Have you met PERSI? You should! PERSI is the Periodical Source Index. Use PERSI for genealogy and you may discover your ancestors in thousands of articles you never knew existed.
You may have heard me talk in the past about PERSI. In case you haven’t…PERSI is not a person—it’s the acronym for the Periodical Source Index. PERSI is THE master index for periodicals with over 2.5 million entries. Thousands of magazines, newsletters, journals, and other periodicals from the U.S., Canada, Britain, Ireland, and Australia are indexed here.
PERSI is maintained by the Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They have the equivalent of 6 full-time staff who are dedicated to subject-indexing every issue of every known genealogy or historical periodical and even the tiniest society newsletter.
Curt Witcher, who runs the Genealogy Center at Allen County and who has been a guest on the podcast in the past, estimates that if you don’t consult periodicals in your research, you could be missing up to 30% of your research leads! That’s a lot of leads! PERSI has long been a staple resource for advanced and professional genealogists to help them break through brick walls. With its help, you can much more quickly locate articles like biographical sketches of ancestors (or people they knew), transcribed indexes to naturalization or probate records, church records, school records, and the like. There might be just-what-you-need histories of places or the organizations your ancestors belonged to.
These key articles are often buried so deep in back issues of little local genealogy newsletters that you may never come across them on your own. Sometimes, they’re what we call “orphaned” content: articles we’d find in totally unexpected places.
HOW TO SEARCH PERSI ONLINE
PERSI used to be searchable on Ancestry, but it isn’t there anymore. You can use an older, archived version of PERSI on HeritageQuest Online at libraries that subscribe. The current version of PERSI is exclusively on Findmypast and they’re doing something really cool with it. They are adding digitized articles to the index. In fact, they added a total of 18,257 articles from 94 publications in their recent July update. They are doing this by signing contracts with each individual society or journal publisher, so it’s not a fast process. The vast majority of entries on PERSI do not have digitized articles linked to them yet. It’s a bonus when you do find them!
To search PERSI at Findmypast you do not actually need a subscription. They allow anyone to search and see the list of results. To see a image of a specific search result, you will need a subscription OR you will need to purchase their pay-per-view credits. You can also use Findmypast at Family History Centers and at many libraries that have institutional subscriptions.
Once you have located an article, it’s inexpensive to order a copy directly from the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Simply download the order form PDF from their website, fill it out, and mail it in. You can request up to six articles for only $7.50, which you pre-pay and then they bill you separately for copies at 20 cents per page.
Sometime soon, why not take 15 minutes—or your next lunch break at work–and search PERSI for your top surnames and locations? Again, the database is PERSI, it is at Findmypast, and the chance to discover is all yours.