Sunday, October 23, 2011

Church Record Sunday: The Relief Society Magazine

Churches publish many different kinds of periodicals, brochures, leaflets, books and tracts. In some cases, the publications were meant to spread the gospel to non-members and others were/are  publications meant for members that may include the names of everyday individuals. These publications, rarely indexed, provide a place for descendents to look for information about their ancestor. One ancestor of mine was a member of the Salvation Army in the late 1800s. It was through searching microfilmed copies of the Salvation Army newspaper, The War Cry, that I was able to find a mention of him.

One example of a church periodical is The Relief Society Magazine printed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1915-1970. The magazine was later replaced by the Ensign which is read by adult members of the Church, both female and male. The Relief Society Magazine provided gospel doctrine information but also celebrated the accomplishments of the Relief Society and it's members. To read more about The Relief Society Magazine see the wiki article found here.

The great thing about this magazine is that it included pictures of individual members as well as their names. These names could be found throughout the magazine, in birthday congratulations, letters to the editor, a section entitled Notes from the Field and in small paragraphs about individual achievements.

An index to The Relief Society Magazine does exist, however, some of the sections that would include women's names are not included in the index such as the birthday congratulations, letters to the editor, hobby features and very short articles. You can read more about the Index here. The Relief Society Magazine Index was created by students at BYU.

Internet Archive and Google Books both have some digitized copies of The Relief Society Magazine. Several university libraries including BYU have copies of the magazine. You can search on WorldCat to find libraries with copies. You can also find issues for sale on eBay. I was able to purchase some from a Deseret Thrift Store in Southern California.

A book about the history of The Relief Society Magazine is entitled, A Legacy Remembered, 1914-1970. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1982.


Nancy said...

Oh, fun! I'm sure members of the Church (whose families have been long-time members) will delight in the possibility of finding some of their female ancestors in these issues of the magazine.

Becky Jamison said...

Very good article, Gena. A couple years ago we shopped in Sam Weller's Bookstore in Salt Lake City. They also had a HUGE inventory of Relief Society magazines. I bought a couple from significant years. You are right--they're an excellent resource for info on an ancestor! Thanks for your great post!