You can search JSTOR for free, and light users might get by with the free Register & Read plan, which lets you read up to three articles every two weeks. That includes almost 500,000 public-domain articles published in the United States before 1923 and in other countries before 1870.
Search on a name as a phrase.
Search on a topic closely associated with a relative.
For example, search on the towns and counties where your ancestors lived to find local histories. Henry Crum bought land on Hawksbill Creek in Orange County, Va., in 1740. Search JSTOR for “Hawksbill Creek” and you’ll find a series of three articles on “The Germans of the Valley” that appeared in 1902 in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. They tell about Germans from Pennsylvania who settled on Hawksbill Creek in the 1740s. The articles don’t mention Henry Crum by name, but they suggest he was German, too.
In about 1840, James L. Pennington moved to Maine’s Aroostook County, where he was a lumberman and farmer. Searching on “Aroostook County” produces 511 matches. To focus the search, scroll down the Advanced Search screen and, under Narrow by Discipline and/or Publication Title, check the box for History. Then click Search. That narrows the search results to 287. The first one, “Lumbering and the Farming Frontier in Aroostook County, Maine, 1840-1880,” in the Journal of Forest History, describes the evolving farming and lumbering economy in which James L. Pennington participated.
Search on a combination of terms.
Sometimes you need to search on more than one term to focus your search on the most relevant matches.
Search specific publications.
3. Because Evan Jones was a missionary to the Cherokee, enter Cherokee in the other search box and click Search.
6. In the Tools box, click on View PDF and then confirm the download. The PDF file opens in a new window. Right-click on the window, select Save As and save the file to your computer’s hard drive.
From the May/June 2014 Family Tree Magazine