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England Magazines and Journals (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Magazines and Journals[edit | edit source]

Periodicals, (also known as serials), that are not classed as newspapers are generally termed magazines, or if they are more scholarly, journals. The frequency of publication doesn’t define what is classified as a magazine, in fact the definition is very much a matter of opinion or prejudice (Taylor). Sometimes a publication changes its frequency or format, a case in point being the Illustrated London News, which started out as a weekly newspaper but is now published quarterly in a magazine format. In contrast, a newsletter is a publication that contains items of immediate interest not intended to be kept indefinitely.

There is a vast array of magazines published nationally, regionally and locally. Valuable articles about early magazines were written by Peter Christie (The Gentleman’s Magazine as a Source for the Family Historian. Genealogists’ Magazine Vol 20 #7) and Althea Douglas (18th-19thCentury Magazines and Their Indexes. Genealogists’ Magazine Vol 21. Part 1 in #6, page 209-212; Part 2 in #7) and are still well worth reading. I have somewhat arbitrarily grouped the main ones of genealogical interest here into general, religious, occupational, hobbies and interests, and historical and genealogical sections but many defy categorization.

General Magazines and Journals[edit | edit source]

Much literary work was serialised in periodicals before appearing in book form, examples include Charles Dickens’ novels, and the work of both Charles Booth and Henry Mayhew on the condition of the poor. Booth’s work is now more easily accessible and has been described in the first section of this course. There are several modern titles incorporating Mayhew’s work, for example those edited by Peter Quennell, and by E.P. Thompson and Eileen Yeo (The Unknown Mayhew), and it is also online at the Perseus Digital Library, but it first appeared as 82 letters in the Morning Chronicle.

Some of the more worthwhile magazines include:

  • Gentleman’s Magazine
    From its start as a monthly in 1731 until 1868 the Gentleman’s Magazine (GM) contained much of genealogical interest such as BMD; obituaries for the upper classes and some others if the circumstances were unusual such as multiple births or executions; bankrupts; clerical and military appointments. From July 1868 it has far less of this material, concentrating more on literary contributions of various kinds.

    Complete (or almost complete) runs of GM are held by The National Archives, the British Library and the Society of Genealogists. The Family History Library has 1731-1832 on 67 films starting at 0547188, and 1834-1871 on 37 films starting at 0844731. The Gentleman’s Magazine has six-monthly indexes by surname and topic, and other indexes have been made since, for example that typed by the GSU from a slip index at the College of Arms and on fiche 6026701 (126), also on 24 films starting at 0599738.
  • Annual Register
    The Annual Register, or A View of the History, Politics and Literature for the Year was first published in 1758 and lasted until 1856. It contains BMD announcements for the upper crust and good background on the country’s affairs. The FamilySearch Catalog has a complete run on 54 films starting at 0599942.
  • Punch
    This classy, satirical magazine appeared in 1841 and after a short absence in the 1990s remains today. It gave an authentic picture of Victorian England and was always a thorn in the side of the Establishment, especially noted for its memorable cartoons.
  • Strand Magazine
    One of the best of the popular illustrated monthly magazines of the 1890s, lasting until 1950.
  • Picture Post
    The large-size magazine that pioneered photo-journalism started in 1938 and continued until 1957. Great for evocative photos of the era.

Religious Magazines and Journals[edit | edit source]

The most useful for the Church of England are the monthly, or sometimes quarterly, parish magazines produced from the late 19th century. Many had a pre-printed national section to which the local parish added its own news in the form of christenings, marriages and burials, obituaries, profiles of the church officials or other parish worthies, notices and reports about local events. Parish magazines had a small circulation but collections can usually be found in local archives or reference libraries. I found references to my grandfather, Bertie Gardner (born 1892) and his father Thomas William Gardner, and other items of interest for various relatives in St. Paulinus, Crayford, Kent.

Chart: Parish Magazine, St. Paulinus, Crayford, Kent

Aug 1904 The choirs of St. Paulinus and St. Augustine played a cricket match. Scores for St. Paulinus included B. Gardener (2nd batsman) bowled W. Harker for 11. The 3rd batsman was H(arvey) Runham who I recognized as a rival for my grandmother’s affections ten years later! Bertie also featured as a bowler and fieldsman as the St. Augustines score showed one man caught and two clean-bowled by B. Gardener.

Sep 1906 Lenham Terrace was built on the garden of an old and respected Crayford inhabitant, Mr. Geo Wisdom, who lived in a cozy little one-storied house just past the One Bell Inn and carried on his trade of shoe making there. The houses at the far end of Lenham Terrace [where Bert & Edith Gardner lived] occupy the site of the little old cottage and large garden of old Mr. Wilder.

Oct 1906 The Football Club officers included T.W. Gardner

Oct 1907 A reference to the ever genial and cheery old Mr. Thomas Bawcutt who lived in Crayford all his life

Temperance Advocates published magazines and Non-Anglicans had a plethora of magazines such as:

  • Baptist Magazine from 1809
  • Congregational Evangelical Magazinefrom 1793
  • Methodist Magazine from 1798
  • Methodist Times 1885-1937
  • Quaker The British Friend 1843-1913
  • The Jewish Year Book from 1896.
  • The Presbyterian Messenger from 1844

Occupational Magazines and Journals[edit | edit source]

Professional Magazines are easy to find as they were typically nationals with fairly large circulations. Although lawyers, medical men and the clergy are well-documented in other ways these periodicals will provide glimpses into aspects of their lives not covered under schooling, qualifications and appointments. There are magazines for the military and naval men, and later women, as well such as the Naval Chronicle 1799-1818. Lloyds List started as Lloyd’s News in 1696 specialising in shipping and merchant venture news, it was revived in 1726 and continues today. The Hue and Cry commenced in 1828 and was later renamed the Police Gazette and the People’s Police Gazette in 1835. It carried advertisements for felons who escaped from custody and armed forces deserters.

Women’s magazines include the work of Annie Swan, who wrote for The People’s Friend and The British Weekly, and was the major contributor to the early (from 1893) woman’s magazine The Woman at Home. Eunice Wilson has discussed her influence and reviewed the middle-class contents of the latter magazine.

School Magazines can be found in local archives or the school itself and are the English equivalent of the North American School Year Book. They have a small circulation but sometimes provide a great deal of genealogical information. There are usually sections for news of Old Boys and Old Girls (former pupils) with their careers, marriages and children, or they may have separate journals enabling them to keep in touch. The National School Magazine was probably the first issued for teachers in 1824. Trade Journals for and about every possible trade abound, typically giving news and information about new techniques or procedures, positions vacant, appointments, retirees, deaths and obituaries. Examples include:

  • Bakers’ Union from 1846, later the Bakers’ Times.
  • Boot and Shoe Maker from 1878.
  • Canal Boatman’s Magazine
  • Farrier and Naturalist
  • Hairdressers’ Journal from 1863.
  • Hangman
  • Pawnbrokers’ Gazette
  • Tailor and Cutter from 1866.

There are hundreds of others covering other occupations, mainly 19th century onwards, of-course.

Hobbies and Interests Magazines[edit | edit source]

There is a tremendous range of these, typically from the late 19th century, so if your ancestor indulged in any form of pastime he may be mentioned in:

  • Scientific and literary journals.
  • Friendly Society magazines such as the Masonic Observer from 1856.
  • Racing and Football specials.
  • Fur and Feather fancier magazines.

Historical and Genealogical Journals[edit | edit source]

The most important national journals for the family historian include the following publications:

  • The British Record Society was founded in 1889 to take over responsibility for the Index Library, which had begun life the previous year as a private scheme for the publication of indexes to British public records. The Society was founded to compile, edit and publish indexes, calendars and transcripts to important historical records in public or private custody throughout Great Britain. Much, if not all, has been fiched and is available through the FHL. From the outset it was actively concerned with probate records, and also publishes indexes to other records, notably chancery proceedings, marriage licences, inquisitions post mortem and latterly transcripts of 17th century Hearth Tax Returns. Details of British Record Society publications can be found on their website.
  • The Harleian Society was founded in 1869 to publish the Heralds’ Visitations commissioned by and held at the College of Arms. This is now almost complete with 117 volumes produced to date most, if not all, available on microfilm. The society has also published 89 volumes of parish register transcripts but has now discontinued this as others have taken over this task. They are keen to make the unique collections of the College of Arms more generally available and have already published several collections of county pedigrees and other materials. The Society is known for the quality and scholarship of its publications (Gwynn-Jones) and further information can be found on their the link above.
  • Notes and Queries was a monthly journal published from 1849-1962 dealing with history, topography, literature and the arts. It has all kinds of detail about aspects of British life that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Each series is indexed and 1849-1909 is on 41 films starting at 0845024.

Raymond’s six volumes of indexes to old British genealogical periodicals are well worth dipping into. The journals, with dates covered and GSU film numbers for the originals are:

  • Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica 1834-43 (films 0496953-5)
  • Topographer and Genealogist 1846-1858 (3 films starting at 0696696)
  • The Ancestor 1902-1905 (4 films starting at 0873520)
  • The Genealogist 1877-1921 (45 films starting at 0496957)
  • Miscellanea Genealogica et Heraldica 1868-1938 (13 films starting at 0086961)
  • Five archaeological and architectural journals from the mid 19th century to WWI.

Other journals include:

  • The Genealogical Magazine 1897-1904.
  • The Herald and Genealogist 1863-1874.
  • The Reliquary late 19th century.

There are no peer reviewed genealogical journals published in England, as there are in the USA, but the oldest and most respected is the Genealogists’ Magazine published quarterly by the Society of Genealogists, founded in 1911. An index to the first 26 volumes has been compiled by Leeson and Webb and the website for the Society where there is also a list of contents.

The Journal of One-Name Studies (JOONS) is now a major forum for the exchange of information on methodology, not just for those researching all instances of one particular surname. Individual members’ research interests and can be of enormous help to the family historian.

The best commercial magazine is the monthly Family Tree Magazine(1984-date) published by ABM Publishing

County and local area Family History Societies began in the 1970s in Britain and most produce quarterly journals containing a wide range of useful material. There are articles about individuals, families and places, as well as book reviews, information on local resources and archives. Members can place queries and lists of surname interests in particular areas. Editors gladly welcome articles from anyone, and the smart family historian knows that these assist in digging up umpteenth cousins!

Family historians are advised to access those for their area either by subscription or from their local FHS exchange programme. The earlier journals are still useful but becoming scarce, but societies will generally supply a photocopy of one article. Some counties fiched their early volumes, but an even better approach is to scan them onto CD, which Oxfordshire has done for their 1977-1997 issues. It is to be hoped that others will follow this excellent example.

Many, but not all, Family History Societiess belong to the Federation of Family History Societies (FFHS) which has published the semi-annual Family History News and Digest (FHND) since 1977. The digest part is an indexed list of abstracts of (mostly) family history society magazines, and the addresses of all member organizations are listed on the back cover. Addresses of FHSs can also be found from the latest Genealogical Research Directory (GRD) by Johnson and Sainty, or from Blatchford’s Family and Local History Handbook.

Perkins two Current Publications volumes are useful for other items that FHSs have published, and the FFHS Family History Books is the route for buying them or getting searches done.

Additional Information
[edit | edit source]

See: England Periodicals



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Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Education,Health and Contemporary Documents offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.