In days of yore, when I was in college, locating published articles on historical topics required hours sifting through library stacks and individual journal indexes, then laboriously photocopying each page of each article. Thankfully, in today’s digital world, we have JSTOR.org, with instant access to full indexes of every journal in their collection (not limited to historical titles) and the ability to download PDF files of the articles to our desktop and print at home.

“JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. The JSTOR archival collections contain the back issues of more than 2,000 scholarly journals across 50 disciplines that span 500 years.”

JSTOR provides free access to its collections through libraries and schools. Individuals may also purchase a JPASS ($199/year or $19.50/month) with unlimited reading privileges at home and the ability to download up to 10 articles for a month’s subscription, or 120 for an annual subscription. (NEHGS Research and Contributing Members receive a $50 discount on a yearly JPASS subscription to JSTOR. Please contact NEHGS Member Services staff at membership@nehgs.org for information on how to obtain this discount.)

Searching for “Hingham, Massachusetts,” for example, brings up a few chuckles with hits such as “Notes on the plants of Hingham, Massachusetts,” from the periodical Rhodora of September 1924. Others definitely have more appeal to the genealogist/historian:

“Hingham, Massachusetts, 1631-1661: An East Anglian Oligarchy in the New World,” by John J. Waters, Journal of Social History (1968).

“Parental Power and Marriage Patterns: An Analysis of Historical Trends in Hingham, Massachusetts,” by Daniel Scott Smith, Journal of Marriage and Family (1973).

“Underregistration and Bias in Probate Records: An Analysis of Data from Eighteenth-Century Hingham, Massachusetts,” by Daniel Scott Smith, The William and Mary Quarterly (1975).

“Child-Naming Practices, Kinship Ties, and Change in Family Attitudes in Hingham, Massachusetts, 1641 to 1880,” by Daniel Scott Smith, Journal of Social History (1985).

Odd as it sounds, The William and Mary Quarterly has published many articles relevant to New England history and genealogy.

These hits will lead you to others in searches for articles by the same authors and in just browsing through the journals themselves, many of them with titles you have probably never thought of reading. Odd as it sounds, The William and Mary Quarterly[1] has published (1892–2017) many articles relevant to New England history and genealogy. In the January 2017 issue, for example, is the article “Elizabeth Hooton and the Lived Politics of Toleration in Massachusetts Bay,” by Adrian Chastain Weimer. A few others include:

“Family Structure in Seventeenth-Century Andover, Massachusetts,” by Philip J. Greven, Jr. (1966).

“Self-Sufficiency and the Agricultural Economy of Eighteenth-Century Massachusetts,” by Bettye Hobbs Pruitt (1984).

And the irresistible:

“’Pale Blewish Lights’ and a Dead Man’s Groan: Tales of the Supernatural from Eighteenth-Century Plymouth, Massachusetts,” by Douglas L. Winiarski (1998).

I highly recommend exploring this world outside of regular genealogical journals. You’ll have fun.


[1] Originally published by the College of William and Mary, now published by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia.

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

16 thoughts on “JSTOR.org

  1. Your topics have been great to one so new to the research process. I have been pursuing my own heritage through a document passed on to me from my mother, her mother and her grandmother who was the author of the document. The document lists my ancestery through the females back to 1773 where my ancestor Abel Cozier living in New Fairfield CT began. I have been able to connect all the women through historical records until Abel Cozier’s daughter Permelia’s birth which seems to have been lost in a fire in New Fairlield about 1850. If anyone has any records to pass on or a direction for me to pursue I would be so grateful. The document is published on my family tree on Ancestry.com under Susan Boomhouwer..

    1. Susan, thank you. Very often there is no document to prove “birth,” but a combination of documents that prove “parentage.” Such records might include probate and deeds not only for her parents, but for her siblings, grandparents, etc.

      1. My maternal Great Grandfather named my Father in his Will even with his subsequent adoptive surname among the sons of his deceased Daughter. I have always been glad about that and Blessed a Great Grandfather I never knew or the Grandmother named.

  2. I also found the Diary of Rev. Richard Brown in the Special Collections at the Swem Library, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. He lived 1675-1732 in Newbury, Essex, MA and died at Reading, MA as pastor of ye First Church. I personally reviewed 28pp – 16 diary entries and 12pre-printed almanac, one for each month of the year. Entries provide details of Brown’s activities, comments on parishioners, two pp. of accounts and four staves of manuscript music, incl. a Psalm tune

    Williamsburg, VA is a surprising place.

  3. Check with your college alumni benefits. It’s possible that their libraries might provide online access to newspapers, academics journals and other online resources.

    1. Good to know it may be available through NEHGS or monthly as JSTOR’s seemed unavailable-

  4. Residents of Massachusetts have free access to JSTOR through the Boston Public Library. One need only go to the BPL website and register for an “e-card” that then allows full access remotely to JSTOR via the library website. The virtual card needs to be renewed every three years.

    For any genealogist in Massachusetts, the BPL website offers many other riches worth exploring, as well. I use it almost as much as I use AmericanAncestors.org!

    Bobbie Reitt

  5. When I was on college, we didn’t have copy machines. Instead, we hand copied quotes or facts on index cards, which also had the citations for the content. While this may seem like a slow process, writing was easier, since I would organize the cards and the begin typing.

      1. Agree wholeheartedly! I no longer use notecards and I do make a copy for my records. BUT I immediately put the citation on an Evernote note, and transcribe the information pertaining to a particular question or inquiry, and do an analysis. I have notebook stacks so that I can find related notes quickly. This is simply an updated version of the old notecard method, with the advantage that I am not limited to cardsize AND I can add findable To Do’s. As for JSTOR, I am looking forward to adding it to my resources. I’ve used it before with an institutional account. Sure wish I still had that!

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