If you ignore the footnotes in the articles of a genealogical journal, you will likely miss some of the power in the articles. Footnotes are like a secret second narrative in a scholarly work. Many of the footnotes refer to the sources the author used for gathering data. Others will contain interesting or useful insights that didn’t fit neatly into the body of the article. Delving into the sources contained in these references can even provide clues for continuing your own research.
A person could read a journal article, ignoring all footnotes, and still understand it. After all, the article is the sum of the sources, organized, mixed together in a specific order, baked, and served. Perhaps you could even say it is partially digested. But when you also study the sources, footnotes, and the accompanying commentary, your knowledge of the material and the research process can grow exponentially. Who knows but what one of the sources or research methods in an article will help you solve your own research problems. Consider this a plea for you to see footnotes as an integral part of any article.