For 26 weeks I will take you on a family history journey through the alphabet, one letter at a time. I have decided that each post will be educational in nature, focusing on topics related to resources, methodology, tools, etc. Although the challenge is complete, there are still some people who are finishing up and Alona, the host, is encouraging others to participate anyway. Additional information on the challenge, can be found at Take the ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ Challenge.
This week I want to talk about the Periodical Source Index, also known as PERSI. It is essentially a subject index to the articles found in the genealogical and historical periodicals held by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There are thousands of periodicals in the ACPL collection, some dating back to the mid-1800s.
While originally in book form, the data can now be found in a searchable database. The database can be accessed through HeritageQuest (usually available through your public library, sometimes accessible from home with your library card number) and Ancestry (with an individual subscription). Through both providers, you can search by surname, place, topic, or periodical title. But Ancestry has some additional search capabilities, including searching by article title. As of today, the database seems to include periodicals published through mid-2009.
I could literally spend hours walking through a variety of search scenarios, but suffice it to say, you just need to experiment. However, I will say, that this is not an every-name index, and therefore, searching for Daniel Boone might be a little tricky. Articles will be classified by the Boone surname, which will return many results. Unfortunately, trying to narrow down those results by entering the keyword Daniel will only display results where Daniel appears in the title (or another field), thus limiting your results considerably and you may miss some important references.
As you can see from the screenshots, there are 729 results for the Boone surname and 298 for the Boone surname with the keyword Daniel. You’ll notice that the very first article listed in the Boone-only search, is not listed in the one where Daniel is included as a keyword because Daniel doesn’t appear in the title (or any other field). That article may be very relevant to research on Daniel Boone, given the dates and places covered by the article. Just keep this in mind while you are doing your searches.
So what do you do when you find an article of interest? Well, you could try to locate a copy of the periodical that the article appears in, but when you don’t have ready-access to certain periodicals, that could be difficult. A better option is request a copy of the article from the Allen County Public Library. For a relatively inexpensive fee, you can order up to six articles at a time. Although they ask for six to eight weeks to process the requests, it is usually much quicker. You can access a PDF of the form here. Be sure to have it handy when searching PERSI so you know what information to collect from the database.