Are you in the same boat as me and really get befuddled on how to use PERSI? In case you are unaware of what PERSI is, it is the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI for short). Ever since I took my first class at my local library about genealogy I have heard nothing but wonderful things about PERSI. Trouble is – I can never seem to have any success with it myself. So today’s goal is to learn what PERSI is, and how to use it.
What is PERSI?
So I know I already told you it is the PERiodical Source Index but what is it really? Organized by the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center (ACPLGA) and Find My Past, PERSI connects you with thousands of articles for genealogy and local history. Though initially just an index relaying articles and their locations to users, the ACPLGA and Find My Past are working to digitize the articles to give family historians instant gratification.
How to Use PERSI
I’ve always understood what PERSI is, my trouble has been actually using it. So here are some tips I’ve accumulated in my search.
How to Find PERSI
PERSI can be found by going to Find My Past, then using the toolbar at the top of the screen select “Search” and then when the pull-down menu appears select “Newspapers and Periodicals”.
On the left-hand side of the screen near the top you will see a heading “Choose from Our Collections”, fill in the dot next to “PERiodical Source Index” and you’ll be ready to go!
PERSI is Subject Based
It does not search the text of articles, it searches the terms or keywords assigned to articles by the people who created PERSI. For example, you may come across an article that is all about your family, but if the person who indexed the article just assigned it “Bedford County” (where your people may have lived) searching for your family name will give you 0 hits. For best results you are better off to use the “Where” or “What Else” options on the search bar.
Lots of Filters
PERSI provides you with nine different filters to help narrow the number of results you receive. These filters include: last names, country, state, county, town/city, subject, keyword, and database title. These are located down the left-hand side of the screen.
Since the world knows I have family in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, I went ahead and did a search on Bedford. By just putting Bedford County, Pa in the “Where” box (see above), I ended up getting 4,359 hits. This included places in England, Massachusetts, etc., which was amazing as I had Pennsylvania as part of my where.
By filling in the country, state, and county fillers along the left-hand side of the screen, I lessened my hits to 1,350. Here is a screenshot:
If you click on an article, it is not going to take you to the page you are seeking. You will most likely have to read/skim through a book/paper/article to find the information you are seeking. Try to be optimistic, this may be a good thing as you may find more information than you bargained for which is a big YAY!
Remember, not all articles/books/papers have been digitized so some books you may have to do an interlibrary loan to see. I know earlier today I found an article from the Bedford County Historical Society that was done on my 5x Great Grandfather, Peter Morgart, in their newsletter. I am attempting to see if they have past newsletters online, or if I need to pay for a copy of that 1994 newsletter. I’ll keep you posted, it’s presently a Saturday and they are closed.
Lastly, you are able to search PERSI for free but to view records you do need a subscription to Find My Past. I know I don’t always have a subscription for all the different sites for genealogy but I know my local library (at least my Main Library) has the library edition of Find My Past for free where you can view the documents that are digitized. If you find an item that isn’t digitized, you would already be at the library and maybe you can set up an inter-library loan.
I’ll probably update this in the future. I presently have a simple subscription to Find My Past from when I joined my state genealogical society. It goes bye-bye in December so I am going to try to focus some of my research endeavors on here so I can utilize it before it’s gone (I say simple as I have learned many documents I need to view for my English ancestors are a higher subscription than the free one I received for signing up with my state society).
Just another valuable tool to maybe help you get the final piece of a puzzle for your ancestors. Good luck searching!