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Genealogical Research

An overview of resources available at Swem Library for Genealogists along with ideas for other places to conduct research in the area.

What Are Genealogical Journals and Indexes?

Genealogical journals and magazines provide an easy way to share research tips, as well as publish genealogical research for those who may not be able to travel to where certain records are located.  Especially before the internet, this was the primary way in which genealogists shared information.  As this literature information grew more prolific, researchers began compiling first and last-name indexes (such as Swem's Index) to assist in navigating this body of knowledge.  

The Virginia Historical Index (aka "Swem's Index")

Swem Library is named after former librarian and amateur genealogist Earl Gregg Swem.  In 1934, he published an index to seven major periodicals:

[C] Calendar of Virginia State Papers, Vols. 1-11, 1652-1869

[H] Hening’s Statutes of Virginia, Vols. 1-13, 1619-1792

[N] Lower Norfolk County Antiquary, Vols. 1-5, 1895-1906

  • available in print: VA REF F232 .N8L9

[T] Tyler’s Historical and Genealogical Quarterly, Vols. 1-10, 1919-1929

  • available in print: VA REF F221 .T95
  • some volumes available online through HathiTrust

[R] Virginia Historical Register and Literary Advertiser, Vols. 1-6, 1848-1853

[V] Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vols. 1-38, 1893-1930.

  • available in print: VA REF F221 .V91
  • available online: JSTOR (visitors can only access this in Swem Library)

[W1] William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine, First Series (Vols. 1-27), 1892-1919 and [W2] Second Series (Vols. 1-10), 1921-1930.

  • available in print: VA REF  F221 .W71
  • available online: JSTOR (vistors can only access this in Swem Library)

This index is located at VA REF F221 .S93 1965 and is available for online searching via 19th Century Masterfile. Current W&M faculty, staff, and students can access this database from on and off-campus, but visitors can only access it in Swem Library.

To use the print edition of “Swem’s Index,” look up the name of your ancestor and be sure to search all variant spellings of their last name. A typical entry would read: “Nicholas, Wilson Cary 11V295”.  This means 11th volume, in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, on page 295.  The letter in the middle stands for the publication title, as referenced at the bottom of each page in the index and just above in the list of publications.

Genealogical Journals and Magazines In Swem

The below list is just a taste of the many journals and magazines that can assist the genealogists in Swem. The best approach is to locate the call number range where books about the state or region you are interested in lie (use the "Call Number Cheat Sheet" to help), and then browse the Swem Stacks in that area. If you need help locating materials in the stacks, please ask a reference librarian or circulation staff member for assistance. Please note that some of these are academic history journals, while others cater to genealogists, and still others are more general magazines about a state that might contain historical or genealogical information.