Brick Walls and Genealogy Journals

I have been “doing family history” for about 25 years now. I like solving puzzles and learning or trying out different methodologies; in fact, I would even go so far as to say that I crave the challenges presented by a new brick wall.

The problem being, of course, that I’ve been stuck on the same set of brick walls in my own ancestry for quite a while now. (Sound familiar?) Even though I’ve made some headway recently, the fact remains that the names are all the same; after a while, and almost inevitably, boredom and frustration set in.

One way I counter this is by turning to other family histories; not by pursuing new lines of research, but by reading published histories compiled by other genealogists. There are a number of incredibly reputable journals that have been published over the past few decades, and some much longer: The American Genealogist, The Genealogist, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, and The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, to name a few.

My favorite, though, is The National Genealogical Society Quarterly, aka the NGSQ. Part of the reason why it’s my favorite is purely practical: I’m a member of the NGS, and so have ready, online access to all issues of the NGSQ from 1988 to the present. But there are other reasons as well. The NGSQ covers a wider variety of eras and problems than the other named journals, and many of the more recent articles over the past twenty-odd years are “teaching” articles; that is, they were written with the student genealogist in mind, logically ordered so that the whole method behind the madness is explained. This allows others, those who are stuck behind a stubbornly resistant brick wall, to take that methodology and apply it to their own problems.

Each time I read an NGSQ article, I find my mind turning to a similar problem I’ve faced in finding my own ancestors. The Eureka! moment hits (Aha, here’s what I can do to solve that problem), and my fingers itch for pen and paper so I can capture the ideas as they flower. My thirst for the chase is renewed, and I am ready once again to continue the ceaseless battering against the never-ending supply of brick walls my ancestors have thrown up.


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