Saturday, February 22, 2014

What I knew about PERSI that wasn't so

Genealogy periodicals don't get enough respect as research sources. And the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) -- once a print volume, now a virtual entity, but always based at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne -- is almost the only way to get at them in bulk. (And that's important because people often publish where they are living and not where the ancestors were.)

Having used it for years, I recently learned that it has always been designed as a subject index -- not a title index nor an every-name index. This means that when you title your great new article, putting more than three surnames in the title will not help! The rule is that up to three principal surnames covered in the article or transcription qualify as "subjects" to be indexed; beyond that, not. I'm sorry if I misled anybody on this point.

The general subject headings PERSI uses are:
* biography
* cemeteries
* census records
* church records
* court records
* deeds
* directories
* history
* institutions
* land records other than deeds
* maps
* military records
* miscellaneous records
* naturalization records
* obituaries
* passenger lists
* probate records other than wills
* school records
* tax records
* vital records
* voter records
* wills

 Now and again folks ask for a checklist of important source types so that they don't miss any. There is no such animal, and no checklist you can run down in any given case and be sure you haven't missed something. But for a quick rundown of generally available record types, here you have it!

When you think about it, there is an awful lot of research that never gets known beyond the local or state periodical level. I would hesitate to start a sweepstakes for the "most underused" record type, considering that there are so many contenders, but genealogy periodicals are very much underused in my experience. I think the new Find My Past interface will entice more of us to use them (it's already got me going!). Those of us who live close enough to visit the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center on a regular basis can use that search function, and then locate the promising originals on our own on the site -- #1 in the world for genealogy periodicals. For this purpose I would rather be in Fort Wayne than in Salt Lake City!

Harold Henderson, "What I knew about PERSI that wasn't so," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 February 2014 ( : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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