PERSI and Its 8,000 Periodicals
By Holly T. Hansen
What Is PERSI?
The Periodical Source Index
Commonly referred to as PERSI, the PERiodical Source Index is a comprehensive subject index to articles appearing in historical, genealogical, and ethnic publications. A periodical is a magazine, journal, or newsletter that is published weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or annually. Simply, it is a published work that appears in a new edition on a regular schedule.
You will be amazed at the amount of information gathered by small, local genealogical and historical societies located around the globe. Expert genealogists worldwide recognize PERSI as an essential tool for family history researchers.
The Allen County Public Library Foundation and the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center (ACPL) are the creators of this most valuable index. PERSI indexes articles appearing in more than 8,000 different periodical titles, and includes titles that are no longer published or considered defunct publications. They continue to add additional society periodicals to their holdings and the index. The ACPL holds over 11,000 periodical titles in their facility, so you can expect to see PERSI continue to grow for quite some time. Side note: It would also be worth your time to take a trip to Indiana to research in this amazing genealogy center.
Findmypast, Internet Archive, and the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) have joined forces to expedite placing online the digital images of the periodical articles which have been indexed into PERSI. ACPL joins thousands of genealogical and historical societies publications and then houses their periodicals, along with their significant genealogy collection. Internet Archive has scanning equipment located in the basement of the ACPL that is used to scan the hard-copy periodicals. Findmypast takes care of the licensing, image uploading, and hosting of the digital collection. For full details on how this all works, you may want to read the blog article “Inside the Digital Revolution: The Power Behind PERSI” located on FindMyPast.com. FindMyPast updates the online index every quarter.
The bulk of articles indexed in PERSI are from periodicals that cover the United States and Canada. You can also find thousands of entries from the UK, Ireland, and Australia. This is a work in progress; not all articles have been digitized yet. If it’s not online, you can order a hard copy of the article by mail or find a copy at a local library.
Understand the Index
PERSI is a subject-based index. It is not an every-name or every-word index. You will be searching terms assigned to each article by the indexer. The indexer reads the article and decides which subject to assign and what keywords to assign to the article. Subjects can be quite broad, such as “census,” “military,” or “War of 1812.” Keywords will be more specific about the article.
Keep this in mind as you use the Index and create your search criteria. You’re are unlikely to locate much if you only search for a specific ancestor’s name, although that can happen if there is an article dedicated to that specific person.
Why Use Periodicals?
Periodicals are created on a local level and cover information that is usually location sensitive. They provide an endless supply of source materials. Periodicals contain transcripts of all kinds of records, they are filled with indexes, and they have pictures! You may find lists of genealogical resources that are not online and may not be online anytime soon. Remember, there is an overload of information out there. You must sift through it to find those resources designed to help you with your research. Periodicals are a good tool for sifting in the locale where your ancestors lived.
If you are doing location-based research—and you should be—you want to find periodicals that cover the area in which your family lived. The local periodical will tell you if there are places you have not yet looked.
Read genealogical periodicals for the education you will gain. Almost every issue will contain some type of how-to article for beginners and in-depth methodology for advanced researchers. Read the case studies. Don’t be tempted to skip over the case studies because the article is not focused on your ancestor. The methodology the researcher used just may be the trick you need to break through to new ancestors. Read the case studies!!
Other researchers have been researching their family history for generations. They often publish their work in the local periodical. What if your ancestor is also their ancestor? You could find all kinds of data. It happens!
Be sure to read the entire series of a periodical. Many publications publish compiled genealogies, then place corrections and additions in later issues. Publications can help you break through those dead-end ancestor brick walls.
Genealogical periodicals allow members to publish queries, which are a great way to connect with others. Be sure to give help to others, as well as receiving it.
Book reviews are often part of the periodical literature. Peruse the book reviews carefully; they may list just the item you need. In addition, you may be able to find that book online or order it through Interlibrary Loan from your local library.
How to Access and Search PERSI
The Periodical Source Index is located online at www.Findmypast.com. It is also available at LDS Family History Centers, where they offer free access to Findmypast.
Interestingly, the “Search World Records” page at Findmypast will not return results from PERSI, or newspapers or other periodicals. To search PERSI only, be sure to select the “Newspapers and Periodicals” section of the drop-down menu on their homepage. Following is a step-by-step procedure for accessing and searching:
- Go to Findmypast.com
- Click on the Search Tab (a drop-down list will appear)
- Click on the link that says “Newspapers and periodicals”
- Under “Choose from our collections,” select the link “PERiodical Source Index”
Starting a Search
At the top of the page, there are three search fields:
- What else?
As you become familiar with PERSI, you will learn multiple ways to begin a search.
The “Who” or last-name search will only yield results if the name appears in a title or was assigned as a subject. Even though there could be information on your family, this search may not reveal it.
- In the “Who” search field, enter the last name of an ancestor, such as “Denham”
- You will see the number of search results. For this search, it returned 75
The “Where” search will be the most common search to begin with.
- In the “Where” search field, enter a location such as: Augusta, Georgia, USA
- You will see the number of search results. For this search, it returned 33,227 results
- Browse through the results to get an idea of the kinds of article titles that are returned
- Try the search again, only this time enter the location this way: Augusta, Georgia
- You will see a different number of results returned. For this search, it returned 242 results
The “What else?” search is a keyword search.
- In the “What else?” search field, enter a keyword such as: “Duel”
- You will see the number of results returned. For this search, it returned 17,610 results
- Try the search again using the word: Dueling
- This reduced the results to only 645
Filters to “Narrow your search results”
The Who, Where, and What else? searches are accompanied by powerful filters to help you hone in on your subject. These filters are located in the left column of your search screen below the heading, “Narrow your search results.”
- In the “Where” search field, we will enter “Columbia, Georgia, USA.” 40,329 results are returned.
- To narrow the results, click on the “Show filters” button located next to “Last Names.” A pop-up box will contain an alphabetical list of available search terms in this category. In this case, names from A to Z. You can click on the right arrow to scroll through the names one page at a time.
- Or, choose the letter of the alphabet the last name of interest would be in. This will pull up all possible names; if there are spelling variations, you can compare them.
- Or, simply type the last name of interest into the search box at the top right of the pop-up and the system will return the number of articles containing that last name. We searched for the last name Crawford. It returned seven results.
- Check the box and click the “Apply filters” button located in the bottom right-hand corner of the pop-up box.
- This will return you the list of seven articles for the original 40,329 “Columbia, Georgia, USA,” entries where the last name Crawford has been indexed.
NOTE: If you begin this search with the words “Columbia, Georgia,” leaving off the “USA,” only 209 results are returned. When you click on the “Show filters” button for Last Names, “Crawford” is not a choice.
To perform another search, simply click the “Clear search” link located near the top right of the search page. Keep searching using the different filters available to you. The more you work with this tool, the more proficient you will become. With more than 8,000 periodical titles and nearly 3,000,000 entries, you are bound to find something to assist you with your research.
There is another Search page located on Findmypast.com which you may like to try.
- Go to http://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/periodical-source-index
- In the “Country” field, type in the letter “U”; a list of countries beginning with that letter will appear. Choose “USA.”
- In the “State” field, type in the letter “G”; a list of states beginning with that letter will appear. Choose “Georgia.”
- In the “County” field, type in the letter “C”; a list of counties beginning with that letter will appear. Choose “Columbia.”
- Next, click on the blue “Search Periodical Source Index” button, located at the bottom of the search form.
- This will return you 197 results.
The results appear a bit different depending on which Search Page you choose to use.
View the Article or Order a Hard Copy
Once you have the results you desire, click on the camera icon to view the image of the publication, or click on the page icon to view the article’s transcription entry in the index.
View the image
- Click on the camera icon
- The periodical issue in which the article is published will appear
- You will not be taken to the exact page of the article, but to the beginning of the issue
- Click the right arrow until you locate the table of contents
- Locate the page number on which the article appears and right click until you reach it
- OR, move through the issue quickly by using your web browser URL. Within it, look for a bit of text that looks something like “f0002,” in the example below:
This little bit of text shows the image number of the digital document currently being viewed. Image numbers and page numbers do not always match exactly but are close. Simply change the image number to the page number. If the table of contents says the article is located on page 204, change f0002 to f0204 and hit enter. This will help you navigate hundreds of pages and land right on the article you want, or at least within a page or two of it.
View the transcription entry
Images in PERSI are wonderful! But not all publications have had their pages scanned. PERSI is an index created to make it easier to locate those hard-to-find periodical articles. The transcription of each article holds some great information that will help you track the article down, maybe at a library near you.
- Click on the page icon
- Look for the Publisher information in the record; use this to track down and contact the organization that publishes the periodical. Or perform a quick Google search to see if the organization has an online presence or phone number available. Contact them directly to purchase a copy of the article.
- Look at the Repositories list; there may be a library close by with a copy. If not, search OCLCs WorldCat, located online at https://www.worldcat.org, and search for locations that hold the periodical.
- If the Family History Library has it in their collection, check to see if it may be available digitally or via loan to a local Family History Center.
Use your connections to get a copy. Maybe you have a friend or could hire a local genealogist to acquire a copy of the article for you in their local area. It may be a quick trip for them to the local library or archives to acquire a copy for you.
Purchase a copy from the ACPL
If you can’t locate a copy close by or with the help of a friend, contact the Allen County Public Library by mail. You will need to have the Article Title, Periodical/Journal name, PERSI Code, Volume, Issue No., Month/Season, and Year of publication from the transcription record. Then:
- Go to http://www.genealogycenter.org/pdf/ArticleRequest.pdf
- Download the PDF form
- Fill in the details for each request (only six articles can be requested at a time)
- Mail your completed form along with payment of $7.50 to ACPLF (address is on the form)
- ACPLF will bill you copies costs for each article at $0.20 per page.
Requests are not accepted by phone, fax, or email. You must allow 6-8 weeks for a response. So, try a local library or friend first. You may get it sooner, and costs vary depending on the facility’s copy charges.
Search Strategies for Using Periodicals
Local genealogy experts—volunteer editors, volunteer committees, and sometimes a single dedicated genealogist—will gather information and write it up to be published in their periodical for your benefit. They are usually local people who live where your ancestors lived and died. They are familiar with how the local surnames were spelled, they know where the families lived, and they may even attend the same church where your ancestors worshipped.
These local experts are the go-to place for help. They will have the answers you need. As you begin to dive into periodical research, you will find that the work of volunteer members of the local group will enable you to build the correct family tree.
- Go to your nearest research library; use PERSI or FamilySearch and find space to spread out.
- Locate the periodicals for your locality of interest. Start with volume one, first issue, and work your way through the publication, page by page, until you reach the current issue or as much is available.
- If there is an index in the periodical series, check for the surnames as well as the subject and place entries of which you are aware. Don’t stop there. Even if the periodical has a good index, read the whole periodical, page by page.
Strategy #1: Spend time to read a periodical page by page
As you read you will discover some answers to important genealogy questions, such as:
- What surnames are associated with that local area which might otherwise be overlooked?
- Do families still reside there who are related to the people for whom I am searching?
- Are there family members who have moved away who are still interested in that place, still looking for ancestors in whom I am also interested?
- What records, not available on microfilm through the Family History Library, have been discovered and transcribed for me to use? (Examples of these types of records listed in periodicals include: Tax lists, account books of local stores, muster rolls kept by the local captains, church records—including membership lists, dismissals, and admissions—and cemetery listings.)
- What new family histories, compiled by relatives unknown to me, were reviewed by the editor and offered for sale? (These reviews include the address and cost so you can order copies.)
- What genealogies were written just for the quarterly and not published anywhere else?
- Are there key facts and traditions about local families which were sent in by descendants who hope their work will benefit others with the same ancestors?
- Is there important research underway that I need to know about, so that I don’t look in the wrong place, or collect the wrong people, or overlook a migration pattern peculiar to that specific place?
These are just a few of the answers you can get reading page by page. The time invested is well worth it. An index alone will not give you this essential background; nor will it identify specific research published in that periodical. Remember, it is published because people who live in that area will find it of interest. Watch for things which appear to be out of place. Remember that space is valuable, so it is reserved for items of interest to their readership.
Strategy #2: At the same time, read two or more periodicals which cover the same area
As you read the periodicals, you will gain more in-depth knowledge about the principal origin of the families in the area. You will learn about boundary changes that affected the county, and even states in which the families lived.
The same families may appear in both periodicals covering the area; however, they may be better documented in one than in the other. By studying both, you get the marriages with both husband and wife listed with full names. You get the origins of the families and their migration patterns. You may also get their family Bible records and excerpts from the records where they appear together. This allows you to be certain you are researching the same families—and not just families with the same surnames.
Let the local experts help you cut down the errors in research made by hasty decisions of others. Let the periodicals bring you this expert knowledge, and use PERSI to locate the articles loaded with the details.
Join us Friday, January 20, 2017 for our weekly Ask-the-Pros series where Holly will demonstrate PERSI. She will also assist you in searching PERSI for details in the locations where your ancestors lived. Paid registrants have the option to submit a research query at no additional cost. Click here for details and to register.
© 2017 Holly T. Hansen