Saturday, February 18, 2012

Writing for a Genealogical Periodical

Genealogists often hesitate to submit articles to genealogy publications. Yes, some like the National Genealogical Society Quarterly might be intimidating, but there are many other possibilities. Smaller and less well known genealogical organizations sometimes struggle to fill the pages of their periodicals and appreciate new contributors and a variety of topics.

What publications should you consider? Start with local groups, especially the ones you belong to; some accept submissions from members only. Look to organizations and societies in areas where you research too. If you write about Kentucky ancestors, for example, consider Kentucky publications. Many accept submissions if they reflect the history or families of the region. 
Michael Hait and Harold Henderson compiled a list of regional and state genealogy publications, with links to online information. You will find “State & Regional Genealogical Society Journals” at
Cyndi’s List has links for “Societies & Groups” at and “Print & Electronic Publications for Genealogy” at

Some organizations accept a narrow scope of articles, while others allow a broad range of subjects. History and culture of the area, case studies, technology, family stories, abstracts and “how to” are some you might see. In my local quarterly we have feature articles with a particular focus in each issue, and a series of regular columns which include Genealogy Education, Oregon County Research, Family Stories and Relics.

Where to Start:

  1. Read back issues of various periodicals to get a feel for the style and content.
  2. Decide on a topic and style. Will you write something new or submit something you’ve already written? Choose journals that suit your type of article.
  3. Write about something that interests you, not what you think you should write about. You’ll do a much better job.
  4. Consider your audience. Writing for publication is somewhat different than writing for your family. You have a broader audience and probably need to explain details; your family may know the places, history and relationships of people, but others don’t.
  5. . Do your research, and document the facts. Double-check. Include citations in the format required by each publication.
  6. Read your writing aloud. If you stumble on a sentence it probably needs to be rewritten.
  7. Ask someone else to read and help you proofread if possible.
  8. Get the submission guidelines and style guides for each publication, and do follow them. If ask to format the article a particular way, do it. I will tell you first hand, no one wants to remove fifty extra paragraph returns from an article because the author didn’t read the instructions.  If it says use a particular font, that’s what you send them. Some will accept photographs but these often need to be sent in a separate file, not embedded in the article.
  9. Find out in advance the copyright policy. This varies by society and is an important issue. You need to know if you retain “ownership” of your article and whether you can have it printed elsewhere.
  10. Editors edit-don’t be upset. Some edit dramatically to fit the voice of the publication, other do more proofing than editing. Whatever the process, the editor will generally be in touch with you about changes but it’s best to find out their procedure ahead of time. Do they make changes without letting you know, or consult you before changing your article?
  11. Editors work months in advance to plan the issue, and they often wait for an issue that will best suit your submission, so expect to wait to see your article in print.
Getting an article published can have many benefits for you. It can. 

  • Jump start your writing.
  • Improve your skills.
  • Be an avenue to share your research.
  • Encourage you to learn something new.
  • Build your reputation. 

Why don’t you try? You have nothing to lose and much to gain.


  1. Love this post, Judi! You've included some wonderfully helpful information; both new info and not-so-new info that I sometimes forget. Great job!

  2. Great post - and thanks for mentioning Harold's and my directory of society journals.

    I would like to add that this directory only includes those statewide or local journals that appear to require the use of genealogy standards in their publications. In many cases, this is specifically stated in their submission guidelines. In other cases, it is only assumed based on other evidence.