Tag Archives: index

PERSI: Search Tips Part 2

One of the ways I love to use PERSI is for looking for articles in a particular journal. I often would find myself in a smaller public library with a genealogy and local history section, and find that they would have a run of a a particular journal, or several. Many genealogical society journals provide an index, annually. They very rarely combine them into one larger index. So, you have to pull out each annual index and look for your item, subject, name, or keyword of interest…for EVERY year, for as long as that journal has been in publication.

If you read last week’s blog, you know how to get a set of results for a geographic area, with a keyword or subject. Once you’ve done that, you can then search those results by the journal title. Let’s look at this example. I was sitting in the Clayton Library in Houston (a fantastic genealogical library with one of my favorite librarians, hi Sue!), and I noticed that they had a run of the journal Saga of Southern Illinois which covers Hardin County, where I had some collateral ancestors move off to. I wanted to check that journal for a variety of topics, but didn’t want to sit there and pull out each volume to check its index. Instead, PERSI can help with this.

First, use the “United States” button and narrow down to which state you are looking for, in this case Illinois.

PERSI’s category buttons

I personally like to leave it at the state level for this kind of search, but you could narrow your search down to a particular county if you wish. From the topics list, I choose the one that most closely covers what I am looking for. In this example let’s choose “Cemeteries.”

PERSI categories for Illinois

You can see that there are 5,861 articles relating to cemeteries in Illinois in PERSI. Let’s narrow that down now by the journal title. The results are in a table with the following headers: Article Title, Periodical, Year Published, and Publisher. If you know the title, you’ll want to use that to narrow this down, if you know the genealogical society, you could use that as well. I’m going to use the title “Saga of Southern Illinois” or just “saga” to narrow these results.

PERSI results for “cemeteries” in Illinois

Type the word “saga” in that search box (red arrow pointing at it above).

PERSI Results filtered by the word “Saga”

Putting a word in the search box filters the results you already have by that search word. This is a text search only and there’s no way to say “I only want to look at periodicals with this word.” So, if a title of an article has the word “saga” in it, that will come up too. However, you can see that most of the results are from the journal Saga of Southern Illinois. You can also see that the results are now at 216 entries instead of 5,861. Much easier. There is no way to do a second filtering. Say I wanted to see all articles in Saga about Browning Hill Cemetery. It won’t let you do a second filtering. However, you could get creative with your searching and perhaps do your initial filter by Hardin County only and then search for “Browning Hill” in the search box.

I use this technique when I have the journals at hand and want a more efficient index to use or I know I want an article from a particular publication. Since PERSI is not an every name index, you may still decide to look at those annual journal indexes for your ancestors, but using PERSI this way can cut down on some of your research time and make your library visits more efficient.

Next week we will look at some ways to get copies of the articles once you’ve found them in PERSI.

Census Hurdles – Searching Tips and Tricks

2013-10-07 03.46.42 pmAfter our tour through some of my favorite census hurdles, let me sum up with some of my corresponding tricks for dealing with them.

Language Barriers
Think in terms of thick accents and how the names may have sounded.

SOLUTION: Create a list of all possible spellings of your name to use when searching.

While you may know exactly how your ancestor’s name was spelled, the census takers and indexers did not. They did the best they could.

SOLUTION: Keep an open mind about how names were spelled in both the census and the census index.

Indexing Errors
Hard-to-read handwriting & typos

SOLUTION:  Learn about old handwriting. Read a lot of old handwriting. Look at tutorials, articles and examples on old handwriting. Be sure to make “corrections” at Ancestry.com using the “add alternate information” link.

Quality of Information Given
How do we know who gave the information and how accurate it is? We don’t.

SOLUTION:  Take every bit of information from the census as a clue, not the truth. Always, always, always corroborate census data with other research. Back up your findings with birth, marriage, death, land records and other research.

Microfilming Errors
Did all of the pages get microfilmed?

SOLUTION:  Pay attention to the page numbers in the upper corners of the census records. If there are missing pages, you can write to the National Archives for missing pages.

Are the images readable?

SOLUTION:  Not much can be done here. You may have some luck with putting the image into a photo editing software and adjusting the brightness and contrast. Also looking at the images in the negative can be helpful.

Some other things you can do to make your census research more successful:

  • Use indexes but do not rely solely on them, as we’ve seen, there are errors.
  • Make a list of spelling variations. Write down every way you can think of that the surname could be written. Write down every way you find it indexed.
  • Read the census line by line for a given district if you are sure they should be there and you can’t find them in the index.
  • Learn about old-style handwriting. You can learn a lot about this by volunteering your time as an indexer through FamilySearch Indexing.
  • Corroborate census info with other research.
  • Don’t give up. Just because you don’t find them in an index doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Get creative with your searches.

I hope this series has given some ideas of what our ancestors, census takers, indexers, microfilmers, and researchers have to deal with during each step of the process. Between when the census taker stepped foot on our ancestors’ doors to these census indexes and images displaying on our computer screens many potential mistakes could have been made. Keep in mind the reasons, try to imagine the situation, and be creative in searching and you will have more success using census records.