Genealogy Periodicals: Journals, Newsletters, and Magazines
for the Genealogist Who Doesn't Know Where to Go Next
Genealogy journals don't normally provide "how-to" articles, they publish case studies written by researchers who have solved a difficult genealogical problem. There is usually some other material published in a journal such as book reviews and maybe relevant genealogical news but the body is one or more case studies.
This is different than a newsletter which focuses on news, records, or other topics. Some newsletters may also contain case studies. Magazines may be similar to a newsletter, containing news and usually how-to articles instead of case studies. Reading all three is beneficial, particularly reading periodicals relevant to your specific research, whether a location, ethnicity, or other topic. However, case studies can seem intimidating or dry to some genealogists. So while they may read newsletters and magazines, they may avoid journals.
The main excuse for not reading genealogy journals is usually, "the topic of the case study isn't relevant to my research." The purpose of journals is different than magazines and newsletters. Magazines and newsletters give you information on specific topics. The purpose of case studies is not to see the specific sources used for a problem. The purpose is to see how a difficult problem was solved. You want to notice the general type of sources (deeds, church books, probate records, etc.) and the techniques used (what kind of correlation and analysis was used).
Reading a genealogical case study is not necessarily the most natural thing to do. Simply reading straight through the text isn't enough. A major part of reading a case study is studying the sources as well as the text. Because this is rather awkward for most people, there are some articles to help you learn a methodology for reading quality journal articles. "Eight Tips for Deconstructing an NGSQ Case Study" is available from the NGS Monthly. Bill Litchman wrote an article many study groups use. If you are not participating in a study group, the most relevant part of his article, for an individual, is the paragraph underneath the list of articles. Reading the full article will give you more background and understanding of why you'd want to read case studies, though.
Reading case studies from a variety of locations and time periods is the most helpful. Your research problem may be difficult because it defies all the normal research avenues for the time and location you are working in. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ) is popular because it contains articles from all different states and time periods. Similarly, there is "The American Genealogist" and "The Genealogist." Although location specific, "The Register" published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, is one of the most commonly read journals.
Many state genealogy societies publish a journal although some publish a newsletter.
It is worthwhile to check your local genealogy reference collection to see what type of periodicals they have. Don't forget to check for periodicals that are no longer published. Even if you don't identify case studies in periodicals for your specific area of interest, you may find a newsletter or journal that published abstracted records you need. Finding and reading a variety of genealogical periodicals will only help you improve your skills.
Learn about study groups in the continuation of this post.