Genealogy too often is practiced by simply collecting names and dates. To be blunt, that is not family history. By only collecting names and dates, many so-called genealogists are ignoring the wealth of information available about their ancestors. In fact, we all should study the lives of our ancestors in order to understand the times in which they lived and the factors that shaped their lives.
Scholarly genealogy journals have published true family histories for years. Examples include the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The American Genealogist, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and many others. These academic-quality publications typically contain compiled genealogies, case studies, essays on new methodology and little-known resources, critical reviews of current books, and previously unpublished source materials. Each such journal is full of citations to the sources of the data published.
These high-quality publications provide information that is difficult to obtain elsewhere. Most of them are published quarterly. The scholarly journals are not cheap. Many are published by genealogy societies for their members with dues or subscriptions varying from $40 to $75 per year. Subscribing to these journals is so expensive that private individuals typically limit themselves to one or two subscriptions.
Luckily, these journals can also be found in many well-equipped genealogy libraries. Very few libraries stock all of them, however. Even worse, if you do not live near such a major genealogy library or cannot easily visit a library during the hours it is open, your access to these journals is limited. As a result, too few genealogists read these excellent journals.
I have read many claims that genealogy is the most popular or second or third most popular subject on the Internet. I have looked at tens of thousands of genealogy-related web sites. It strikes me that almost all of them are less than scholarly, to say the least. Until now, none of the online genealogy sites seem to exhibit the quality of the respected printed journals.
Conversely, most genealogy web sites are either free or inexpensive. They are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, genealogists typically read many more web sites than genealogy journals.
Any web site containing family history should be accompanied by proper documentation. Citing the sources of information allows the reader to have confidence in correct data and to become suspicious of questionable data.
The Annals of Genealogical Research is a brand-new web site that provides an open access journal for genealogy and family history. Volume 1, Number 1 has just appeared with three articles, all of which appear to be the online academic equivalent of articles published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, The American Genealogist, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and other, similar journals.
The three articles in the first edition of Annals of Genealogical Research include:
- A Sketch of Peter Van Camp (1721-1783) by Robert Scott Shaw
- Josiah Hulet - Early Sandisfield Settler by Ron Bernard
- The Family of Antonio Amelio Diaz Peña and Angeline Arenda Barrocluff by Sally Congdon Leete
The articles in this first edition are heavily footnoted with citations and lists of references. In short, the quality of these first three articles appears to be on a par with those that appear in today's scholarly printed genealogy journals.
The Annals of Genealogical Research apparently is a one-person effort at this time. Robert S. Shaw of Cupertino, California is listed as the owner and publisher. You will note that he is also the author of one of the three articles that appears in this first edition. Quoting from Annals of Genealogical Research web site:
This journal has been established to provide an online site suitable for researchers to present and preserve their findings in genealogy. Although there are a good number of genealogical journals available in print form, there are not many accessible via the internet. This lack seemed much in need of correction.
The internet provides an enormously useful tool, and for genealogy many types of resources have been established. Communication between researchers by email and discussion boards is suitably supported, and access to basic data sources is growing.
For publication of research results, however, the internet has not yet been well utilized. Sites on the internet tend to be ephemeral and scattered. Their very existence usually depends on continued support from their authors and often from a commercial enterprise. Perhaps because of this, relatively few authors feel it worthwhile to provide good documentation of their results online. Yet without supporting documentation, genealogical findings are reduced to being little more than written rumor.
The internet has excellent potential for research publication, especially in genealogy. As a communication mechanism, it has a much wider reach than a print method could ever be hoped to have. Through integration with search technology, it allows discovery of very narrowly-focused articles in a mass of information. It can allow citations to be easily made and accessed. Although we can expect that paper publication will remain important for the foreseeable future to ensure preservation of results, eventually online publication has the potential of being an effective method of long-term preservation as well.
The typical lack of source documentation given in online genealogical information today is also of great concern. For research to be useful to others, it needs to be accompanied by traceable references (not just "Bob's GEDCOM"). A side effect of this, but an important one, is that documentation helps to give credit where it is due, which encourages further sharing.
All the foregoing led to setting up the Annals. We are still early in the internet age, and this young journal can be expected to evolve. It is hoped that the genealogical community will find it useful.
The Annals of Genealogical Research accepts short or medium-length articles in genealogy and family history. There are no geographical restrictions. The papers must be in English, and data on living persons should not be included. The main requirement for articles is that adequate source documentation be included for the data and conclusions that are presented.
The Annals of Genealogical Research obviously wants to become the online equivalent of today's printed academic genealogy journals. This is a lofty goal. Will it succeed? Only time will tell but the Annals appears to be off to a good start.
It is interesting to note that The Annals of Genealogical Research is available on the web free of charge, a rather startling challenge to the expensive printed journals. Again quoting the web site:
The Annals of Genealogical Research is supported by donations of time, effort, and money. At present we are not seeking money or editorial help, but if use of the journal grows we would be likely to do so in the future.
The first edition of The Annals of Genealogical Research shows an excellent beginning. I hope that the Annals succeeds and grows. You can watch this fledging online publication at http://www.genlit.org