Where should I publish my work?

In my last post I requested suggestions for where to publish the Dirk Bode article.  I got some suggestions from Harold–thanks, Harold–which set me on my usual “dog on a bone” hunt for options.

Scenario: you have spent a lot of time writing an article and you think it is pretty good.  Someone should want to publish it, right?  Well, here are some options for you.  We will start with those that you probably think of first:

Option 1:  Do nothing.  You could write it up (because to comply with the GPS Element #5 you need a written conclusion) but you keep it private so no one can read it.  😦  This is very sad and not recommended!
characteristics: This option is chosen, either with mindfulness or not, the most frequently.

Option 2: Self-publish.  You write it up and publish though a local printer, an on-line service (I use lulu.com, but there are others) or even a local print shop, like Kinko’s.  You then distribute to your relatives. And, if you are really thinking ahead, you run 6 extra copies and send one to your local genealogy society, the library in the locale in which the family was based, the state historical society, SLC Family History Library, Allen County (IN) Library and the Library of Congress–yes, all of them.
characteristics:  These companies will print anything you give them.  You are the editor and no one reviews your work.  You can also purchase marketing or editing services from some of these services.

Option 3:  Commercial press.  You could submit your book (usually) to a commercial press who thinks your work is so wonderful that it will have mass market appeal.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine anyone thinking that my family is so fascinating that they buy the book!–but you might have a compelling story.
characteristics: usually you have to have a book and they are very selective.  The selection process can take a year or more.

Option 4: Submit to a periodical.

The latter option is the one I researched and I thought I would share my findings.  There appears to be groups within this option and I will discuss each. [1]

Group 1: national peer-reviewed genealogical journals, top rank
example: National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ), The American Genealogist (TAG), New England Historic & Genealogical Register, New York Genealogical Register.
These journals are moderately to highly selective. Each has staff and an editorial board which puts each submission through a rigorous review.  The focus of each journal may differ, for example, NGSQ uses the case study format to illustrate various methodologies.  TAGs articles focus more on the kinship determination and tend to be longer, even extending over multiple issues.  TAG and NEHGR seem to me to be fairly similar but that is probably my Midwestern bias.

Group 2: regional/state-wide reviewed genealogical journals
example: Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly
These journals do a little editing and accept work that ranges from family stories (Southern California Genealogical Society) to more scholarly.  Usually there is no paid staff or editorial board but they have built a reputation by having a consistent vision over a long period of time and have a larger distribution network.

Group 3: local genealogical publications
example:  Seattle Genealogical Society Bulletin.  While the quality of the articles has improved recently, with these publications there is no history of sustained quality by today’s standards of scholarship.  (full disclosure: I am the Publications Director for SGS, going into my 3rd term)

I suspect that you could have identified these same groups listed above and identified the same or similar publications. but, we genealogists are missing another segment of publications–scholarly journals but not genealogy publications. .

Group 4: scholarly journals
These are peer reviewed journals which are more scholarly in nature.  The journals with a national scope tend to be more rigorous in their selection criteria.  Genealogists rarely submit to these types of journals, yet,  there is a wide variety of publications which fit well with the topics of our research.  If we truly believe we are creating new knowledge, shouldn’t we be submitting–and getting published– in such journals? These journals fall into three sub-groups that are of interest to us–locality, ethnic and thematic

Sub-group A: general journals, locality focused
examples: Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Alabama Review, California History, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Journal of Illinois History, Traces  (Indiana & Midwestern History)
My friend Trish, a certified genealogist, submitted a paper to the Pacific Northwest Quarterly on Rebecca Lena Graham, a native American from the Seattle area who lived in the early part of this past century.  The PNQ is not an historical journal, and they accepted her work.  Most of these journals are published by the state’s historical society.

Sub-group B: historical journals, ethnically focused
examples: The Jewish Quarterly Review, German History, Irish Historical Studies

Sub-group C: historical journals, thematically focused
examples: Agricultural History, Journal of Women’s History, Journal of Social History, Journal of the Early Republic, Journal of Military History, Journal of Urban History

Any of these journals, depending on your focus of your article could be considered for publication of your work.  I found most of the lists of possible journals in three places:

  • Conference of Historical Journals, a membership organization of journals which focus on history. but not all belong.  There is a link on the left sidebar to members websites.
  • SAGE journals: a consortium of journals which appear to be managed by SAGE.
  • Project MUSE: is a provider of humanities and social science scholarly content.

Here are some hints as you go exploring. Always read a couple of issues to see the character of the submissions that are accepted.  Read the submission requirements carefully; for example, some, but not all, use the Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition as their style guide. Most wanted between 4000 and 12,000 words including the endnotes; the work had to create new knowledge.  The document could not be published, including the web, prior to publication in their periodical and copyright issues were important. A few of the journals editorial staff ran the document through the software program that has been developed to identify plagiarism.

Only one of the journals I looked at specifically stated it did not accept genealogy or family history articles (Chronicles of Oklahoma).  In a review, however, of their past issues, I observed numerous articles focused on individuals and their contribution to culture or society.

Let me know if you found this interesting.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  worked more on the Dirk article (getting close to having all the research done–but I keep finding good stuff.  I have about 5000 words); got the the contract out for our plenary speaker for the OGSA conference in Minneapolis in August; completed the research for this article; sent in my registration for the SGS Spring Seminar with Jeanne L. Bloom and to OGSA for the Ostfriesen Family Reunion; printed the SGS Bulletin; kissed my hubby ‘hello’ as he got back from CO and almost simultaneously kissed him ‘good-bye’ as he flew off to Alabama.  And, like two ships passing in the night, I fly out on Thursday on a red-eye and am gone when he returns!

[1] Fine print: This is my view of the world and your world-view may differ.


4 comments on “Where should I publish my work?

  1. Janice says:

    Thanks for the links and some good suggestions. Writer’s Market also has journals that might work for family history!

    • jkmorelli says:

      Janice, Writer’s Market does look like a good fourth option when looking for journals in your subject area I wonder how the subscription plan works. If any reader has subscribed either now or in the past, could you describe their services?


  2. John D. Tew says:


    A very interesting and useful post!

    If the goal is to “publish” in the sense of getting one’s work before the public to disseminate and share more broadly one’s work, would not blogs and magazines also be useful additions to your list? Genealogy blogs are increasingly popular (I think Geneabloggers now has something like 3,000 – 4,000 in its database?) and among them there are many authors who do some high quality research and writing. There are also several genealogy magazines ( i.e. American Ancestors) that publish articles usually of shorter length than more formal journals and they should not be overlooked for short, focused pieces of general interest.

    Thank you for assembling in one place a very thoughtful analysis of publication options. I see it has gotten well-deserved dissemination via several blog reading lists (which is how I became aware of it).

    • jkmorelli says:

      John, Thanks for your interesting comments and I agree with you. My goal for this posting was to broaden the options for publication of proof arguments and other such scholarly writing but did not make that clear except by implication. Publication of Proof Arguments often are limited to a few top flight genealogy journals or are offered to the mixed (quality) bag of locale-based genealogy publications. I have been thinking about this posting since Elizabeth Shown Mills requested examples of 1.) genealogy articles, 2.) written by genealogists which were 3.) published in the non-genealogy scholarly journals. I did not personally have an example but I could suggest an article of a friend of mine which satisfied all those criteria.

      I should have been more thoughtful about the goal of the posting and spent time in discussing the different kinds of publishing. The magazines you point out generally are not interested in Proof Arguments, but are, as you also point out, interested in general interest articles–another type of valued writing. We do need to teach ourselves how to write in a variety of styles, much like we speak in a variety of styles.

      I think that you have given me at least two more ideas for blog postings. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting and I hope you will continue to find at least some of the postings interesting enough to continue to read.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s