Monday, February 23, 2009

PERSI - An Under-Utilized Resource

I browsed through the Recently Added or Updated Databases on this morning, and noticed that the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) had been updated on 19 February. I've been meaning to check back into PERSI for my Seaver surname, so I took the opportunity.

What is PERSI? The database description says:

"PERSI is the largest and most widely-used subject index covering genealogy and local history periodicals written in English and French (Canada). The collection dates from approximately 1800. There are currently over 1.7 million searchable records and nearly 6,000 different periodicals, which library staffers at the Allen County Public Library (in Ft. Wayne, Allen County, Indiana, U.S.A.) have been compiling for over a decade. PERSI is widely recognized as essential for high-quality genealogy research."

The screen for the PERSI database looks like this:

The "Section" dropdown box lets the user select Surname, US Locality, Canada Locality, Foreign Locality, or Methodology. The user can input "Keyword" and/or "Surname" using the "Surname" Section. For the "U.S. Locality" section, the Search box changes to include Title Keywords, Record Type, US State and County.

I chose "Surname" and input "Seaver" in the Surname box. I clicked on Search and got 54 results:

I clicked on the third one down, titled "Edwin P. Seaver memoir, 1838-1917, MA" which is in Volume 51, the March 1918 issue, of the Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings. I clicked on the periodical title and the holdings of this periodical at a repository appeared, with a link to a repository (I clicked on the link and the popup box with the repository address came up) as shown in the screen below:

Note that this screen does NOT provide the volume and issue of the article I'm searching for - it's information about the holdings of the periodical at the selected repository.

The link was to the Allen County (IN) Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Going to the ACPL Genealogy web site, there is more information about PERSI and how to obtain the article(s) of interest:

The site provides a PDF form here for researchers to order up to six articles per form. The form looks like this::

The charge is $7.50 per form plus 20 cents per page copied, and it takes 6 to 8 weeks to receive the results. That is really pretty reasonable if the researcher does not have easy access to a major genealogy library that has the specific periodical.

How do you find out if a repository near you has the periodical? Well, you can use the WorldCat search at I input "Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings" in the search box and found that San Diego
State University (about 15 miles away) has some issues of this periodical, including Volume 51. The University of California San Diego in La Jolla (about 23 miles away) also has it. So I have a choice - toddle off to SDSU or UCSD some day and obtain it immediately, or send a form and a check to Allen County Public Library and wait awhile.

Historical and genealogical periodicals are some of the most useful resources to find the "hidden gems" in a family's history. In general, these periodicals are not indexed or imaged for online access. There are some exceptions, like the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) which has their New England Historical and Genealogical Register (1847-2005) available for their subscribers to search and review.

My hope has been that periodical publishers would permit their "every-name" index to be imaged and posted online so that names in the periodicals could be found in an online search. The researcher would still have to find the periodical volume in order to obtain the specific article, but having the index available online would open many research opportunities (and probably drive many researchers back into libraries and other repositories).


Brenda said...

I talked to Kris a couple weeks ago and they are saying March now but if out governor closes down some of the stuff she is talking about.. it is unsure if it will EVER make it!

familytwigs said...

PERSI is also available through Heritage Quest which many people can use at home free through their local library. All they need is a library card. I use it!
Great post about something not often mentioned.

Ginger Smith said...

Hi Randy, I also use PERSI through Heritage Quest. You also have the option to order the articles up to 6 at $7.50 each. I've had really good luck requesting the journals or copies of the articles through my Interlibrary Loan.