Have you used PERSI? If you have been using PERSI over the years, you may have searched it from a genealogy subscription website, but it was recently announced that PERSI is going back to its home at the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library. You can now search PERSI from the Genealogy Center website for FREE.
Not sure what PERSI is? Let's start with an introduction.
The Periodical Source Index
The Genealogy Center explains that “PERSI is the premier subject index for genealogy and local history periodicals, and is produced by the staff of The Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). Using this valuable resource provides citations to readily-available periodical sources.”
PERSI is a periodical index of history and genealogy magazines, newsletters, and journals that span the 1800s to the present day. The majority of the periodicals are US-based, but it also includes publications in Canada, the British Isles, and other countries. The periodicals in PERSI are in the collection of the Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana), and they index the materials. However, it is not an every-name index. Instead, it is a subject index and includes indexed words such as record types, location, surnames as subject, and how-to articles.
Why Use PERSI?
You might be thinking, "why should I use PERSI? After all, it's an index!" Indexes provide us with a unique finding aid. In this case, these periodicals have articles of use to our research including histories, images, and indexes of local records that genealogy societies, historical societies, and individuals have published in newsletters, magazines, and journals. These articles can provide an ancestor's name or context for researching your ancestor's time and place. And they can point the way to unique record collections you didn’t know existed. It's vital to seek out and identify materials located in the place your ancestor lived. These periodical articles can provide a glimpse of what is available.
How do you search PERSI? ACPL has the PERSI search page broken down so that you can search:
- United States
- British Isles
- Other Counties
- Research Techniques
- Article Title Keyword.
This search page is different than previous versions of PERSI. In the past, various genealogy websites have licensed the PERSI content and created their own search for the materials. This new version is slightly different. Also, the previous license holder, FindMyPast, started digitizing articles found in PERSI. Those digitized copies do not exist in this edition.
Although there is a surname search, please don’t limit yourself to just that search. Genealogists are accustomed to searching by name, date, place on genealogy websites, but that's not the best way to search PERSI. You would be better served by doing a location search and exhausting what articles have to do with your ancestor’s location. I'm not saying don't search by your ancestor's surname under any circumstances. What I am saying is don't stop there.
For example, once you click on the country you're interested in, you will come to a page that asks for, in the case of the United States, state, and county. Once you click the search button, you’ll receive a results page that includes categories and how many articles match that category for your location.
Once you click on the category of your interest, you can see a list of articles.
So now what? You can order photocopies of the article from ACPL. Click on the link for Article Fulfillment found on the Our Services page. Use the information found in PERSI to complete the form and the fee. You will receive an envelope and bill for the per-page copy charge of your ordered articles in about six weeks.
Do you have to order copies from ACPL? No, you could see if the periodicals are at your local library, or you might be able to find them online or through an interlibrary loan. If you're planning a research trip to ACPL, you might want to have a list ready so that you can copy the articles yourself.
To learn more about searching PERSI, see the Genealogy Center's webinar at https://youtu.be/RN7gUzHdZ4o.
What Will You Find?
I love PERSI because it's an easy way to find the information you may not be expecting. Some of my favorite finds have been articles with names from community cookbooks and signature quilts. Those articles had names I was researching but were not searchable by a name. Instead, I had to search by location. You don't know what you don't know, and PERSI is a great way to find treasures you aren't aware of.
Gena Philibert-Ortega is an author, instructor, and researcher. She blogs at Gena's Genealogy and Food.Family.Ephemera. You can find her presentations on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website.