Research in Kentucky Historical and Genealogical Periodicals

by Don Rightmyer

This post is the second in a series of three guest articles while the regular blogger is enjoying a vacation in the Scottish countryside.

Don Rightmyer is the editor of ‘Kentucky Ancestors,’ the genealogical quarterly of the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Curt Witcher, senior manager of Genealogy and Special Collections at the Allen County Public Library (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), gave an excellent presentation on “Mining the Motherlode: Using Periodical Literature and PERSI for Genealogical Research” at the 2011 National Genealogical Society (NGS) conference in Charleston, South Carolina. His talk highlighted the often overlooked gold mine of genealogical information that can be discovered in the pages of genealogical and historical periodicals, particularly on the county, regional, and state levels. Two historical journals published during the twentieth century – the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society and the Filson Club History Quarterly – contained a wealth of Kentucky-related genealogical material that may be new to many family history researchers.

The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society included genealogical articles from its beginning until 1965 (such articles were no longer published in the Register after Kentucky Ancestors began publication). The first issue of the Register included an article on the ancestry of Daniel Boone and subsequent issues over the next seven decades included genealogy articles on a large number of families identified with the early heritage of Kentucky. The entire table of contents (1903-present) for the Register can be downloaded in PDF format on the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) website. The entire table of contents for Kentucky Ancestors, from Volume 1, No. 1 to the most recent issue, can also be searched online or downloaded for handy reference. A free archive of Kentucky Ancestors back issues from Volume 39 through Volume 44 (2003-08) is also available on the KHS website.

The Filson Club History Quarterly (FCHQ) was the title of the historical journal of the Filson Club in Louisville, Kentucky, from 1926 to 2002. Check the Filson Historical Society website for articles published in the Quarterly. All of the articles published from 1926 through 2002 have been digitized and are currently available on the Filson website. Many of the articles published in the FCHQ are similar to the Register in describing the genealogies of early families of Kentucky.

Both the Register and the FCHQ are indexed in PERSI (available online through HeritageQuest or Ancestry).  Many of the genealogical materials that were published in the Register and the FCHQ were also reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Company and its affiliate, Clearfield Company. Below is a list and description of various books that have been published from the articles in those periodicals:

This volume contains the minute books for Jefferson County, Kentucky, in the early 1780s and calendars of early Jefferson County wills (1784-1833), bonds and powers of attorney (1783-98), and the calendar of Division Book 1 (1797-1850) that documented the division of estates in that county.

These reprinted tax lists cover a total of eighteen different Kentucky counties in a period covering 1788 to 1801.

These three volumes of Genealogies of Kentucky Families contain virtually all of the Kentucky genealogical articles that were published in the two Kentucky historical journals up to the time of the books’ original publication in 1981.

These listings of Kentucky marriages were published in a number of different articles and cover several Kentucky counties.

The marriage notices contained in this volume were compiled from the Lexington Public Library’s newspaper files for 1787-1865.

These obituaries were collected from the newspaper files of the Lexington Public Library. The specific date and newspaper source for each entry is noted.

  • The Certificate Book of the Virginia Land Commission, 1779-80 was published in the four issues of the Register in 1923 (Volume 22, Nos. 61-64).

The first six titles mentioned above are available for purchase from either in print format, in CD, or both.

The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society and The Filson Club History Quarterly are just two examples of the historical periodicals that can provide an amazing treasure trove of family history material if you take the time to look for them.

One of the other important research tips Curt Witcher mentioned in his NGS presentation is that family history articles may be found in a periodical that is published in a state or region totally distant from the actual location where an event occurred or an individual lived. Using research tools like PERSI to find an article about which you may not be aware is a good tip to remember. Materials have been published in historical and genealogical periodicals similar to these throughout the country and you may never know what you’re missing unless you search PERSI and the corresponding local historical and genealogical periodicals to which they refer.

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