Category Archives: Genealogy Periodicals

Early New England Ancestors? Check Out The Essex Antiquarian

Do you have early New England ancestors who settled in Essex County, Massachusetts?

If so, you might want to check out The Essex Antiquarian, a “magazine devoted to biography, genealogy, history and antiquities of Essex County, Massachusetts,” published by Sidney Perley from 1897 to 1909.

The complete run can be found on HathiTrust.

What kind of articles were published in The Essex Antiquarian? Well, many that will interest genealogists.

Mr. Perley published epitaphs from many early tombstones – not just birth and death dates, but entire epitaphs. Yes, we have online websites with gravestone information, but I guarantee that some of those transcribed in 1897 (from even earlier records) are (1) either no longer legible or (2) destroyed, sunk into the ground or are in some other non-readable condition.

There are also interesting historical articles to be found. Were your ancestors in Haverhill in the 1730s? There was a “throat distemper” epidemic that spread through the area from 1735-1737 that killed many children.

Between 17 November 1735 and 31 December 1737, 256 children died in Haverhill alone. The article identifies Haverhill families who lost one, two, three, four or even FIVE children to the epidemic.

Another article tells of the 1769 murder of Ruth Perley Ames, poisoned, shortly after having given birth. John Adams, later U.S. President, was counsel for the defense. It’s a very interesting story.

Do you have Essex County ancestors who may have given service in the American Revolution, but for whom no pension has been found? The magazine starts with A surnames, giving a very short synopsis of each man’s service.

There are also genealogical studies, such as the one written about Captain John Appleton, born in 1622 in Little Waldingfield, Suffolk, England, which not only details his descendants, but includes notes from historical events back to the 1400s. Clues, to be verified, for sure, but still clues!

Although none of those submitting queries is still around to chat with, when others found answers, the replies were published in future issues. Some replies even cited a source.

Another valuable set of records are Essex County court records, which are abstracted and date from the 1640s.

In any event, even if you have no early Essex County ancestors, reading through the issues is an enjoyable experience.

The Essex Antiquarian was one of the first genealogical journals of which I was aware and I had pulled issues off library shelves to read. It’s helpful that they are now accessible online.

Get Educated with Genealogical Periodicals

The mail lady used to be one of my favorite people! She used to bring all kinds of genealogical treasures. Besides the letters from county courthouses and genealogical queries, she brought all the periodicals.

Before the internet, periodicals were an easy way to obtain a genealogical education. In fact, it was one of the only ways unless one lived very near a major city that had a large genealogy library.

When I say “periodicals,” they came in a variety of forms. First would be what I consider scholarly journals and the articles I found in them had well sourced, footnoted facts.

I have been a long time member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and The Register was probably my favorite item in the mail. With all of my New England roots, many of the issues had articles about my ancestors. I learned to cite my sources way back then. I also actually read the footnotes to find out where the authors had found such terrific information. Footnotes actually opened my newbie eyes to the variety of genealogical sources and records that were available.

I still belong to NEHGS today, but read the Register digitally online. It just isn’t the same as discovering it in my mailbox, but it remains an excellent learning tool.

For a handful of years, I was a member of the National Genealogical Society. They, too, publish an excellent journal – The NGS Quarterly.

Being a national society rather than a localized genealogical society, the Quarterly articles focus on families across the United States. For a reasonable membership fee to NGS, the Quarterly continues to be an educational tool for all genealogists.

Another top notch journal was/is The American Genealogist.

An aside – I just learned something new here – I didn’t even realize that this journal was still in publication, but there is a website that even has a list of PDF tables of contents to journals so the reader can see what they are missing. Hmmm. I might have to subscribe to TAG once again.

I highly recommend any of the above journals as a tool to develop research skills. The side benefit is discovering that someone else has solved a difficult research problem for you. 🙂

One step down from the scholarly journals are the publications from state genealogical societies. I describe them as one step down, not because of quality, but because these publications usually include a mix of well-sourced articles, family stories and Bible records, queries, news and assorted miscellaneous tidbits.

I don’t currently belong to any state genealogical societies, but in the past, I have been a member of the Virginia Genealogical Society, Ohio Genealogical Society, Missouri State Genealogical Association, Tennessee Genealogical Society and Kentucky Genealogical Society.

Each of these societies includes a publication with membership and I learned a lot from reading all the articles – about surviving tax lists in a burned county, repository locations of family Bibles, how to tackle difficult research problems, what new reference books are being published and much more. Some state societies have digitized their earliest issues and have them freely available online. Membership is required to view the current issues, but, again, well worth the yearly fees, which are reasonable.

Next, there are local genealogical societies at the town or county level. I’m currently a member of the Pima County Genealogy Society here in Tucson.

I would generally describe local society publications as newsletters. Many of these organizations are small and use blogs and websites to share their news. Local society newsletters are like small scale versions of state society publications. Members can submit articles and the topics cover a wide range – stories about their own ancestors, conferences attended, technology news, book reviews and local items of interest.

There is one other type of periodical that gave help educate you – genealogy magazines. In the “old” days, I watched for the new issue of The Genealogical Helper to arrive at my mailbox.

The Genealogical Helper is no longer in publication, although there are limited back issues available from Family Roots Publishing.

However, there are a couple of magazines, not affiliated with any society, available by subscription or in a book store. One is Internet Genealogy, which will keep you up to date with the latest websites and news. Another is Your Genealogy. Both are owned by Moorshead Publications. These are both U.S. based magazines, but I have seen a few magazines published in other countries, so it is worth looking into that resource, too.

Most of the oldies but goodies, available back when I first began researching are still in publication today. If you are in a genealogy library that has a collection  of old periodicals, take the time to learn what the collection holds.

As I wrote this post, I’ve motivated myself to take a look at which periodicals I’d like to find in my mailbox today. The mailman might once again become one of my best friends. I hope I’ve motivated you to investigate some for yourself. One can never go wrong with education.