Among the major published genealogical sources, the source most overlooked by many researchers is the genealogical periodical. This seems even more true of those seeking immigrant origins, who somehow believe that the answers must lie in original documents, such as court records, deeds, or passenger lists. However, the very interest of others in those immigrants, especially of the Colonial Era, makes records dealing with immigrants a significant target of periodical publishers.
Immigration information in periodicals is found in two major formats. Genealogical accounts, which present the findings of a researcher, are a narrative discussion about a genealogical problem and the solution to that problem. Immigration, of course, is one of the greatest of genealogical problems, so the uncovering of an immigrant home makes for an excellent genealogical article. Even more than genealogical accounts, periodicals publish copies of records. They may be passenger lists, naturalizations, other court records, lists of early residents or land holders, or any other sort of record which may name an immigrant.
Today there are literally thousands of English-language genealogical periodicals. Many of them include significant information about immigrants. Most typically, the immigrants covered in these periodicals arrived during the colonial period, although later immigrants are also covered.
Another major component of many genealogical periodicals are compiled genealogies. Often a researcher has learned significant information about several generations of a family, but the number of people covered is too small for a book. Also, many researchers publish corrections or updates to earlier book genealogies.
As we have often indicated, immigration, and immigrant origins, are some of the most popular of genealogical topics. Virtually all North Americans descend from many different immigrants. Over the course of their research, family historians will often find the foreign origins of many of those immigrants. Their success stories make excellent articles for local and national genealogical periodicals.
More often than not, articles about immigrants deal with colonial immigrants. Usually they identify where they came from in the old country. Even if the actual town has not been found, such articles provide the most up-to-date information about the status of research on the immigrant. Since they provide current findings, they include whatever clues previous researchers have found. Often this is enough for the next researcher to pick up the trail, and solve the question of an immigrant origin.
One of the greatest services that periodicals perform is to copy documents of genealogical interest into their pages. This makes the original records much easier to read and to search. In addition, it is likely that the index to that issue will identify many more names in the record than the original document's index.
Virtually any and all types of genealogical documents have been transcribed or abstracted in periodicals. Transcriptions, of course, are a word-for-word printing of the original document. Punctuation and spelling are usually left as found in the original.
Abstracts are an abridgment or an abbreviated version of the record that omits repetitive or nonessential information. Abstracts vary greatly in quality, especially regarding the depth or quantity of information included. Abstracts may contain "corrected," or modern spelling; punctuation is almost always changed in abstracts.
Transcripts are much less common in periodicals than are abstracts. Any transcribed record may pertain to an immigrant, but most are not about immigrants. Transcribed records typically include Bible or cemetery records, censuses, church registers, passenger lists, tax lists, and vital records. When the originals of these records date from the Colonial Era, it greatly increases the chances that immigrants are included among the persons identified, even if they are not identified as immigrants.
Many genealogical records have been, and continue to be, abstracted into genealogical periodicals. However, the records most commonly seen in abstract form are court, land, military, probate, and naturalization records as well as minutes of church, town, and other organization meetings. Of course, any record, including those noted above as transcripts, can be abstracted.
Periodicals from the country whence an immigrant came may include articles listing persons who left a town or region for the New World. These are especially helpful for connecting American ancestors to their ancestral home. As with any record, particularly original records (even in copied form), it is essential to be certain the person in the record who has the same name as your immigrant is really the immigrant (not just another person with the same name). Often this takes additional research in other records to prove the correct identity.
Major Periodicals Dealing with Immigrants
Each periodical, through its editor and/or sponsoring organization, chooses the areas in which they will publish. Those decisions determine how much space the periodical will devote to certain topics. A quarterly journal published by a county society in Arkansas will likely not publish much information about immigrants. Few immigrants settled in that state, so most readers would not be interested in such information. On the other hand, a periodical whose focus is on Colonial American families cannot help but discuss immigrants, since identification of the immigrant is the chief goal of most Colonial Era researchers.
County-sponsored publications typically publish transcripts or abstracts of local records, and typically the only local records that directly identify immigrants are naturalization records. Of course, these seldom exist in the Colonial Era, but for later time periods, such articles, interspersed between many records having nothing to do with immigrants, can be a valuable source.
There are a handful of periodicals which place a greater emphasis on immigrants and their records than most others. Some of the most significant include:
The American Genealogist. 1939- . Published by David L Green, P.O. Box 398, Demorest, GA 30535. Cumulative index for vols. 1-60. With its focus on Colonial research problems, this quarterly journal usually includes at least one article in most issues discussing the origins or foreign ancestry of an early immigrant.
New England Historical and Genealogical Register. 1847- . Published by the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 101 Newbury St., Boston, MA 02116. Every-name index to vols. 1-50, and 51 through 147. With so many early immigrants settling in New England, the cumulated contents of America oldest genealogical journal has a wealth of information about Colonial immigrants. Articles include both genealogical accounts and abstracts of records mentioning the ancestral home of early immigrants (such as English probates mentioning Colonial residents).
New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. 1870- . Published by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 122 East Fifty-eighth Street, New York NY 10022. One of the best places to turn for the origins of Colonial Dutch settlers of New York, this quarterly journal has published hundreds of useful articles.
The Second Boat. 1980- . Published by Bachelor/Dormer, P.O. Box 398, Machias, ME 04654. Designed to help document the arrival of persons who came on later ships (hence the title), this periodical has few genealogical accounts, concentrating more on lists of immigrants, some well-documented, others just speculative. Its primary focus is Colonial New England.
Ethnic periodicals have become increasingly popular in recent years. However, most of these periodicals deal with how to research ethnic families.
Therefore they tend to be more instructional, and less likely to have significant articles naming immigrants. Research into foreign ancestry and various ethnic groups often differs in varying degrees from traditional American-British research.
Different records, customs, migration and settlement patterns, and even language need to be explained to researchers not raised in that particular ethnic culture.
The growth of interest in ethnic research has been mirrored by a growing number of periodicals that focus on these areas. Today there are close to 200 periodicals for ethnic genealogical research. The areas of greatest interest, in terms of English-language periodicals, seem to be (in descending order of number of publications): German, Jewish, French, African-American, Irish, Hispanic, and Native Americans. Other periodicals exist for Acadian, Dutch, Italian, Polish, Swiss and many other ethnic groups.
A few ethnic-oriented periodicals do specialize in discussing immigrants, or in publishing records which name immigrants. Three examples include:
Palatine Immigrant. 1976- . Published by Palatines to America, Capitol University, P.O. Box 101, Columbus, OH 43209. Focuses on Germans, especially those who settled Colonial Pennsylvania.
Swedish American Genealogist. 1978- . Published by Nils W. Olson, ed., P.O. Box 2186, Winter Park, FL 32790. Although most Swedes arrived long after the Revolutionary War, this well-respected journal treats Swedes of any time period, including the short-lived colony on the Delaware.
The Swiss Connection. 1992- . Published by Marilyn Wellauer, 2845 North 72nd Street, Milwaukee, WI 53210. Relatively few Swiss arrived in the Colonial Era, but the editor objective includes documenting all Swiss immigrants, as well as educating readers about Swiss research and culture.
Surname periodicals also deserve brief mention. Many periodicals focus on one family or a surname and its variants. They are often published by an individual interested in that name. Others are published by a family association.
The purpose of surname periodicals, regardless of how they are published, is to locate and publish information about people who share the surname of interest. Often not much more than a newsletter, they are still a significant research tool. They include all types of articles from compiled genealogies and abstracts of original records to queries and indexes.
It is important to note that some publications of this type focus on just one family, rather than all persons who share the surname.
For the researcher, surname periodicals and their publishers can be a great boon. Finding a periodical for a surname of interest is much like finding a published genealogy on the family. Most of the information will not be directly helpful but it is likely that some will pertain to the family being searched. Most of the information is secondary and needs to be further proven, but, in essence, such a periodical becomes a master index to dozens or hundreds of records and identifies where there is information on the particular surname. While much of the content of surname periodicals does not deal with immigrants, virtually every such publication does discuss the immigrants who shared that surname.
Given the wide variety of genealogical periodicals, and possibility of finding an article about an immigrant almost anywhere (such as a Pennsylvania German immigrant discussed in a Sun City Arizona newsletter), indexes are the only efficient way to access this crucial literature.
The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is the first place to turn for finding articles in English-language genealogical periodicals. This major reference tool indexes all issues of virtually every genealogical magazine, journal, or newsletter. However, it is not an every-name index. Rather, it indexes the subjects of various articles. It has two primary divisions, both of interest to the researcher. Use the Surname section to search for articles about specific persons, such as your immigrant. Use the Locality section to search for transcripts and abstracts of records for a specific locality, such as naturalization records of Sullivan County, or Freemen of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Once you find a citation, you may find that article at your local research library, or a library near where the periodical was published. Or, contact the Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana) where PERSI is created.
You can access PERSI at major libraries, or purchase the CD-ROM yourself. Most Family History Centers have an older edition of PERSI on microfiche.
As a subject index, PERSI does not serve the function of an every-name index. One very useful name index, seldom considered an index to periodicals, is P. William Filby Passenger and Immigration Lists Index which was discussed in the first lesson of this colonial sources series. Since the objective of that index is to identify immigrants in published materials, it indexes more than a thousand articles dealing with immigrants in hundreds of genealogical periodicals.
Collectively these indexed articles include over a million references to immigrants, including a large percentage of colonial immigrants. Although not every article discusses an immigrant origins, each name is a documented immigrant.
Over the years, Genealogical Publishing Company (Baltimore, Maryland) has reprinted selected articles from dozens of major genealogical journals in one to five volume sets. Generally the selected articles have a common theme, such as ship passenger lists, compiled genealogies, or transcribed source records. The publisher adds an every-name index to the reprinted articles, and often a significant preface discussing the periodical and explaining the selection criteria and related information. Many genealogical libraries purchase these reprint series, making them much easier to locate and use.
The following consolidated reprints focus specifically on immigrants. They were all published in the year indicated:
Emigrants to Pennsylvania, 1641-1819: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists from the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 1975.
English Origins of American Colonists: From the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. 1991.
English Origins of New England Families: From the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, First Series. 3 Vols. 1984.
English Origins of New England Families: From the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Second Series. 3 Vols. 1985.
Genealogies of Mayflower Families: From the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. 3 Vols. 1985.
Immigrants to the Middle Colonies: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. 1978.
Irish Settlers in America: A Consolidation of Articles from the Journal of the American Irish Historical Society. 2 Vols. 1979.
The Mayflower Reader: A Selection of Articles from the Mayflower Descendant. 1978.
New World Immigrants: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists and Associated Data from Periodical Literature. 2 Vols. 1979.
Passengers to America: A Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. 1977.
Pennsylvania German Immigrants, 1709-1786: Lists Consolidated from Yearbooks of the Pennsylvania German Folklore Society. 1984.
Record of Indentures of Individuals Bound out as Apprentices, Servants, Etc., and of German and Other Redemptioners in the Office of the Mayor of the City of Philadelphia, October 3, 1771, to October 5, 1773 [From: Pennsylvania-German Society. Proceedings and Addresses]. 1973.
Rhineland Emigrants: Lists of German Settlers in Colonial America / [From Pennsylvania Folklife Magazine]. 1981.
Virginia Gleanings in England: Abstracts of 17th and 18th-Century English Wills and Administrations Relating to Virginia and Virginians : a Consolidation of Articles from the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 1980.
Even if your ancestors were not in America during the Colonial Era, your immigrant(s) may still be mentioned in genealogical periodicals. Indeed, there are likely more non-Colonial immigrants in the periodical literature than Colonial immigrants, due to the sheer volume of later arrivals. Although periodicals are particularly useful for learning more about early immigrants, you should carefully check the periodical indexes for all your immigrants. Indeed, that is your assignment for this lesson. Choose three to five immigrants, including some of your earliest known immigrants, and look for them in PERSI and in the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Track down any referenced periodical articles, review them, and find out what they add to your understanding of your immigrant.