisher, Quaker Immigrant to Delaware: A Correction of Her Lineage"
by Charles M. Hansen, FASG. Margery Maude was born in 1671 and married
Thomas Fisher in 1692 in Lewes, Delaware. The incorrect lineage of Margery
(Maude) Fisher was published in Count d'Angerville's Living Descendants
of Blood Royal, 5 vols., (London: 1959-73, 1:46-47) and again in Gary
Boyd Roberts's The Royal Descents of 500 Immigrants, (Baltimore:
1993), 180. If you are a descendant of Margery (Maude) Fisher, this article
will be critical to your research.
The National Genealogical Society
Quarterly is well-known for its research methodology articles.
Case studies teach readers how to analyze and correlate research to solve
brick wall problems. For example, Margaret R. Amundson's article "The
Taliaferro-French Connection: Using Deeds to Prove Marriages and Parentage"
(Vol. 83 No 3, September 1995) describes how she used deeds to prove the
marriage between Robert Taliaferro (1688-1736) of Essex County, Virginia,
and Margaret French (ca. 1690-1724) of adjacent Richmond County.
General How-To Articles
Many periodicals, such as Heritage
Quest, publish articles of general interest. Their September/October
1997 issue, for example, includes John Philip Colletta's article on U.S.
passport applications, and Desmond Walls Allen's discussion of World War
I draft registration records.
John Kennedy's article "Take Care of Pieces of Family History" in the
September/October 1996 issue of Family
Chronicle tells how to preserve family documents and photographs.
Queries and Book Reviews
The Genealogical Helper is best
known for publishing queries from genealogists who want to connect with
others researching the same family. Queries are published by other journals
too, and success stories abound on how cousins find cousins.
Book reviews may seem like an unimportant or boring item in journals,
but they inform us of new products or books on the market. Critical reviews
also teach us standards and how to evaluate the quality of publications.
How Do I Find These Periodicals? They're Not in the Grocery or Book
Periodicals are published by every type of genealogical society ranging
from the local group of ten members, to national societies with membership
in the thousands. They are published throughout the world by family associations,
hereditary societies, and individuals.
And, yes, they will not be found in the magazine section of the
grocery store or book store. To find a periodical, you must first find
the society or organization that covers your area of interest. The quickest
method to find out if there is a genealogical society in the research
area of your interest, is to study the Federation
of Genealogical Societies Membership Directory. Information is
provided on over 500 genealogical and historical societies and family
Online web site directories, such as Helpful
Web Sites, will guide you to publishers of genealogical magazines.
Some of the sites offer online indexes to their journal and/or feature
articles from their magazine. Although there are hundreds of sites, there
are hundreds more that are not online yet. A visit to your nearest public
library with a genealogy collection will introduce you to the variety
of periodicals within the genealogical field.
The largest and best-known index to periodicals is the Periodical Source
Index, known as PERSI. This resource, created by the Allen
County Public Library and available on CD-ROM, indexes over 5,000
different periodicals published in the United States and Canada over the
past 200 years. Every article can be searched by locality (both state
and county), publication date, family name(s), and article subject.
We should begin our research with PERSI, but not stop with PERSI.
There are limits to PERSI because only the article titles were indexed.
If the article was an abstract of probate records, only the name of the
county and record type will be indexed. But if you examine the full index
to the periodical that published the probate records, all the names will
The problem comes in finding indexes to the periodicals. Until the era
of CD-ROMs, we had to rely on publishers creating cumulative indexes.
In the "old days" we used Jacobus's Index to Genealogical Periodicals
(an index to 91 periodicals published between 1932 and 1953), or the Genealogical
Periodical Annual Indexes (known as the GPAI) that began in 1962.
Or we examined annual indexes published by genealogical societies, a painstakingly
long research process.
A couple of years ago, the New England
Historic Genealogical Society published the Register, 1847-1994
on CD. The Register is the oldest continuous publication by a genealogical
society. If you have colonial New England ancestry, the odds are excellent
that you'll find references to your family in this publication.
A brief exploration of the Internet unveiled the following Web sites
that have information about their periodicals and/or indexes to their
periodicals. You may find many other such Web sites in your own explorations.
the international review of Jewish genealogy, publishes on subjects
of interest to genealogists of Jewish and Central and Eastern European
ancestry. Last year, the company put the first 12 volumes of the publication
on CD-ROM using the Folio® search
engine. Users can search for words and combination of words and the
software locates occurrences (hits) displaying the complete article
on the computer screen. The user can then print a copy of the article.
For example, a search for the surname Fischbein identifies two articles
in which the name appears Fall 1994 and Winter 1995 issues. The
town of Lublin, Poland is identified with 58 hits.
- The Record,
is the second-oldest genealogical journal in the United States. Articles
focus on families that lived in New York prior to 1900, as well as abstracts
or indexes to original New York records such as church registers and
- FEEFHS Internet Journal
East European Genealogy Ala Carte There are several full-text
articles at this Web site such as "Researching the People From 'No Mans
Land' The Carpatho-Rusyns of Austria-Hungary" by Thomas A. Peters.
Research Tips for Searching in Periodicals
- Index Types Utilize every available index type because
none of them provide 100% of what you need. Use PERSI for general surname,
locality, and subject searches; use CD-ROMs issued by publications for
detailed surname searches; and use the annual index provided by the
publication for topics not included in PERSI or CD-ROMs.
- Surname Searches Prepare a list of spelling variations
to use with every search. Include surnames of collaterals.
- Locality Searches Search by town, township, county,
or state; province, district, country.
- Subject Searches Prepare a list of subjects unique to
your family. For example, Methodists, gold rush, slaves, or Black Hawk
- Research Log Maintain a record of the title and date
of periodicals searched, plus research results.
- When you find a reference in an index and do not have access to the
periodical, you have four options:
- Write directly to the society that published the periodical, assuming
they still exist. Give them a donation for photocopying the article
- Determine if the periodical is available at the Family History
Library in Salt Lake City. If it has been microfilmed, you can order
the film through a local Family History Center. If not, hire a professional
genealogist in Salt Lake City to make a photocopy;
- If the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana has the
periodical, they have a service to photocopy articles. Visit their
Web site for details.
- Ask your librarian if back issues of the periodical have been
published on CD. We will be seeing more and more periodical collections
in this format.
Researching with periodicals is never-ending because new material is
published every day. For example, an article may appear in next month's
NGSQ that will name your family. Or maybe the headstones from a small,
rural cemetery were recently transcribed and will be published later this
That is why we never give up. There is always another record or another
periodical to examine in hope of finding our elusive ancestors. And when
you DO figure out one of your genealogical puzzles, write an article about
it and submit it to your favorite magazine. Your contribution may help
another genealogist solve their own puzzle!