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Allen County Public Library and PERSI

Finding articles written about one of your ancestors, they area where they lived, cemetery records, bible records and more is easy with a wonderful indexing service provided by the Allen County Public Library.


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The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana houses one of the largest genealogy collections in the country. According to its website, the library houses 350,000 printed volumes and 513,000 items on microfilm and microfiche, and the collection is growing daily. Also, they are a cooperating partner with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, so have access to all of the FHL holdings.

Naturally, the collection has a huge concentration of Indiana materials, but the library does not, by any means, limit the collection to only Indiana. For example, it has all U. S. Federal census records, indexes, mortality schedules, veterans schedules, etc. It also has all U. S. state & territory censuses, including those for California, New York, Oregon and many more. The holdings also include almost 50,000 R. L. Polk City Directories.

One of the major undertakings by the staff of the library's Genealogy Center, and the subject of today's article, is the Periodical Source Index – commonly referred to as PERSI. PERSI is the "largest subject index to genealogical and historical articles in the world," according the ACPL website. The library has over 5,000 periodicals in its collection, covering the 1800s to the present, with some dating back as far as the 1700s. The index covers periodicals in English and French (Canada). The index does not, however, cite every name mentioned in the articles, only those in the title.

So, how does this help us in our genealogical pursuit? As we all know, when researching an ancestor, finding every possible scrap of information about that person, the places where they lived, and the time frame in which they lived helps us to bring our ancestor "to life." Finding if anyone else has written about our ancestors can help us find sources or information we may not have been able to find on our own. PERSI can help us do that. Someone may have already written an article about our family, the place where they lived, or transcribed vital records from the churches in the area, to name just a few of the possibilities. Okay, so we need to check the PERSI index – how do we do that if we can't get to Fort Wayne, Indiana?

Fortunately, PERSI is available online on and in most major Libraries, through HeritageQuest. Many libraries will allow valid library card holders to access HeritageQuest at home on their own computers, through the library website. You can search the index either for "People" or "Places." I have used the index on both Ancestry and HeritageQuest and, I must say, I prefer the HeritageQuest format, but either will work.

Let's look at a couple of examples from my own family. Using HeritageQuest, remotely, through my local library, I searched for articles pertaining to my ancestors who lived in Greene County, New York. Several of my searches turned up negative results, such as "Youngs – War of 1812"; "Youngs – Greene County, New York"; and "Covey – Greene County, New York." Keep in mind that the index only covers the titles of articles, so the negative results only mean that no articles on those families have been covered in the periodical holdings of Allen County Library.

Next, I broadened the search to surnames only. A search under "People" for the name COVEY, resulted in 39 hits. One of them interests me, "Covey Family, NY", published in "Nyando Roots". Massena, NY, Jul 1990. Vol. 7, Iss. 3. Clicking on the title of the article brought me to another page where I clicked on the title of the periodical. This page gave me the PERSI code I need to order a copy of the article. It also listed the known repositories where the periodical is held. In this case there were two repositories – Allen County Public Library and the Library of Congress.

I then decided to do a "Place" search for articles on Greene County, New York. This brought up 424 hits – more than I wanted to deal with. A drop down box at the bottom of the search page allowed me to narrow the results by type of record. I chose "Church records" which brought the results down to a manageable 58 hits. Doing an even narrower search of State: New York, County: Greene, Key Word: New Baltimore gave me 8 hits.

Now that I have the title of an article I am interested in, how do I get a copy? Articles can be ordered from the Allen County Public Library. You must use their order form, which you can download from the website. You can order up to and including six articles per order form for $7.50. Each page copied costs $.20, which is billed after you receive the copies. If the periodical is held at other repositories (which you found on the index), you may be able to contact them and order copies through them. Sometimes this is cheaper than ordering through the Allen County Public Library.

PERSI can also be purchased in CD format. A quick check of showed three used copies, each in the $50 range.

Finding articles on your family, the places they lived, and events surrounding their lives is a great way to "flesh out" ancestors. They may also lead you to other sources to check. PERSI is an excellent resource for genealogists.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2010.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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