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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian: Newspaper Records by Ryan Taylor, revised by Susanna de Groot, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Historical societies may publish scholarly articles, popular history or essays that fall between the two. Ontario History, from the Ontario Historical Society, is very formal and OHS has no other publication which might be of interest to non-academic historians. On the other hand, many historical societies have changed their longterm journals to glossy magazines; British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland all publish magazines which have popular appeal and solid historical research qualities. Some of the glossy magazines, such as The Island andCap-au-Diamants, are for more casual readers.
Aside from the interest of historical articles, these resource publications can also lead us to other newly-published materials. The Manitoba and Newfoundland monthlies both publish annual bibliographies of new titles, both monographic and periodical articles. It takes only a short time to scan through the listings each year, to see if there are items which we should examine for our family history research. More academic periodicals are even more likely to include these bibliographic lists; Acadiensis has a section “Recent publications relating to the history of the Atlantic region” in each issue, and Canadian Ethnic Studies has a ‘Bibliography and Historical Studies’ heading. Searching through bibliographies may seem a very dry part of genealogical research, but it can be profitable, and what started out as dry-and-boring suddenly becomes juicy if we find a new ancestor.
Although we expect to find resource publications which are geographically based, either province-wide, county or local, there are many more specialised publications which will help us.
- Ethnic: Many cultural groups have magazines as well as newspapers. The Huguenot Society of Canada, for example, publishes Huguenot Trails. Like the various newsletters of the Loyalist Association, researchers may think these are more genealogical than historical, but the content has very little about genealogical research. They will provide information about the culture and history of the people involved. Several Mennonite groups publish high-quality magazines which mix genealogical, religious and cultural information.
- Special topics: groups which are interested in history, but not necessarily from a genealogical perspective, publish periodicals which provide background information, or give tips on research in their area of expertise which we can use. Jib Gems, published by the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston, Ontario, concerns itself with inland sailing and merchant ships.
- Publications which include original documents: these may include diaries, letters, petitions, accounts of voyages, or other general materials useful in a genealogical context.
- Regional: although town or county historical societies are the rule, there may be publications which concentrate on a region because of its association with a particular group of settlers, an organization or institution.The Hay Bay Guardian is an annual whose interest is based on a Methodist church in the Bay of Quinte area of Ontario. The Long Point Genealogist is actually published by the Norfolk Historical Society but is based on a cultural group first identified by the local history The Long Point Settlers, published in the 19th century. Traditional historical publications should be examined for in-depth studies of localities of interest to us, which may not be published elsewhere.The Norwich Archives Newsletter, from Oxford County, Ontario, regularly features locales in the township, devoting entire issues to a single place.
- Heraldry: there are a few publications, most noticeably Heraldry in Canada from the Heraldry Society of Canada, and the newsletter of the national heraldry office in Ottawa.
- Folklore: these may have considerable genealogical material, as for example Tumivut, the publication of the Avataq Cultural Institute (360-4140 Ste.-Catherine O,Westmount, Québec H3Z 2Y5 ; (514)989-9031; email email@example.com, which promotes Inuit culture in Nunavik. Tumivut includes oral genealogies.Them Days: stories of early Labrador is one of the best oral history publications around, fascinating to read even if you have no Labrador background in your family. Folklore, the magazine of the Saskatchewan Folklore Society, includes articles on more recent social history of broad general interest, which remind us that even the immediate past can seem like a foreign country when the experiences there were so different to our own.
With the advent of the Internet, many periodicals are switching to online publication, often instead of printed versions. Gwen Szychter’s History Helps which concerns itself with the Delta region of British Columbia, is an example, which arrives via email; subscription is free. Many of the online publications are available through particular websites of sponsoring organizations. It may be wise to electronically store or print material seen on these online publications and deemed helpful, as that page, the publication or the whole site might vanish tomorrow.
An interesting development is the ‘reprinting’ of long-vanished periodicals on the Internet. Along with the digitisation of newspapers, this is very welcome, and as time passes and the art of scanning improves, we can hope to see more of it. Cleadie Barnett of McAdam, New Brunswick, published two periodicals 1979-1983, We Lived and We Lived the Next Generation. This has nothing to do with outer space as the title might hint, but concerns the Saint John River valley and the Bay of Fundy.
Canadian historical publications are indexed in PERSI, the same as genealogical ones.
Even this brief overview should make clear that genealogical and historical resource publications have a great deal to offer the serious researcher. It may take some time to find the information, but the rewards are great.
Subscribing to historical publications from our area of interest, and membership in genealogical societies (with their periodical side benefit), should be part of every genealogist’s working strategy. These periodicals should be studied closely for the information (hard data or background) that they can provide. Working in large library collections, or online indexes, can provide us with access to other titles which we cannot afford to have at home.
All of us reach a lull in our research, when we are waiting for materials to come via interlibrary loan, or our next research trip is some weeks away. This is a good time to settle down for work in periodicals or newspapers, when we are not pressed to get on quickly to the next resource.
The advantage to working with these materials, aside from finding the information in them, is that there is a great deal more to distract us in the form of unexpected articles or items which give great pleasure. Thus, the genealogical hobby (which is supposed to be fun, after all) adds to our enjoyment of life as well as our knowledge.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Newspaper Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.