PERSI can give you a bundle of information to put flesh on the bare bones of your genealogical story. By allowing you to search four different ways, People, Places, Methodology, and Periodicals by Title, you are sure to turn up useful information to add interesting historical context to your writing.
There are several ways to access PERSI, including Ancestry.com, HeritageQuest Online - available through most public libraries with a library card, and the Allen County Public Library (PERSI - Periodical Source Index). The Allen County Public Library is the home of PERSI and one place where you can write for copies of articles.
Now that you know what PERSI is and how to access it, how do you find references to articles of interest, and obtain an article? Let's look at each of the four ways to search for information through PERSI. It is important to investigate all four options when performing a search so that you do not miss anything.
This option enables you to enter a surname and keywords such as the location of the family you are researching. You can also enter the name of a particular periodical, if you want to limit your search. I chose my Connecticut Wakeman branch to search upon. There was only one article listed, a sermon by Samuel Wakeman. I already have this sermon in my files. If I stopped my research at this point, I would be missing out on some particularly interesting items found in the other three types of searches.
Searching on Fairfield County, Connecticut, a known location for the Wakeman family; a review of the first page of results shows a listing for the Bradley & Hubbell farms and neighbors in Connecticut, published by Connecticut Ancestry. From my research I know that these two families are married into the Wakeman family so this is of definite interest.
Among the other listings are Congregational church records, emancipation and sale of slaves, and the Fairfield Witch Trials of 1652-1692. From my research, I know that this family was Congregationalist, did own slaves, and did live in Fairfield County, Fairfield, Connecticut during the time of the witch trials, so these articles are also of interest.
Colonial Connecticut is a relatively new area for me to be researching. To make sure that I do not overlook anything important, I can use this search to find out what has been written about researching in Connecticut. While this is not the only way to find how-to articles, it does give you a centralized location in which to look.
Periodicals By Title
Looking at the articles that I found of interest, I typed in the titles of a few of the periodicals in which they appeared. I recognized the CT Nutmegger, and CT Ancestry. However, the CT Maple Leaf and the Association of the Study of Connecticut History in Boston were unknown to me.
Part of the functionality of PERSI is the ability to research periodical titles and obtain their mailing addresses as well as content information about individual issues. I looked up the Association for the Study of Connecticut History and found it was located at Emerson College on Beacon Street in Boston in the Fall 1994. It is only available at the Allen County Library. When I looked up the Connecticut Maple Leaf, I found that it is put out by the French Canadian Genealogical Society. At this point, I don't believe that the Wakemans were French Canadian, but someone they married might have been. It is worth noting for future reference.
Now that you have a list of articles of interest and related information on who publishes them, you have two ways of accessing the desired information. The easiest way is to print out and complete the request form on HeritageQuest Online or at the Allen County Public Library site and send it with the required fees to the Allen County Public Library. Otherwise, if PERSI indicates that the article is available at a local repository, you may be able to visit and make a copy for yourself.
Writing your family history should be an enjoyable project. The story should be interesting and more substantial than just a list of names and dates, so other family members will want to read it. After all, if you spend so much time writing, you want people to read more than just the index of names. Part of the fun of PERSI is that you never know what you may turn up in your search that can turn a somewhat mundane family history into an interesting historical accounting.