Reading Society Journals

I actually like reading the notes (footnotes and end notes) in society publications. The other day I got the new New England Historical and Genealogical Register and promptly sat down to read it. The best bits I read first were the footnotes for one of the articles on John Barrows, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Not that I had any real interest in Mr. Barrows or his descendants; the nature of the article, and the author, Martin E. Hollick, were the attractions. The article itself, the text discussion, and the formatting, were keys to my interest in first reading this article. Mr. Hollick is one of the more interesting writers and researchers for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and I like his work. What drew me to the article was the level of research skills on display.

Reading the footnotes, alongside the text, I found that Mr. Hollick used a large number of sources for his work, both published and not published. The sources he used in this article can serve as exemplars for my work when I research Plymouth families, or others, that he has researched in the article.

The format of the article, on the other hand, gives me an idea of how to go about putting together such a piece. The way the article opens, the structure of the event time lines, and the discussions that go with those events, are key to a good reporting style. The particular journal style of placing dates before places may vary from time to time, but that’s ok; it really just depends on the type of event you are discussing. The level of citation you use and the format of those citations will also vary, but, likewise, it depends on the journal you are writing for, whether you go into so much detail, or not.

The footnoted discussions can give you an idea of how much or how little to include in the text part of the article and how much to include in the genealogical summary part. These two parts of an NEHGR piece are particular to that particular journal, but can be roughly duplicated in your own article or book-length production. The details in each portion vary, but the important thing is that the sources are cited and any interesting bits are discussed: discrepancies between two sources, and so on. These footnotes are important to future researchers so that unnecessary research is not duplicated.

A journal like NEHGR is a major stopping point for researchers and is authoritative as far as journals go. Yes, corrections and amplifications are sometimes done, but most often the corrections are to old, old genealogy research, and amplifications are actually expansions on materials previously published in the journal, which helps even more for future genealogists.

The only downside of reading a society publication is that some of the other journals referenced in articles may not be available to the reader. This necessitates getting a reprint or photocopy request from a library for the article. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are several libraries with a number of major and minor journals available in nearby libraries. As a genealogist, I’m able and willing to do research in these materials for others who may need or want the materials, but are not able to travel to the library to get them, or get them through a library copying service.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Writing for a Society Publication

English: N.E. Historic-Genealogical Society, S...

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I write for the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin and it is an experience in learning how to put together a great article on family history. Having learned the ropes of how to research family trees and how to look up records in various sources, I’m able to put all of that data together in a comprehensive article to share with the community.

Many societies need new material for their newsletters and journals on a regular basis. Local, county, and state genealogical societies often have at least a newsletter. Some have journals of varying publication schedules: quarterly, semi-annual, and/or annual. Lineage societies such as the Mayflower Descendants also have journals and publications you can write for.

Journals other than those of the national societies such as the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly and the NEHGS Register often have broader standards for article submissions. While the Quarterly and Register articles often are written by professionals and peer-reviewed, many society journals have somewhat lowered standards for quality and source citations.

There are a number of considerations for writing for a society publication, such as their focus on a particular area, time period, or subject matter. Societies also have their own guidelines and styles of presentation.

Focus Areas

Finding a genealogical society or journal for a topic area is easy. One of the best ways to find an appropriate journal is to ask a reference librarian at your local library. The genealogy librarian is often familiar with the different journals and their focus areas and able to tell you which ones for which you might consider submitting an article.

A newsletter is often more appropriate for general articles. For a focused article, such as a compiled family tree, or ancestry genealogy, you might consider submitting it to a journal, rather than to a newsletter.

Speak with the society before you submit an article to query the editor for its appropriateness to their journal or newsletter. If it is, they are likely to accept and publish it. The article then becomes the property of the society, restricting your ability to re-publish or submit it to another society. If, on the other hand, a society doesn’t accept an article, you are free to submit it to another. Always follow up, within a month or two of submission to see whether the society has plans for the article.

Guidelines and Styles

Be sure to check for guidelines and style guides on the society’s website or contact them and ask if they have any idiosyncrasies. For instance, the Seattle Genealogical Society’s Bulletin uses the word “county” in its text and end-notes on its first occurrence. As an example: “Seattle, King County, Washington Territory.” After that, they just use the city or county name, as appropriate.

Benefits

The benefits of having written an article for a society newsletter or journal are three-fold. You benefit the communities of society members, people interested in the topic area, and genealogists or family historians who read the publication.

NPM

© 2012 N. P. Maling — Sea Genes – Family History & Genealogy Research

Writing a Family Sketch in a Different Style

Reading a family sketch in the styles provided by most genealogy software is pretty boring. One way to liven up the reading is to transform it into another, less often seen form. One such style is that used by the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s Western Massachusetts Families in 1790 project. Other, similar styles are those of the Maine Families in 1790, the New Hampshire Families in 1790, and the Vermont Families in 1791.  

The Families in 1790 styles are primarily summary presentations of data about families, not unlike genealogy software reports. They are internally quite different, in that they are written by you, and are not simply a string of data statements with (hopefully) excellent citations. They also go farther than most available genealogy reports can, by including information about the family’s neighbors and associates, witnesses to their family happenings, and who in the family knew who else, wherever they were. 

The projects have different citation styles, based on what the sponsoring organization feels is appropriate to their group. The citations all have one thing in common, though, and that is a focus on primary rather than secondary sources. NEHGS has a guide to it’s citation style online next to the information about it’s Families project. 

These four projects, as examples, can give a framework for organizing publications about smaller areas, such as a county or community. One such project might focus on a town in the Mid-West or a southern states county. 

An example of a New Hampshire Families in 1790 sketch is of the Samuel Chamberlain family (Samuel Chamberlain family sketch). Samuel was born in Massachusetts in 1724, and died in Vermont in 1802.

© 2011 N. P. Maling

Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research