Inside Sources: Periodical Source Index

By Rick Crume Premium

Periodicals are treasure troves of transcribed records, carefully researched family histories and genealogical case studies. Some of the thousands of genealogical and historical periodicals published in the last two centuries just might mention your ancestors. And the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), an enormous subject index created by the Allen County Public Library (ACPL) <> in Fort Wayne, Ind., helps you find those articles in a flash.

The ACPL first published PERSI in a series of printed volumes. Online and CD versions followed, making the index much more affordable and easier to use. Now the ACPL is collaborating with online-content provider ProQuest to make PERSI an even more valuable tool. In 2004, ProQuest released a version of PERSI on HeritageQuest Online <>. It contains more than 1.6 million citations to articles in 6,500-plus titles published in English or in French (Canadian periodicals only) and dating back to 1800. The index is updated annually.

If you’ve searched PERSI in the past, you probably wonder what’s special about HeritageQuest Online’s version. After all, < > also offers an online version of PERSI, which you don’t have to find a subscribing institution to access. To begin with, searches on HeritageQuest Online turn up more spelling variations, including plurals. HeritageQuest Online’s version is more up-to-date, too. But the really exciting part will come when HeritageQuest Online begins linking PERSI citations to digital images of the articles (no specific date has been announced). You’ll be able to view the original articles right on your computer screen, instead of having to send for photocopies from the ACPL. Libraries will have to subscribe to a premium service in order to get access to the digital images.

You can search PERSI by surname, place name, how-to topic or periodical title. When searching on a common last name, add a place-name keyword to your query to reel in the most relevant results. Usually, searching on a state’s full name doesn’t work, so be sure to use its two-digit postal abbreviation instead. HeritageQuest Online’s version of PERSI lets you use wildcards and Boolean operators (such as and and or) in your search. And its list of journal publishers conveniently shows which volumes and issues have been indexed.

PERSI citations include the article’s title and the name and date of the periodical in which it appeared. That’s enough information to find the article, but it’d be nice if citations included authors’ names and page numbers, too. You can request photocopies of up to six articles at a time for $7.50, plus 20 cents per copied page, from the ACPL. (Find out if your local library subscribes to the journals or can borrow them on interlibrary loan. That might be cheaper than getting copies from the ACPL.)

HeritageQuest Online is available through subscribing institutions, so check with your library. Your library card will get you free access on site and possibly from home (if the library purchases remote access). PERSI is no longer available through Ancestry Library Edition, an institutional version of’s databases.
From the September 2005 Family Tree Sourcebook