If you aren’t using JSTOR already for your genealogical research, you will be once you finish reading this post. I absolutely love this resource.

JSTOR is a database of academic journals, books, and primary sources. As such, it contains thousands of articles on subjects directly relevant to genealogical research.

Articles might be 4 pages or 50, but what I’ve learned from them has helped me better understand the lives of my ancestors in so many different ways.

I often say we need to do a lot of “outside” reading to be really good at telling our family’s story. This is a great example of that. We have to be willing to take the time to read about  the people and places and events of the past to understand the world they lived in.

Articles About Almost Everything

The best way to illustrate the value of JSTOR is to show you some of the articles that I found. I will try my best not to get carried away, but I can’t guarantee it;)

Many of my JSTOR articles are specific to the African American experience, but you can search on anything and anyone. As a genealogist of course, I focus on the states or counties where my ancestors lived. Take a look at some of my favorites.

African American Landownership

I teach about using deed records which reflects my deep love for the history of working and owning the land.

A Vanishing Breed: Black Farm Owners in the South, 1651-1982

In the Beginning: Origins of African American Real Property Ownership in the United States

Postbellum Reorganization of Southern Agriculture: The Economics of Sharecropping in Tennessee

Alabama and Florida

For my deep South Alabama and Florida ancestors, there were many pieces of unique history in that region that I needed to understand. These articles helped:

From Can’t to Can’t: The North Florida Turpentine Camp, 1900-1950

Punishment After Slavery: Southern State Penal Systems, 1865-1890

Slavery Revisited: Peonage in the South

Civil Rights and Voting, White Terrorism

I’m very interested in Civil and Voting Rights and JSTOR offered much on that subject in my research states of Maryland and Tennessee:

Maryland, My Maryland: The Old Line State’s Struggle for Civil Rights and Civil War Memory

Leaders in the Court and Court: Z Alexander Looby, Avon N. Williams, Jr., And the Legal Fight for Civil Rights in Tennessee, 1940-1970

The Beginning of the Black Suffrage Movement in Tennessee, 1864-65

KuKluxism in Tennessee, 1865-1869

Free Blacks

I research free blacks and I found plenty of articles to help me understand their lives in the places they lived:

The Free Negro in Ante-Bellum Tennessee

Free Blacks in Antebellum Madison County

Marriage on the Margins: Free Wives, and Enslaved Husbands, and the Law in Early Virginia

African American Education

Yet another favorite research topic of mine.

Bound to them By a Common Sorrow: African American Women, Higher Education and Collective Advancement

The Development of Negro Education in the District of Columbia, 1800-1860

Slavery, Civil War, Emancipation and Reconstruction

It should be no surprise that these topics comprise the largest collection of my articles. I have learned so much!

Slave-Hiring in the Upper South: A Step Toward Freedom

The Problem of Slave Community in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake

A Slave Family in Arkansas

What Did Freedom Mean?

Imaginary Cruelties? A History of the Slave Trade in Washington DC

Fifty Four Days Work of Two Negroes: Enslaved Labor in Colonial Somerset County, Maryland

Black Owned Businesses in the South, 1790-1880

Enslaved Women and Exploitation

A sad but necessary topic to explore.

What’s Love Got to Do with it? Concubinage and Enslaved Women and Girls int eh Antebellum South

Black Women’s Experiences in Slavery and Medicine

The Relics of Slavery: Interracial Sex and Manumission in the American South

Prematurely Knowing of Evil Things: The Sexual Abuses of African American Girls and Young Women in Slavery and Freedom


I’m sure that was WAY to much!

But, I hope some  of those titles got you just a little bit excited about the possibilities.

An added benefit is that as scholarly articles, the source citations have often pointed me to records or collections that I did not know existed.

Now to the Hard Part-Getting Access

For the most part, full access to JSTOR is available through subscribing libraries and larger organizations, mostly colleges and universities. If you are a student or a teacher, you likely already have access.

JSTOR is expensive, and many library systems (even mine) doesn’t carry it. You’ll need to do some research to find an organization or library that will allow you to access the database remotely.

If that doesn’t work, JSTOR does have a free version, which includes “80% of journal content.” It is limited to reading the articles online only and normally allows only 6 articles per month (100 during the COVID). You can take a look at the site to see more of the access options.

In the comments, if you’d already been drinking the JSTOR Kool-Aid, tell me about one of your favorite finds!

By the way, my next Zoom webinar is next Saturday, April 3, at 2pm EST. The webinar is titled:

“Uncovering the Lives of the Enslaved in Court Records”

Register now ($10) to save your space at:

Hope to see you there!


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