Evidence Analysis Found in Non-Genealogical Journals

Many of us rely on such publications as New England Historic Genealogical Society‘s Register, or especially the National Genealogical Society‘s NGS Quarterly, for examples of how researchers analyze evidence. I just had the lucky experience of reading a wonderful piece of evidence analysis in, of all things, the Nathaniel Hawthorne Review (published by the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society).

Several years ago, I was contacted by Joel Berson, who had stumbled across a set of messages I’d posted about research I was conducting into the adulterous relationships in my husband’s ancestry, one of which involved a 1781 trial that resulted in the man (as well as the woman) convicted having to wear the letter “A”. We corresponded for awhile, and Joel actually found and shared with me the details of that case, further advancing my own research. As it turned out, my own work advanced his research, which was a historical examination of adultery cases as they related to the story, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Who knew that there is an entire journal dedicated to the study of this author, including examination of what sources Hawthorne used as a basis for the story of Hester Prynne’s adultery conviction?! Apparently, it’s quite controversial!

Joel’s article, “On the Trail of the Scarlet AD”, was just published in the Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, Spring 2013 (Vol. 39, No. 1). He shared an offprint with me. It is a fascinating read– well, for those of us who like to follow a researcher’s path from problem to solution, anyway. He reveals errors of past researchers and– no surprise — goes back to the original sources that clearly paint a different picture of how Hawthorne was likely to have come up with the details of Hester’s conviction. Makes me want to know what other kinds of historical journals are out there.

One challenge about such journals, though, is that they may not be online. The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review is not.

It’s not genealogy, per se, but the path Joel followed is a wonderful example of evidence analysis. AND, in the process, I learned a great deal about colonial Massachusetts adultery laws that will inform my future research, should I stumble across any more adulterous ancestors! Thanks, Joel!

What non-genealogy journals have you found useful to your own research process?

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