GeneaGem: Genealogical Periodicals and Newsletters

In previous posts, I have extolled the virtues of digging deeper for information by using state and local historical and genealogical societies. Today, though, I would like to highlight one aspect of these societies – their periodical and newsletter publications.

There are several great things about these publications:

1. They may well contain information almost impossible to find elsewhere.

Example: Have you gone to FindaGrave hoping to discover that a gravestone exists for your 4x great grandparents and that it contains their exact dates of birth and death on it? Major disappointment ensues when nothing is found at the cemeteries in the region where they lived and died and you assume that they either aren’t buried there or they had no man-made gravestones placed on their graves.

Well, that might not be the case. They might have had gravestones there at one time, but which are now gone. Perhaps they were worn down by the weather and are no longer readable. Perhaps they were broken by nature or by man.

PERHAPS the gravestones were there and readable back in 1955 when local family historians surveyed the cemetery and published the epitaphs in their local newsletter or state genealogical or historical society journal or periodical.

2. Another great thing about these periodicals is that societies didn’t have the budget for subscribing to each other’s publications. However, they OFTEN traded publications to share with their members. That means that if you visit the Pomona, California public library, which houses the collection of the Pomona Genealogy Society, you will find publications from other organizations from around the U.S., not just in California.

3. Some of the most popular topics of interest in these publications were transcriptions of family Bible records, county tax lists and loose court records.

Even today, there are many tax records on microfilm that haven’t yet been digitized, but which can be immensely helpful in family research. The same can be said for loose court records and who wouldn’t like to find a transcription of your branch of the family’s Bible records in an 1810 Bible? As with the case of now-lost gravestones, family Bibles can be lost through the ages.

Here are just three examples of tables of contents for three genealogical journals digitally available online to the general public:

Arkansas Family Historian
March 1970

The Arkansas Family Historian is the official periodical of the Arkansas Genealogical Society and it began publication in 1962. Notice that this issue was mostly dedicated to cemetery transcriptions in Howard County, Arkansas. Remember what I said about gravestones being lost to time? You might find your family’s gravestone epitaphs recorded 45 years ago, but the stones are gone today.

Missouri State Genealogical Association Journal
Winter 1983

The Missouri State Genealogical Association has published its Journal for decades and issues from 1981-2005 are digitized and available online. Remember, though, that you may well find issues of this Journal in your local genealogy library.

If you have Missouri roots and have “lost” family between 1860 and 1870, would tax assessment lists help determine when they left or the head of household died? The Winter 1983 issue has several transcribed assessment lists – for Jefferson County in 1863 and Dade and Lawrence Counties in 1864. If your family lived in one of those three counties, you are in luck!

Ansearchin’ News
July 1963

Back in 1963, Ansearchin’ News was apparently published by the Memphis Genealogical Society. Today, however, it is part of the Tennessee State Genealogical Society.

Did your family migrate to Tennessee in its early years? My husband’s did and I loved finding the 1805 tax roll for Roane County.

Are you a descendant of Charles Puckett who died in Rutherford County, Tennessee in 1854? Guess what, there are multiple family trees online for this family which LACK the exact dates of birth for his children. Those researchers never checked the Tennessee Genealogical Society periodicals for information that was published half a century ago AND is digitized with free access online.

The article even includes the name and address of the Bible owner (in 1963, of course), but a bit of further digging might bring success in locating the current owner of the Bible if Biffle Owen is no longer with us.

Not many societies have digitized their periodicals and have free access online. That isn’t the point here, though. I happened to give three examples that are online, but there are hundreds and hundreds of local societies out there whose publications may be in your own local libraries.

In addition, FindMyPast has taken up the challenge to expand and digitize the PERSI (Periodical Source Index) collection, an index of articles found in 11,000  genealogical publications. It is a subject index, not an everyname index, but is still invaluable for researchers. PERSI is part of the subscription site, but it is an option.

I hope that I’ve caused a few light bulbs to go off in your minds. I remember in the “olden” days (aka pre-internet) when genealogical periodical collections were eagerly accessed in libraries because one never knew what treasure was waiting to be found within them. Those same treasures are waiting to be found today.

By the way, if you know anyone in the Charles Puckett family, you might tell them the family Bible record is waiting to be discovered. . . . . .

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