PERSI for Genealogy Research

Professional genealogists have been using PERSI for years to find published articles referencing family members from the past.  For families with a long linage in America, there is a good chance that there will be some mention of them in a published article.  A lot of ink has been used writing about our colonial ancestors, so if you are lucky enough to have any of them in your family tree, you owe it to yourself to search this index. 

It is time to make this goldmine of information available to any family genealogist interested in using it.  In this article, I will explain what it is, how to search it and how to request copies of articles that make mention your family.

What is PERSI?

PERSI is an acronym for Periodical Source Index, which is maintained by Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  It is a master index of thousands of back issues of serial publications from genealogical societies, historical societies, ethnic organizations and lineage societies who have American genealogy and local history as their focus.

Just imagine having online access to an index of more than 11,000 genealogy and local history periodicals, 3,000 of which are now defunct, making them particularly valuable.  The PERSI index is updated regularly, so you can have access to the latest articles as well as those that are out of print.

How can I access it?

Online access to the Periodical Source Index is only available at the Findmypast genealogy website.  The good news is that searching the index is free to anyone without a subscription.  The bad news is that looking at the search results does require a subscription to Findmypast.  Some institutions such as Family History Centers have institutional subscriptions that you can use for free or you can consider paying for your own subscription to Findmypast.

How can I obtain copies of articles?

The Periodical Source Index does not provide an “every word” index of all the source material it covers so you have to search index in one for three ways, by location, surname or how-to (methodology).  If you find a mention of one of your ancestors, note the name of the periodical, issue number and pertinent pages.

There are efforts underway to digitize the periodicals and make images of them available online at Findmypast.  Until that project gets traction, articles can still be accessed the old-fashioned way at libraries carrying the periodical or through inter-library loan.  You can also purchase a photocopy of an article, for a fee, directly from the Allen County Library using their “Article Request Form”.


One of the biggest issues with this index is that not every person or family is mentioned or featured in a published article.  It is still a hit or miss proposition for those searching for evidence of their anscestors.  Secondly, when there is a hit, not everyone possesses the time, expertise or money to hunt down a hard-copy of an obscure publication from across the country.  Considering these issues, not consulting periodicals, could cause you to miss out on some potentially important research leads.

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