Opinion

‘Sherlocking’ the obscure

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In my last column I wrote about the importance journals can play in genealogical research. But how do you find an article in an obscure journal, perhaps one you never knew existed?

The answer is PERSI, which stands for the Periodical Source Index. This is a subject index that lists articles on genealogy and family history, as well as other related areas. This index was created by the Allen County Public Library and is updated frequently and is an often-neglected tool for researchers.

PERSI has a plethora of records. Here you’ll find periodicals issued by small genealogy societies, historical societies, surname or family societies, and other publishers. Sometimes you’ll find transcriptions of vital or cemetery records among the collection. You may also find oral histories from individuals.

So where is PERSI to be found? Go to findmypast.com and among the databases offered you’ll find PERSI. It’s free to search but viewing many of the articles requires a subscription. But, if you search and get the names of journals/articles that you want you should be able to access those for a small fee via interlibrary loan. Alternately, you may want to spring for a subscription to Find My Past which is a comprehensive Ancestry.com type website with millions of records. I think you can purchase it month by month and that would be a great thing to do to save money. Just be sure you pick a month with no visitors or major holidays where you can explore and print out articles in great numbers.

When you search on PERSI you’ll have many options. You can search by keyword, the name of a family or person, location, publication (if you already know what you’re looking for), and much more. You can be very specific in your search or much broader, though be forewarned — you may be overwhelmed with the number of articles that turn up from a general search such as “Bragg family” with no restrictions on place or date.

The searches will be valuable whether you search for last name, county or state, a town or city, or keyword. The keyword will be included in the article title, so you may not want to start with that unless you already know of an article but may not know where to find it. You can search by the name of a periodical if you’re looking in a specific area or you can search for publisher or even the year of publication. Among the topics are biographies, census and church records, deeds, histories, land records, maps, school records, tax and vital records, naturalization records, obits, passenger lists, wills, cemeteries, probate records, and others. You can grasp the possibilities.

Any way you look at it, PERSI is a valuable tool and sometimes if you feel you’re at the end of your resources on a line or individual you might want to try PERSI. You never know what’s out there hiding in plain sight.

Nancy Battick is a Dover-Foxcroft native who has researched genealogy for over 30 years. She is past president of the Maine Genealogical Society, author of several genealogical articles and co-transcribed the Vital Records of Dover-Foxcroft. Nancy holds a MA in History from UM and lives in DF with her husband, Jack, another avid genealogist. You can contact Nancy at nbattick@roadrunner.com.

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