All posts by cattaplin

About cattaplin

Researcher, writer, speaker

PERSI: Search Tips Part 1

Now that PERSI (the Periodical Source Index) is now hosted at Allen County Public Library (ACPL), let’s take a look at some search tips for more effective searching.

The starting screen for PERSI.

When you begin your search at PERSI, you will first want to begin with one of the options shown in the above buttons. There are basically four categories: surnames, place, technique, and keyword. Remember, PERSI is not an every name index, so if you search by surname, that name will be the major subject of the article. For our example, we will choose “United States” to get started.

When you click on “United States” you can then further filter your results by choosing a state in the dropdown menu.

State drop-down menu on PERSI.

Then choose a county, if desired. It is not a requirement.

County drown-down menu on PERSI.

Once you have chosen your state and county, you will then be presented with a table of subjects and the number of articles available for that topic.

Subject list for Wood County, Ohio on PERSI.

For our example, we will choose “Court Records,” and see what kind of results we get.

PERSI results for “Court Records” in Wood County, Ohio

Along the top, you can see your waypoints so you can recall what category you are in. We are in USA>OH>Wood County>Court Records. You can also see that you can change the number of results you can see on one screen. It defaults to 10, but it can go up to 100. You can also see the column headings of for the article title, periodical (which includes the volume and issue number), the year published, and the publisher (the genealogical society usually).

If you search by surname, you will only have one level of results. In the example below, I searched for “Taplin” and was reminded of some articles I wrote some time ago.

PERSI search results for Surname>Taplin.

In both of the above examples, you’ll notice that there’s a “search” box above the results table. This will allow you to further search within the current results. Let’s go back to the Wood County, Ohio court records and search for wills.

Wood County, Ohio Court Records, search for wills

There is only one result in Wood County, Ohio with the keyword “will.” This is not any kind of “fuzzy” searching in that it will look for synonyms or similar spellings. If I put the full word “wills” in I will not get any results, because the one article that exists, uses the word “will” not “wills.”

We will take a look at some more search tips again next time.

PERSI Tips: What Kind of Index is it?

The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) began as a print publication in 1986 by the staff at Allen County Public Library (ACPL). ACPL’s collection holds over 8,000 titles of genealogical society journals. PERSI was first published as a 16-volume set covering the years 1847-1985, and then annually. It was also available on microfiche at FHL and CD-ROM through Ancestry.

Print volumes of PERSI, located at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas, photographed by author.

In 1997, Ancestry made PERSI available as a free online database. This was also the last year it was available in print. PERSI has been available for free through HeritageQuest and most recently through Findmypast (FMP). However, the contract with FMP is ending and for reasons not disclosed, ACPL is going to host the index on their own site: https://www.genealogycenter.info/persi/

What kind of index is it? Let me sum up the biggest misunderstanding in one sentence:

PERSI IS NOT AN EVERY NAME INDEX!

The biggest misunderstanding and misuse of PERSI is that users expect to be able to put in their person’s name or even a surname, and find information about that person. That is not how PERSI was indexed. PERSI is a keyword and subject index. The indexers did not index every name in a cemetery transcription published in a local society quarterly. They did not index every name in a transcribed local tax list. They did not index every name published in a military draft list for a county.

To best use PERSI, you need to think in terms of subjects and keywords. If someone is the subject of an article, you will find their name in the index. But if they were among those listed as petition signers, for example, you will not find them.

Over the next several posts, I will share some of my best tips, case studies, examples, and how to obtain copies of the articles, so that you can get the most out of PERSI.

Check out the New PERSI!

If you’ve heard me speak, you may know that I am a huge fan of the Periodical Source Index, or PERSI. This index has been around for a long time, started by the Allen County Public Library, whose indexers indexed nearly all genealogical society quarterlies and journals since the beginning of time. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it truly is nearly accurate. They have been doing small genealogical society publications a great service over the years, making the work of the local researchers and writers more accessible to researchers far and wide. PERSI has taken may forms over the years from a printed publication to a set of CD-ROMs to microfiche to an online index. Most recently it has been housed at Findmypast.

ACPL – Creator of PERSI

I attended a webinar yesterday put on by the Allen County Public Library sharing the new version of PERSI which will be housed on their website. The presenter made the point several times that one of the benefits of this is so that PERSI would be free. However, I want to make a point of correction here. PERSI has always been free. At Findmypast, you did need a login (set up a username and password), but no credit card was required to do that. You could access PERSI for free at Findmypast. There were a few features you could not access such as the full ACPL call number, volume number, or digital image if it were available. You were able to find titles of articles, authors, journal titles, and years of publication. Everything you needed to access the article, all for free. Not that it matters now, but I want to give credit where credit is due.

Over the years, as I’ve presented my lecture about PERSI, I have often had to dispel the myth that it was not free at Findmypast. I guess because it was housed at a company everyone thought you had to pay for it. I have a secret I want to share: nearly every website has some number of free databases you can access without paying for a subscription. PERSI was one of those at Findmypast.

The link to the new PERSI is: https://www.genealogycenter.info/persi/

The presenter stated that they are still working out some of the kinks and soon there will be a button for PERSI on the main database page. For now, you will find the link to PERSI at the bottom footer of the page for any of their other free database pages. Or you can just bookmark the link above.

The NEW PERSI homepage at ACPL.

I wanted to first share the link and a screenshot of the new PERSI website. Over the next several weeks I will share some of the details and reiterate some of my favorite tips for working with PERSI to get the most out of it for your research.

NGSQ Study Groups for 2022

Can you believe it is only a couple of weeks away until 2022? I can’t. This year has gone so slowly that I’m shocked to find us at the end of it.

Our NGSQ (National Genealogical Society Quarterly) study groups are forming for 2022 and we still have a few seats left! These discussions are run by Cyndi Ingle (of Cyndi’s List) and myself and between the two of us, we offer 4 different time slots.

We have worksheets that help us breakdown and discuss the articles. Also, each month you get 5-6 unique questions for that particular article to help lead the discussion. We focus on principles found in the book Mastering Genealogical Proof so we are covering the elements of the Genealogical Proof Standard from each article. We also host private Facebook Groups to facilitate discussion between sessions.

You can find more information and sign up at this page: https://genealogypants.com/research-and-consultation-services/classes-and-study-groups/

Just click on the section you are interested in to get more details.

We will be sending out more information to those of you who have signed up very soon. We hope to see you in 2022!

Preparing for a Research Trip: Research Plans

There are a variety of ways you can construct a research plan and log. Often these are taught and discussed as two separate items. However, these can be one document that is keyword searchable if you use a computer program. Popular computer programs for creating research plans and logs are: spreadsheets (Excel or Numbers), word processors using tables (Word or Pages), and note-taking software such as Evernote, One Note, or Scrivener. Of course, this is a personal preference and you may be most comfortable with paper and pencil.

Why is a research plan/log important? 

  • To be efficient with your limited time in a repository, cemetery, or with family members.
  • To keep track of what you’ve researched so you don’t unnecessarily duplicate your work.
  • To keep any notes about your search results organized.
  • To gather citation information.

Months or years later, you can search these plans/logs for more research clues or to be sure you don’t examine the same source twice, or to know if you need to go back and search for new information (perhaps you’ve discovered a new surname since the last time you looked at a particular book or film).

Consider including the following items in your research plan/log:

  • Date
  • Repository
  • Title of item
  • Call number or film number
  • Names/Info searches
  • Search results
  • Other comments

A research plan and log should allow you to see what you’ve done, let you see where you should or shouldn’t search in the future, and is best if it is keyword searchable such as in a computerized system.

Sample research plan/log

While you are at the repository:

  • Take the time to organize your research findings.
  • If you have time/energy in the evenings, go through your papers/files and be sure they are organized.
  • Process your work as soon as possible. Enter in your database, research log, or other system.

If you wait too long to process your work, and you forget what you were doing, it’s almost as if you never went in the first place. Be sure you record and process what you find.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

Preparing for a Research Trip: Repository Visits

I, for one, cannot wait to get back to researching in various repositories. Seeking out elusive ancestors and learning about history firsthand is so much fun. Here are some tips for taking trips to repositories.

Repository Visit Tips

Before you go to a repository, check the website for maps, location, hours, closures, and parking information. Also, check the rules for what you can bring and/or do while you’re there, and then bring the appropriate items:

  • Can you use your own notebooks or will you be given archive-assigned loose paper?
  • Can you bring in your bags, backpacks, or briefcases or will you be assigned a locker? 
  • Can you use pens or is it pencils only?
  • Is photography allowed?
  • Can you use laptops, tablets?
  • Do you need to request items from storage ahead of time?

Check the online catalog and plan what you want to see specifically. Create a list of call numbers, manuscript names, folder numbers, and/or microfilm numbers. Be sure to ask questions of the archivist or librarian. They often know a lot of information that you might not have been expecting.

What’s in the bag?

  • Don’t forget plugs, chargers, cords, batteries, etc.
  • Change or bills for copies if needed
  • Is there a snack room available? Bring water, snacks, and/or lunch.
  • Flash drives, thumb drives
  • Office supplies: sticky notes, paper clips, folders, sheet protectors, large envelopes
Research room at the Hancock County, Ohio courthouse

Preparing for a Research Trip: Cemetery Tour

Almost every genealogist I know loves visiting a cemetery. I’m known to visit cemeteries even if I don’t have any ancestors buried there. Planning for a cemetery trip can be very important.

Tips for Planning the Cemetery Tour

  • Use maps to plan your tour. I use Google Maps: My Maps. If you have several cemeteries to visit in one area, use Google Maps to create a route for efficiency.
  • Get cemetery hours and sexton or office information ahead of time, if possible.
  • Don’t forget to plan for bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, travel time, and time to get lost.
  • Have a back-up plan if the weather gets bad. If you are doing this in conjunction with a  family visit, try to have a flexible schedule.
Front gate photo, Wellsville Cemetery, Missouri

Cemetery Tour Tips

  • When taking digital photos, take a photo of the front gate sign at the beginning AND the end of the session. This will ensure you attribute the correct cemetery to the correct tombstone.
  • Pay attention to who is buried around your ancestors. Often families bought plots together.
  • If there is a local person around, a sexton, groundskeeper, or office staff, be sure to talk to them. They most likely know something more or have supporting documents.
  • Take good, detailed notes and process your data as soon as possible.

What’s in the bag?

Be sure to pack the following:

  • Camera, reflector
  • Memory Cards
  • Battery back-up (USB), car chargers
  • SOFT brushes
  • Water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray
  • Wear appropriate clothes & shoes (think about weeds, burrs, snakes, bugs, etc)

You never know what kind of obstacles or critters you might encounter in the cemetery. Here are a few that I’ve encountered over the years.

Weeds up past the bumper in South Dakota!
Made a turtle friend in New Hampshire.
Found some deer in Connecticut.
Found ducks in Ohio.
A wild hog warning in Texas.

Preparing for a Research Trip: Family Interviews

As we get together with family, especially over the holidays, this is the perfect time to conduct family interviews. If you have done much research on your family history, you likely have some questions that some older members of your family might be able to answer. What’s more, there might be some great stories you never knew. Getting your family to share stories over the dinner table is so much fun. Be sure to bring a recording device of some kind!

You might also plan to visit more distant family members that you’ve discovered through your research. You may have connected with new DNA cousins and have planned to meet up and share information. These tips will help you prepare:

Tips for Planning the Family Interview:

  • To help jog memories bring: a pedigree chart, family group sheets, any old photos you have on that family line. Having these things in front of you helps bring up memories and stories.
  • Determine the venue for your interview such as a family gathering or a one-on-one setting.
  • Think about who’s invited: if you don’t want too many distractions you might limit the number of people during the interview.
  • How many family members will you visit? Plan with maps if you are unfamiliar with the area and make a schedule.
  • Send a thank-you note when you get home.
A family visit with my grandmother and her family friends. Questions were asked. Stories were shared.

What’s in the bag?

Be sure to bring the following:

  • Recording device, phone app, digital recorder, or notepad & pens/pencils
  • Camera – to photograph photos, documents, and other family artifacts
  • Questions – What do you want to know? Make a list of questions to ask ahead of time, but be sure to be flexible. Also, ask open-ended questions to get more information.
  • DNA kits – you never know when you’ll find someone whose DNA will help with a research project
  • Extras – extension cords, batteries, tripod, plugs, chargers, etc.
  • A small gift or something genealogical to share

Resources for Interviews:

Preparing for a Research Trip: Types of Trips

These last 2 years have been very strange for most of us. I typically traveled several times per year for speaking, institute attendance, or research purposes. As we look toward the future and to a time when traveling safely might resume, let’s explore the ways to prepare for research trips.

There are several types of research trips to prepare for. Each one has similarities and differences. In this blog series we will examine ways to prepare for these:

  • Family Visits to conduct interviews, gather photos & documents or obtain DNA samples
  • Cemetery Tour to visit cemeteries in ancestral or far flung locations
  • Repository Visits to conduct research in libraries, archives, and courthouses
  • “One-Stop” Library such as the Family History Library, Allen County Public Library, or Mid-Continent Public Library
Researching at the Family History Library

With any of these trips you’ll need to consider:

  • Travel such as air, train, bus, or car
  • Hotel, or staying with friends or family
  • Food, groceries, or restaurants
  • and other logistics unique to the area.

Over the next few weeks, we will examine each type of trip including what to bring and how to prepare ahead of time.

Upcoming Events

I just wanted to pause before I start my blog series to let you know of some upcoming speaking events that will be finishing out the year for me.

Clayton Library Friends – Webinar

I will be presenting “Making Molehills out of Mountains: Getting Organized” on Friday October 29 at 2pm CentralClick here for more information.

Genealogical Forum of Oregon Fall Seminar

On Saturday October 30, starting at 9am Pacific I will be presenting on 3 topics:

  • It’s in the Bag: Preparing for a Research Trip
  • How’d You Find That?!? Tips for Locating Obscure or Hidden Records
  • Using Google’s MyMaps as a Research, Analysis & Trip Planning Tool

Click here for more information.

Bay Area Genealogical Society (Texas)

On Friday, November 19, at 7pm Central, I will be presenting “Using Church Records to Find Ancestral Origins.” Click here for more information.

Orange County California Genealogical Society

On Saturday, December 4th at 10am Pacific, I will be presenting two lectures:

  • How’d You Find That?!? Tips for Locating Obscure or Hidden Records
  • Who Lived Next Door? Using the FAN Club

Click here for more information.

I hope you’ll join me at one or more! Happy fall!