October 30, 2020
Do you use the Periodical Source Index (usually referred to as PERSI) in your genealogical research? If you’re like many folks, the answer is probably no. That’s too bad because periodicals are one of the best ways to take your research to the next level since genealogical periodicals can contain information found nowhere else.
PERSI is the entry tool to finding articles in over 11,000 periodicals, both current and defunct. It is the brainchild of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, one of the largest genealogical libraries in the world. In 1986, the library began indexing articles in genealogical periodicals to help make them more available to genealogists and others such as historians, demographers and students. The index is searchable by surname or location, and it covers genealogical periodicals published by local, state, national and international societies.
PERSI is now searchable on the website Find My Past, which is a pay-for-view genealogical site. However, searching PERSI is free as is any list of articles that the search reveals. Since Find My Past partnered with the Allen County Public Library a few years ago, it has begun making digital copies of many periodicals available. These copies are not free and require a subscription to Find My Past to access.
The Allen County Public Library creates the Periodic Source Index and has paper copies of every periodical indexed. Copies of articles can be obtained directly from the library. Digitized articles are also being added to Find My Past’s website. In addition, some publishers of various genealogical periodicals offer digitized versions of their periodicals. For example, the New England Historical and Genealogical Society publishes and has published in the past several periodicals including the well-known quarterly The Register. A membership in NEHGS includes access to digitized copies of all of these publications. Other societies offer similar access to their publications.
Finally, the ACPL (Allen County Public Library) Genealogy Center offers a service whereby you can request copies of articles found through PERSI. Information can be found at https://acpl-cms.wise.oclc.org/our-services . A form is available under “Article Fulfillment” which will allow you to request articles for a modest fee. Up to six articles can be requested per form for $7.50 plus $.20 per page for copying.
Now that you know what PERSI is and how it is accessed, you may still be wondering, “What can it do for me? My families weren’t famous or infamous, and I’m sure that none of them were profiled in any scholarly genealogical journals.” Before you dismiss the idea that periodicals only contain articles about famous folks, remember that many of our ancestors, while not well-known nationally, may have been big fish in their own little ponds. PERSI indexes literally thousands of periodicals including newsletters published by smaller, local groups. For example, our own LCGS newsletter is indexed by PERSI. I wrote an article about a relative of mine a number of years ago for that newsletter. His story was interesting, but not a big deal in the big scheme of things. Imagine my surprise when, just a few months ago, I received a query from someone about that same individual. He’d read my article after he found it indexed on PERSI. He has new insight into the story I told so many years ago, and I never would have found him otherwise.
Also, keep in mind that even lesser known families may have contained more well-known members and finding information on them may add new dimension to your direct ancestor’s story. Finally, remember that many of articles may contain updates or revisions to well-known family histories, and many of the articles are well-sourced which can mean leads to even more information.
PERSI is an often underutilized resource that is definitely worth a look, especially considering that it is available for free.
Researcher/Director at Large