Genealogy Society Publications - Hidden Treasures

As we continue our series of profiles on local genealogical and historical societies, you’ll see that many provide monthly newsletters to their members. Some of the societies even publish lengthier “quarterlies”.

This is true of genealogical and historical societies around the country. Although some groups have moved to electronic publication and distribution, others still send out paper copies. And generally, the older publications have not been digitized.

What kind of information do the societies publish? Newsletters typically contain the following: details from the last meeting or presentation; information regarding future meetings and special events; society news and updates; and updates on special projects and publications the society may be working on.

Quarterly publications generally contain longer, more formal articles. Often lengthier transcriptions of old newspaper articles, bible records, school graduation lists, etc. will be included. Articles on research by society members, research tips and hints, and profiles of various local research facilities are popular topics as well. These articles may be printed over a series of issues. Some organizations provide an annual index.

Society publications are a goldmine of information for genealogists, but they are often overlooked. Researchers may join their local organizations but for many of us our research criss-crosses the country and our budgets don’t allow us to join as many societies as we’d like. So how can you make better use of society publications? While local libraries may have publications from the societies in their area, libraries such as the Newberry have much wider collections. There are several ways to find these resources.

  • Check out PERSI (Periodcial Source Index) created by the Allen County Public Library and available online through HeritageQuest and Ancestry.com. The PERSI index lists every article from over 6,500 genealogy and local history publications according to locality, family (surname) and/or research methodology. Each citation includes information about the publisher. (Note - this is an index, not full text of the articles.) 
  • Search the online library catalog. Quarterlies and newsletters from major organizations are often included in the catalog. If you don’t know the exact publication title, try searching by subject. Here are some examples of subject headings: Chicago (Ill.) –Genealogy –Periodicals; Chicago (Ill.) –History –Periodicals; Cook County (Ill.) –History –Periodicals; Cook County (Ill.) –Genealogy –Periodicals
  • Smaller, monthly newsletters are not always cataloged. These may be kept in a separate “vertical file” or “newsletter file”, and might not be stored with the books. The Newberry has an online list of these newsletters and you can also ask for the list at the 2nd floor reference desk.

And when you’re searching for these resource gems, don’t overlook “family societies” - groups formed to study specific surname.

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