03 August 2010

Browsing the Archives

by Toby Webb

We are all used to searching for specific pieces of genealogical data online, but it is only recently that genealogy's scholarly journals are being made available in their entirety. When I learned that more than a decade's worth of the NGS Quarterly is now downloadable, I thought I'd poke around a bit to see what treasures might be there. For my experimental search, I decided to see what I could find about Pennsylvania, a current focus of my research. I started by checking the online NGSQ Index on the NGS website. I simply put "Pennsylvania" in the title box and ran the search: 94 articles over the years about Pennsylvania topics! Each article was cited (in chronological order), and the list was easy to review quickly. I was surprised by the breadth of coverage and by the names of the authors. There were many distinguished genealogists that I had heard of over the years, all making their contributions to the Quarterly.

Volumes of the Quarterly from the mid 1990s to today are downloadable so far, so I read the Index for Pennsylvania articles from that period. "Genealogical Research in Pennsylvania" by Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, (March 2002) caught my eye, and I downloaded Quarterly Volume 90. I'm on vacation with a slow modem; the download took about ten minutes. (Be sure to follow the instructions on the download page about not opening PDF files in your browser; this speeds up the download.) Now I have a complete, easily readable copy of that entire year's volume on my computer. The Freilich article was a treasure - 30 pages long, it is far more detailed than the state research guides we find in books that try to cover the entire country. For each type of record we would expect to search, the author provided helpful, specific detail on locations and availability. She also described numerous special collections that might otherwise not be searched. (My favorite discovery was the David Library of the American Revolution in Washington Crossing, with 10,000 reels of microfilm and 40,000 books and pamphlets!)

Having these journals online will be a wonderful resource. It is great that NGS is making the effort to digitize them. I'll let you know what other treasures I find!

Editor's Note: The NGS Quarterly is available online in the Members Only area of the NGS web site. After logging on, members can click on the Publications & Videos tab to access a searchable NGSQ index covering 1912–2008, PDF versions of NGSQ from 2002 up to the most current issue and PDF version of the NGS Magazine from 2005 up to the most current issue.

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