I have been doing some file drawer, desktop and shelving unit “clean-up” and “clear-out” work over the last few days in anticipation of my move to the Reference Office from the Extension Services Office.
Like all of our own lives regarding “stuff”, I found plenty of old paper copies of various genealogical society newsletter material. In fact, much of it was still associated with my predecessor who had been subscribing to these materials on behalf of the library at least 15 years ago. We are talking paper newsletter material going back to the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Being a genealogist, we develop a very thin skin on disposing of materials we have “archived” forever. What if someone asks that one-in-a-million question and I realize I pitched that one document that could have helped answer it? Good genealogists always second guess what should be kept and what should be discarded. But at some time, you do run out of space and you have to make some tough decisions.
With stacks of these old newsletters staring me in the face, I thought that I should take a look at the website of these existing societies and poke around to see what they had online for historical and archival newsletters. Digitization projects within these societies often involve the digitization of their own previously printed newsletter material.
It was just wonderful to find one society after another in which you could find their historical archives contain digitized files of their previously published paper copies of their newsletters! I looked at my paper copy and looked at their digital file and I had match after match.
Knowing that there was an online source easily accessible and some open to text searching just made me feel that much easier about actually making the effort to discard all of the personal copies of these paper newsletters accumulated over the past 20 years.
Kudos to these societies and what they have accomplished in digitizing their material that often went back 40 plus years! Converting that material and making it searchable allows the researcher to access material that might normally be impossible if you had to revert to actually browsing through and reading paper copies of these
Whether you are a member of an individual genealogical society or not, be sure to determine whether that society has a digital historical archives on their website. You should be able to search individual issues or combinations or all of them to see if perhaps articles were previously written that may have some connection to names or places that you are researching. These are wonderful resources that contain some great information to help you in specifics related to your own searches. It is now that so much of this is seeing the light of day and is digitally searchable within the online archives of these various societies.
Some societies may make much older versions available readily while not making the most recent few years unavailable. That should be expected. You will find that happening frequently.
Some societies may have the material online as just the image of the page and not be searchable, so you can at least browse the Table of Contents to discover articles of interest. Some have Surname indexes in each issue. Even if not searchable by text, you can often find these as a page that is easily read to see if their might be surnames of interest to you. Then you can go to the page where the surname occurred. Some societies may only provide access to a Table of Contents historical view and not the full article. Some societies may only allow “members” to access the material. So you will see a mixture of what is available.
But the bottom line is do not omit looking at a society website to see what they do have from a historical archive context about their newsletter publications that you can access.
You can always determine if a society exists either geographically in an area of interest for your own research (e.g. generally at the county level), or if a society exists based on a broader term that matches your own areas of interest (e.g. Polish Genealogical Society) by using the Federation of Genealogical Societies website. You can find the society at:
Here is a link within the society that allows you to search for societies of interest to you or just browse through the listing of member societies:
So what started out as a concern for me of discarding old print genealogy society newsletters, turned into a rather nice discovery knowing I could at last discard old material that could be retrieved if needed digitally from genealogy society websites. You may not discover this good fortune for every society as some may still not have converted older newsletters to digital format. But the ones I had all had a digital presence on the web.
At least for now I won’t have to think I will be appearing on the TV Show “Hoarders”!
Schaumburg Township District Library