Are you missing some important
genealogical information you just can’t seem to find? If you’ve looked
in all the usual places, and even some unusual ones, you may be
frustrated that you still can’t find the information you need to make
your family tree more complete and detailed. It’s an issue most
genealogists encounter more than once in their research.
Just because you haven’t found the
answer yet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist somewhere. Have you looked into
using periodicals in your research? These are an incredibly important,
but woefully underutilized tool for genealogists. If you’re not using
periodicals, you may be missing the exact information you’re seeking.
Here’s what periodicals are, where to find them, and how to use them to take your genealogical research to the next level.
What are Periodicals, and Why are They Useful in Genealogical Research?
Periodicals are publications such as
magazines, journals, and newsletters. They can be published with
whatever degree of frequency the person or organization who owns the
periodical deems suitable. Weekly, monthly, quarterly, twice-yearly, and
annually are all common publication frequencies for periodicals.
Many genealogical and historical
organizations publish them, and this makes them valuable genealogy
research resources. They have indexes and abstracts for all kinds of
local and regional records, many of which contain information that is
not available elsewhere. You might find such things as marriage records,
local newspaper extracts, lists of naturalization records and homestead
applications, births, baptisms, biographies of local and regional
notable people, and more. Because the periodicals are published on a
regular basis, they provide an ongoing stream of new genealogical
information. By checking them whenever a new issue comes out, or going
back through old issues, you may just find the exact piece of
information you seek. You may also find more detailed information you
weren’t even looking for, but that enriches your family history
Different periodicals publish
different types of information, as well. It pays to become familiar with
the national periodicals, as well as the ones in your local area, or
the areas or regions in which your ancestors lived. This will give you
an idea of what publications will be most useful to you.
Where to Find Periodicals for Genealogical Research
You generally need to be a member of
the group that publishes the periodical in order to have access to new
issues, and to archives of old ones. You can do a Google search to see
if there is a genealogical periodical published in your area of research
interest, and then join that society or group. If you don’t want to
join, you can contact them using the information you found online to
inquire about their back catalog, and ask if someone will search it for
you for a mention of your ancestors. Many groups will do this for a fee,
and sometimes even for free (but not all of them, so be sure to ask).
If they find an issue with information you would find useful, you can
sometimes buy a copy of just that issue, or you may be simply given the
information. It all depends on the society that owns the periodical.
How to Research Periodicals
If you have access to a back catalog
of periodicals through membership in the organization that publishes it,
you need to know how to properly research that catalog to find what you
need for your genealogy. More and more organizations are making their
back catalogs of periodicals available online, usually with searchable
databases. If you are lucky enough to belong to such an organization,
then your search should be easy, as you can do it by surname, or by
first name and surname together for more accurate results, and get your
results online. You can also search by location and subject. Whatever
type of search is most likely to get you the results you seek is the one
you should do.
If the periodical doesn’t have an
online index, you may find it does have a written, published index. You
can search this, and then request back issues be sent to you as you
require them. Other times, you will need to go to where a collection of
back issues is kept, such as the organization’s headquarters or a public
library with a genealogy section, and search each issue individually.
It’s worth it to take the time to do this if it yields the information
you need to make your genealogical work shine.
New information is being published in
periodicals all the time. Once you find the ones that best suit your
needs, and have gone through their back catalogs, it is important to
keep up with each new issue. You may not always find something of
interest to you in each one, but you don’t want to miss the one issue
that does have what you need. Keep an eye on periodicals, and your
genealogy work, as well as your skills as a genealogist, will be better