Effectively Using the Periodical Source Index

Jennifer Doerflein Hines, MLS
Heritage Pathways, Inc.

The PERiodical Source Index is the best periodical index for locating genealogical and historical research articles. Learn how to effectively use this resource to find the information you need for your research.

If you have any questions about this page, using PERSI, or periodical research in general, Jennifer Doerflein Hines offers free consulting via email at jenny@heritagepathways.com.


The July-September 1994 issue of Buried Treasures, published by the Central Florida Genealogical Society, Inc., included a letter from a Union soldier stationed in Jackson, Tennessee. The letter to his niece back home in Rock Island, Illinois, contained detailed descriptions of his war experiences and his feelings of longing to be back home with his family.

    I tell you it is no fun to have the Balls whistling and rattling around a man, when he wants to see his little ones at home as bad as I do. I had two little trials at it in one day, and if I can get through this war just as well, and not be in another I shall be satisfied...

This letter is sure to be treasured by the relatives of Lt. Col. Ezra M. Beardsley, the letterís author - if they can find it. How could anyone guess that this Illinois soldierís letter, written in Tennessee, would be published in a Florida periodical? It was there only because the soldierís great-great-grandniece happened to belong to the Florida society a century and a half later and submitted it for publication!

Until the the creation of the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) project in 1985, no logic would help researchers find such "misfit" items - and they are many in number.

Following are some tips, in outline form, for using PERSI effectively.

  1. What is the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)?

    The PERiodical Source Index (PERSI), published by the Allen County Public Library Foundation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is an article index to more than 7,000 genealogy and local history periodical titles published in the U.S., Canada, and other countries.

    1. History of PERSI
      1. Created in 1985 at the Allen County Public Library
      2. Twofold project since its inception:
        • Retrospective set - periodicals published before 1985.
          Four sets, so far.
        • Annual index - periodicals published for the current year.
          An annual volume has been published each year since 1985.
      3. Now available from Ancestry, Inc., on CD-ROM and by online subscription. This is good news for researchers because this eliminates the need to search each annual volume and four-volume retrospective set. Now all of PERSI - over one million records - can be searched by family name, record type, location, or by keyword.
    2. How PERSI can help you with your research
      PERSI indexes nearly all English-language and French-Canadian genealogical periodicals, as well as some major foreign genealogical journals. Here is a sampling of the variety of periodicals that are included in PERSI:
      • National - The American Genealogist
      • Regional - Pacific Northwest Quarterly
      • State - Indiana Genealogical Society Newsletter
      • Local - Allen County Lines, the Quarterly of the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana
      • International - Le Javelier (French-Canadian), Der Kurier (German)
      • Very Old - New England Historical & Genealogical Register, since 1847
      • Military - Confederate Veteran
      • History Only - Chicago History
      • Religious - Methodist History
      • Computer Interests - Genealogical Computing
      • Special Groups or Ethnic - African American Family History Association Newsletter
      • Professional - Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly
    3. What PERSI does not index
      1. Every name in every article
      2. Queries, ancestor charts, family group sheets
      3. Society officers, membership lists, meeting notices
      4. Book and computer software reviews
      5. Surname journals and newsletters
      6. Page numbers
  2. Researching PERSI: Five Categories

    Following are some tips for researching five categories of information that are indexed by PERSI:

    1. Family surname
      1. Each citation is in alphabetical order by surname of the family discussed in the article.
      2. Family records include short articles on individual families, cemeteries where all people buried have the same surname, a single record about an individual or between two parties, and family Bible records.
      3. Family surname journals, queries, ancestor charts, and family group sheets have been excluded.
      4. Remember to try different spellings for your family surname.
      5. If your own family has not been written about, published, and indexed, perhaps a related family has been. Search for related families.
    2. U.S. location and record type
      1. The states are arranged alphbetically by zip code abbreviation, and within each state each county by record type
      2. Research statewide articles, not just county articles
      3. In the printed volumes of PERSI, researchers will find articles for US after TX and before UT
    3. Canadian location and record type
      • Arranged first by nation, then province, then by record type
    4. Other foreign location and record type
      • Arranged first by country, then by record type.
    5. Methodology, or "how-to" articles
      1. Contains citations to articles that identify and explain certain record types.
      2. Most methodology articles are encoded "Other" because the study of genealogy goes well beyond the 22 record types in PERSI, other areas are:
        • Documenting your genealogy
        • Writing your family history
        • Genetics
        • Heraldry
        • Medical terms
        • Photography
        • Preservation
        • Computers
        ... just to name a few

    Note that PERSI uses 22 record types for indexing location and methodology articles:

    • Biography - includes names with some significant data, such as date and place
    • Cemetery - lists of cemeteries
    • Census - includes all local, state, and federal population schedules. Also includes statistical abstracts as well as other census schedules, such as mortality, slave, and agricultural.
    • Church - includes all church records, such as marriages, baptism, burial, rosters, lists, history, ministersí diaries. Church cemeteries, however, will be listed under cemeteries.
    • Court - includes all court records which cannot be placed in another category or records of a mixed nature; e.g. freemen, justices of the peace records, chancery, divorce, jury lists, name changes, legislative acts, etc.
    • Deeds - includes records of deeds, deed abstracts, or indices to same
    • Directories - many types of directories, such as city, county, business, and rural
    • History - histories of towns, counties, states, industry, social movements, etc.
    • Institutions - inclueds records of states institutions, jails, orphanages, hospitals, county homes, mental facilities, etc.
    • Land - includes records concerning land and land transfer that are not deeds
    • Maps - includes pictorially represented maps
    • Military - includes all traditional military records such as pension, servie, muster, bounty land, regimental histories, CSA and GAR records. Includes 1840 census of pensioners and 1890 Union Army veterans census schedules as well
    • Naturalizations - includes naturalizations records and indices, passports, declarations of intent, visas, and oaths of allegiance
    • Obituaries - includes records that are obituaries or indices to same
    • Other - a general category that includes records that do not fit any of the other classifications, and are frequently lists
    • Passenger Lists - includes passenger lists or indeces to same, officers and crews, and histories of specific ships. These are indexed by location of the port of entry
    • Probate - includes estate records, inventories, administrations, wills when listed with other probate records, guardianships, orphan court records, etc.
    • School - includes class rosters, school census, alumni lists, teachersí diaries, payrolls, boards of education minutes, etc.
    • Tax - all types of taxes and assessments at all levels of government and all geographic locations
    • Vital Records - births, deaths, marriages, mortuary and funeral home records, bastardies, etc. Divorces are indexed under Court Records
    • Voter - lists of voters, tabulated results of elections, slates of candidates, poll taxes, Great Registers, etc.
    • Wills - wills, indices, or abstracts of the same.
  3. Where to Locate a Copy of an Indexed Article

    1. Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana
    2. Other Major Research Libraries:
      • Atlanta Public Library
      • Cincinnati Public Library
      • Dallas Public Library
      • Family History Library in Salt Lake City
      • Library of Congress
      • Los Angeles Public Library
      • New England Historic Genealogical Society
      • New York Public Library
      • Newberry Library in Chicago
      • Wisconsin State Historical Society
    3. Local Library
    4. Publisher of the Periodical
      The following list of finding aids may help you locate the publisher of the periodical:
      • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. The Genealogistís Address Book. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.,1995. 3rd ed.
      • Bentley, Elizabeth Petty. Directory of Family Associations. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1996. 3rd ed.
      • Bibliography of Genealogy and Local History Periodicals with a Union List of Major U.S. Collections. Fort Wayne, IN: Allen County Public Library Foundation, 1990.
      • Carson, Dina C. Directory of Genealogical and Historical Publications in the US and Canada. Niwot, CO: Iron Gate Publishing, 1994.
      • The Genealogical Helper. Nibley, UT: The Everton Publishers, 1947-.
      • Meyer, Mary K. Directory of Genealogical Societies in the USA and Canada. Pasadena, MD: the compiler, 1994. 10th ed.
      • A Survey of American Genealogical Periodicals and Periodicals Indexes. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Company, 1978.
      • Ulrichís International Periodicals Directory, 1998. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker, 1998. 36th ed.
      • Wheeler, Mary Bray, ed. Directory of Historical Organizations in the United States and Canada. Nashville, TN: American Association for State and Local History, 1990. 14th ed.
    5. Through a Research Service.
      If you cannot obtain a copy of the article in person, you can use a research service to photocopy the article for you for a small fee. At this time, there are two main services who will do this for you:
      • Allen County Public Library.
        Follow the directions in the PERSI volumes or CD-ROM to have the ACPL research staff copy the article for you.
      • Heritage Pathways.
        Fill out and submit the form available on the Heritage Pathways Web pages to have the article copied for you. Heritage Pathways donates a portion of each order to the PERSI project at ACPL.

  4. Summary: How to find an indexed article

    These are the research steps needed to find an indexed article:
    1. Find the index citation in PERSI. Copy the volume, number, month, year, and four-letter periodical code.
    2. Find the periodical name in the appendix using the four-letter periodical code. (Note: Using the online version of PERSI makes this step unnecessary)
    3. Locate a copy of the periodical.
    4. Look at the periodicalís table of contents page. Note that not all periodicals have such a page. Note also that a PERSI citation may differ from the actual article title.
    5. Find the article. If you decide to photocopy the article, it is a good idea to copy the title page of the periodical, also.

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