Before the end of 2010 I asked my facebook friends the following question:
"Reflecting on the past year, what was the number one thing that impacted your genealogical research? Was it a family discovery, a class taken, a lecture attended, a new distant cousin or something else?"
I got some really interesting answers from my friends. Now it's time for me to add my own answer.
This may seem very simple to the rest of you but it was quite profound for me. It was all about footnotes. I love footnotes for they way they can reveal and point you to sources you didn't know about before.
I have been reading peer-reviewed journals such at the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record and the New England Historical & Genealogical Register for quite some time. I read the NGSQ cover to cover, with great interest but not purposefully.
This year instead of reading articles that were merely presented to me I learned that I can seek out articles that relate specifically to my research interest either geographically or for a given time period.
It finally dawned on me that if I am researching Yarmouth, Massachusetts I can seek out other articles on Yarmouth and the footnotes will be specifically helpful to me.
I know your saying that is so obvious but it wasn't obvious to me. I've always known to do a PERSI search or a search of the NEHGS catalog or the Family History Library catalog for a specific family but it didn't really occur to me to seek out articles specifically on a location. Or my location based research focused on records and not on published articles.
How this affected my research
I receive a copy of the Register regularly but I have to admit I have seldom read it in the past. The articles just seemed a bit dry to me. But when I realized that I could seek out the exact footnotes that could help me that all changed. Most of my research, both professional and personal, is focused on New England and New York. And to think that I was ignoring the one journal that could help me the most.
Now I check the table of contents for the Register immediately to see if any of it is relevant for my research. I also check back issues online at the NEHGS website. I still don't read it cover to cover but the articles have greater significance for me when I do read it.
I guess 2010 was year for location based research!
Have you been purposefully looking for peer-reviewed articles that are similar to your research targets? If not, think about where you are researching and what time periods. There are great journals across the United States and Europe that will help you. If you are having trouble finding journals that meet your needs leave me a comment and I'll try to help you find some.