Friday, 17 February 2017

Launch of The Journal of Genealogy and Family History

The Journal of Genealogy and Family History, a new open access peer-reviewed genealogy journal, published by the Register of Qualified Genealogists, is launching in April 2017 at Who Do You Think You Are? Live.

Here is the official press release I received:
Media release - The Journal of Genealogy and Family History 
Launching in April 2017, the new Journal of Genealogy and Family History (JGFH) will address the current need for a high quality, peer reviewed publication, covering broad scholarly research in genealogy and family history in a 21st century online format. The journal will be offered to readers and contributors for free, on an open-access, non-commercial basis, with content available under a Creative Commons Attribution License. The scope of the journal will include any field or academic discipline associated with genealogy or family history research such as heraldry, demography, education and record conservation.

Articles will offer the reader insights into current thinking and practice and provide an outlet for theoretical and speculative ideas within genealogy and family history. Topics will be wide ranging, and include for example:
  • Family histories which demonstrate new and innovative approaches and analytic techniques;
  • Locational studies
  • The use of new technologies
  • Software applications and databases
  • The use of DNA analyses to better understand kinship
  • Ancestry and populations Micro histories which may focus on personal, local, community and social histories.
  • Ethical and legal issues surrounding the practice of genealogy 
The journal will attract authors from around the world who wish to have their genealogical and family history work published in a credible form and made available to anyone who chooses to read it. All articles submitted for publication will undergo anonymous peer review, which will provide a rigorous and robust process of close scrutiny.

The Editor, Jessica Feinstein, says: "I am very excited to be part of the great team involved in this venture, and look forward to enabling authors in our field to publish academic articles that will advance genealogical research in many areas." 
The editorial board will include prominent individuals from within the field of genealogy and family history as well as associated disciplines. 
The Journal of Genealogy and Family History is registered at the British Library with ISSN 2399-2964. 
The journal was initiated and designed by the Register of Qualified Genealogists and will be published via their website at: 
The Register of Qualified Genealogists will be at Who Do You Think You Are Live, Birmingham NEC from Thursday 6 – Saturday 8 April 2017 on table number 2. Come and find us for a chat and to see a preview of the first issue..............
The names of the Editorial Board were not included in the press release and were not available on the website. However, the Editor has kindly given me a list of the names:

Nick Barratt
Caroline Brown
John Cleary
Bruce Durie
Marjory Harper
Ian G Macdonald
Tahitia McCabe
Rebecca Probert
David Rencher
Michael Tobias
John Tunesi
The biographies of the editorial board members should be up on the website soon.

The Journal of Genealogy and Family History is published under the auspices of a relatively new organisation called the Register of Qualified Genealogists. The RQG is set up as a private company. To qualify for membership it is necessary to have completed one of a very limited range of postgraduate genealogical courses offered by UK institutions. The full list of qualifying courses can be seen here. Members are required to adhere to a professional code. There are a number of other organisations that professional genealogists can join. AGRA (the Association of Genealogical Researchers in Archives) is the premier organisation in England and Wales. Membership of AGRA is not contingent on the completion of a course but potential members are required to submit a research portfolio for scrutiny and have to attend an interview. In Scotland there is the Association of Scottish Genealogists and Researchers in Archives (ASGRA). Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) is the equivalent organisation in Ireland. The Association of Professional Genealogists is a US-based organisation but accepts members from anywhere in the world. Members are required to abide by a code of conduct and must commit to a programme of continuing education. The APG operates as a not-for-profit business organisation. In addition there are a number of different professional organisations in other countries. For details see the AGRA FAQs and Cyndi's List for details. Given that so many other professional organisations already exist, there have been questions about the need for a new organisation.

While it is common practice in academia for writing and research to be subjected to the process of peer review it is rare in the world of genealogy. There are a number of genealogy journals that accommodate the publication of lengthy scholarly articles with citations. In the UK the Genealogists' Magazine has been published by the Society of Genealogists since 1925. There are a number of scholarly journals in the US such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society Register and The American Genealogist. For descriptions of the US journals see this article by Kimberly Powell on five genealogical journals you should be reading.

There is also the newly re-launched Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JOGG) which is published online and is open access. JOGG has an editorial board and all the articles go through a formal peer review process. The articles are indexed by Google Scholar, and as a result some of these articles have been cited in academic journals.

The big limitation with all these scholarly genealogy journals, with the exception of JOGG, is that they are essentially a closed shop. They are not picked up by indexing services such as Google Scholar, so unless you are a member of the society in question you are likely to be unaware of any interesting articles on your subject of interest. The Society of Genealogists have commendably made back issues of the Genealogists' Magazine available on CD. It is now also possible to search for articles in PERSI (the Periodical Source Index), which provides a subject index to over 11,000 historical and genealogical journals. This index is freely available courtesy of Findmypast. A growing number of images is being added to the collection, but the images are only available to Findmypast subscribers. There is an excellent guide to using PERSI in the FamilySearch Wiki. If you find an article of interest that is not included in the image collection it might be possible to order a copy for a small fee from your local library or to purchase a copy using the British Library's On Demand Service or an equivalent service in other countries, provided that copies of the journal have been sent to one of the legal deposit libraries.

The whole point of publishing is so that others can build on our research, and we are not constantly re-inventing the wheel. If our work is not easily accessible then other researchers are less likely to find it. I therefore welcome the launch of this new open access peer-reviewed genealogy journal which has the potential to bring scholarly genealogical articles to a wider audience. However, the journal will live or die on the quality of the articles published. It will be interesting to see how the journal develops in the months and years to come.

Update 21st May 2017
A short presentation about the journal given by Ian Macdonald and Jessica Feinstein at Who Do You Think You Are? Live is now available on YouTube:

This article was updated on 18th February 2017 to include information about additional professional genealogy organisations, and to correct the details about the RQG in the light of comments received below.


Unknown said...

I am very interested in gaining knowledge about our family history and genealogy. I have suffered long and have many complicated physiological issues, from multiple fathers rare Incurable diseases, Acute Intermittent Porphyria.

I'm wanting to get involved and educated for the sake of my entire family and all of our offspring. This disease obviously skips generations, but there is no known pattern. Since we do not know whom passed it to our father.

I'm involved in a longitudinal study with the American Porphyria Foundation and alook a program through San Francisco for further research. I can't afford a complete DNA analysis, so I want to learn more about how we can get tested and for the sake of our relatives, to encourage early detection.

Debbie Kennett said...

Louise, I'm sorry but I don't know much about the healthcare system in the US. If this condition runs in the family then you should encourage your relatives to go and see their doctor. The doctor should be able to arrange for DNA testing if it is deemed clinically appropriate and refer them to a genetic counsellor. The commercial genetic genealogy tests are for information purposes only and are not diagnostic.

Unknown said...

Debbie, thank you for this item on the launch of The Journal of Genealogy and Family History and for the positive comments you make. As its deputy editor I welcome your piece and I must say we have been delighted with the deluge of supportive messages we've received since announcing it. The website and Facebook have been humming. If we can build on this positive feeling there will be wonderful times ahead

Open access is central to the aims of the Journal. It is also free to readers and to authors - important considerations if openness is to be taken seriously. The Journal is not a commercial venture. We aim to provide a service to the international genealogical community and we hope that through peer-review we can deliver high quality material that will serve to raise standards in the discipline. You are right that we will live and die by what we publish. We are optimistic on that front and believe there is untapped potential. It is interesting to note that in this decade in the UK alone over 200 relevant research dissertations have been written that now languish unread. Worldwide I suspect there is great deal of valuable material that deserves to be shared. The Journal will play a part in that sharing and give recognition to the work that is being done.

You made some comments too on genealogical organisations (I happen also to be Chairman of the RQG). The landscape there is rather more complex than you say. As I understand it AGRA's remit covers England and Wales. Other local organisations exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland, not to mention Ireland. The USA also has the Board for Certification of Genealogists. A genealogist based in the UK could belong to at least six organisations (or none). All power to them. Each organisation has different things to offer its members.

The Register of Qualified Genealogists has an international membership and no geographical limitations. It is a Company Limited by Guarantee (a private company as you say, as most are until they float on a stock market) so is properly legally constituted to provide assurance to its members and the public that it will be managed in their interests. APG similarly has a corporate existence. Some other organisations appear not to be constituted that way so I suppose exist as private membership clubs.

It is the case, as you say, that at this time there is a limited range of providers of the highest levels of genealogical and family history qualifications. Things have to start somewhere and they are the pioneers. I have the utmost respect for their bravery. The RQG will seek to encourage others to follow. It is important that that should be done to further improve the credibility of our discipline. Important too as a step towards true professionalism, if that should be an aim for some.

As steps go there is further good news this week with the announcement that it is now going to be possible for genealogists to gain a doctorate, a PhD in History with a focus in Genealogy. Once again it is the University of Strathclyde acting as pioneers but it is yet another step towards our discipline being taken seriously.

These are exciting times. Thank you again, Debbie, for the article.

Ian Macdonald

Debbie Kennett said...


Thanks for providing some further background information on the new journal and on the RQG. I've updated my article to clarify the situation with regards to the other professional organisations. The BCG does in theory accept applications worldwide but it is very US-centric and geared towards the requirements of US genealogists. I don't know of any UK genealogists who've gone through this process.

I would personally rather see a less fragmentary range of professional organisations rather than having a number of different organisations all covering the same small market. There are also many people who take on professional research who do not belong to any of these organisations.

It's good news that Strathclyde is now offering a PhD in history with a focus on genealogy.

Unknown said...

Debbie, may I also beg a little space for a correction. You do say that RQG members have "no requirement for continuing education". That is a misreading. The first item in our Professional Code (as a culturally diverse organisation we do not aspire to 'ethical') reads as follows:

"Continue to develop and maintain your professional knowledge and competence, and remain committed to advancing your genealogical education and awareness of current genealogical issues.
You will reflect on and record what you have learnt and use this new knowledge to inform and, where appropriate, change your future practice.
Examples include:
• Acquire a new skill or undertake training related to previously unexplored areas of genealogy or update a current skill through further training or practice;
• Join and participate in an appropriately focused genealogical group such as a local family history society, genealogical association or a social media group/forum;
• Subscribe to a relevant genealogical/family history journal or equivalent publication/media.
With the above and any other equally relevant examples, there is an emphasis and onus on you actively to use the information and knowledge gained, to further inform your practice. You are encouraged to disseminate and share this knowledge and information with the wider genealogical community."

Additionally, CPD is an important item on our online Members Forum and is an item in each of our regular members' meetings.


Ian Macdonald

Debbie Kennett said...


Thanks for correcting me on that point. I've now corrected my blog post and included a link to your professional code. The difference as I see it between the RQG and AGRA is that the RQG takes the completion of the course itself as proof of competence to practise whereas AGRA require potential members to submit portfolios. I'm not convinced that completion of a course per se is adequate proof of competence.

I know the BCG ask members to re-apply every few years but I don't think that is the case with any of the UK organisations. Genealogy is a very fast-moving field especially now that we have DNA added to the mix so knowledge can quickly become outdated.

Incidentally I forgot to mention that you can obtain copies of doctoral theses through the British Library's ETHOS system:

It would be good if there were a similar system for dissertations.