Tag Archives: research

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.

Research in the Equality State: Online Card Catalogs

If you haven’t used the card catalog feature on a few of the main genealogical sites we all might use every day, let me take this moment in Wyoming research to demonstrate it. Main of the big genealogy sites have this feature but I have found that over the years, not many know about it or use it. I’ll show both Ancestry and FamilySearch’s card catalogs today, but be on the lookout for a similar feature on other sites.

At Ancestry, you can find the Card Catalog under the Search Tab:

Ancestry’s Card Catalog

Once your in the card catalog, you can filter your results by using the options on the left. For this example, I have filtered by “USA” and “Wyoming:

You can further filter by the county, record category etc. This will help you see more quickly databases, record sets, and sources that Ancestry has for Wyoming specifically.

Similarly, at FamilySearch, you can also search the “Catalog.” From the home screen, it can be found under the Search tab:

FamilySearch’s Catalog

From this screen, you will see options to search by Place, Surnames, Titles, Author, Subject, and Keywords. Most of the time, I find I use the Place search.

FamilySearch’s Catalog

You can start your search broadly by typing in “Wyoming”:

FamilySearch’s Catalog

From there you can see all of the options that are at the state level, or you can click on “Places within United States, Wyoming” and see a list of counties:

FamilySearch’s Catalog – Wyoming
FamilySearch’s Catalog – Wyoming Counties List

Once you’ve picked a county, you can see what records they have for Albany County land records:

FamilySearch – Albany County Land Records in the Catalog

From there, it is almost like the “old days” of scrolling through microfilm, except you are at home. (Of course, there are some digitized films that must be looked at while at a Family History Center or Affiliate library due to contract restrictions.)

FamilySearch Catalog Entry for Deeds
FamilySearch Deed Index for Albany County

So, if I want to look up any deeds for Susan Baily, I can start “scrolling” or clicking and find the B entries in this index and then find the deed.

Using the card catalog allows me to be more thorough and intentional with my research. If you are just using the global search function from the front page of any of these large genealogical sites, you are probably missing a lot of records. Give the card catalog a look.

Research in the Equality State: Migration and Transportation

Wyoming may be largely made up of wide-open spaces, but there are several important migration routes and transportation events. I’m going to cover five migration routes:

  • Bozeman Trail – connected the gold rush areas of Montana to the Oregon Trail
  • Oregon Trail – from western Missouri into the Rockies and on to Oregon City
  • California Trail – from western Missouri across the Rockies into the California Gold Fields
  • Mormon Trail – from Nauvoo, Illinois to Nebraska and on to Salt Lake City and beyond to California
  • Chisholm Trail – branch that ended in Cheyenne and joined the Oregon, Mormon, or California Trails

Rivers served as migration and settlement points. The North Platte River and the Sweetwater, a long tributary of the North Platte, are part of the Mississippi river system and the water eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico. These two rivers are along the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails. They offered important water for explorers and settlers. Wyoming is a very dry state (I could never seem to drink enough water!) It was imperative for explorers and settlers to stay near water sources.

Image by “Shannon1” permission by Creative Commons license (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:North_Platte_basin_map.png : viewed Aug 2021).

The railroad played an important role in the expansion and settlement of the state of Wyoming. The Union Pacific Railroad was vital in that it financed town-building across the state. The railroad fostered economic growth not only for itself but also for the state of Wyoming. It helped move livestock out, and other goods in to the state. When coal was discovered in southwest corner of the state, it powered the railroad while the railroad also moved coal out of the state to sell to other regions and consumers.

Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act, 1 July 1862. This act created the Union Pacific (UP), and subsidized the UP and the Central Pacific by granting 10-square mile sections of land for each mile of track laid. In 1864, the second Pacific Railway Act doubled the land grant to 20 square miles and also gave mineral rights to the railroad. The sales of this land then paid for the building of the railroad. The pounding of the Golden Spike on 10 May 1869 at Promontory Summit, Utah, connected the railroad from the Atlantic to the Pacific. This opened trade and transportation to and from farther locations. This made Wyoming much more accessible for settlement. Transportation by train was more preferable to wagon trains.

The ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). By Andrew J. Russell – Yale University Libraries, Public Domain.

Next we will look at land in Wyoming. There’s plenty of it… mostly filled with sheep and sagebrush.

Research in the Equality State: Background & History

I’m going to start a new series with this post, about researching in one of my favorite states: Wyoming. We moved to Wyoming from Ohio when I was 14. I went to high school and college there. I met my husband there. He was born there. And now, my daughter is about to start attending the University of Wyoming this semester. So, Wyoming is a special place for me and my family. I also created a locality guide for the state (I don’t recommend doing a guide for an entire state, but that’s another story.)

Wyoming is a state with a lot of firsts for women, giving it the title “The Equality State”:

  • Esther Hobart Morris – first female Justice of the Peace, served in South Pass City, Feb. 1870
  • Mrs. Louisa Swain, first woman to vote in the nation in Laramie, 1870
  • Estelle Reel became the first woman elected to a state office, 1894
  • Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross, first elected female governor in the United States, 1924
Esther Hobart Morris, first female Justice of the Peace, Library of Congress image in the Public Domain.

Most of the Wyoming’s land was acquired by the US through the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Most of the southern portion of modern-day Wyoming was claimed by Spain and Mexico until the 1830s but there was no real presence by them in the area at that time. The Oregon Territory claimed a western portion. There was also a little bit that was part of Texas.

“The Territorial Acquisitions,” The National Atlas of the United States, digital image (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Territorial_Acquisitions.png)

The first known explorer to Wyoming was John Colter in 1807. Later, he was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He first wrote about the geological features in what is now Yellowstone National Park. In 1812, South Pass was discovered by a party of men returning from Astoria, Oregon. This important route would later be used by the Oregon Trail, the Union Pacific Railroad, and eventually become Interstate 80 that runs along the south part of Wyoming from east to west.

When traveling from my home in Colorado to Salt Lake City to visit the Family History Library, I drive across I-80. There is a lot of flat nothing much out there. I often find myself wondering about those first explorers and what they must have thought about that landscape as they traveled across it. By car it takes me about 7 hours to get to Salt Lake City. It would have taken many days by horse, wagon, or walking. Plenty of time to think about life while crossing the state!

We will explore important migration and transportation routes next week.

Five Goals You Should Set for 2020: Part 4, Research Goals

If you are like me, a busy schedule usually pushes personal research aside. And if you’re like me, you get tired of not getting a chance to work on your own genealogy! It is the reason I got into all of this in the first place! Well, this year, let’s set a goal to give ourselves permission to take a little time for ourselves and do some of our own research again!

A few times last year, I gave myself permission to work on my own research on a IMG_3939particular day of the week. Now, I was not able to be super consistent with it, but it was so nice when I was able to just put work aside and do some research for myself. It was refreshing, revitalizing, and fun. Those times have convinced me to make this a more consistent part of my routine. My schedule is just hectic enough that I’ll have to make this plan on a week by week basis, but I use the Full Focus Planner (mentioned in previous posts, but any planner will work) and plan my week on Sunday night or Monday morning. So, I will figure out where I can do 2 or 3 hours of my own research each week.

I recently found a post by Janine Adams who is doing a 30×30 challenge this month. I will be in Salt Lake City at SLIG for two weeks, so I’m considering doing this in February. The idea is to do 30 minutes of genealogy research for 30 days. I think the timing doesn’t matter. If you want to do it in October, go for it. But I really like the idea of giving yourself permission to do your own research for a particular amount of time.

A few months ago I turned in my Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) renewal portfolio (yes it has been five years! and I’m still waiting to hear the results, keep your fingers and toes crossed!) and since that project is complete, I want to move on to some family lines that I have neglected. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I want to work on identifying some of my German ancestors. So, my plan is to pick up a couple of those lines and get to work!

You might take an inventory of the research you’ve completed, where you’ve gotten stuck, where your interests lie (some of those ancestors really call to us to work on them), or where you just haven’t worked on your tree much. Decide on a line or two to work on. Pick something meaningful.

Are you one of those people who have gotten so busy with genealogy work (volunteer or paid) that you don’t often have time to work on your own research? Have you figured out any tips for getting through this? Let’s work on this together this year! Let’s feel the joy again!

FGS Conference Events, Register by Friday!

I am so excited to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Conference in Washington DC, August 21-24. Registration ends this Friday, August 2nd so get registered!

There is still room at the conference hotel (Omni Shoreham) for an incredible $169 (a steal for D.C.) which is good for a few days before and after the conference (see the conference website for complete details). If you want to do some research at the Library of Congress, the Daughters of the American Revolution library, or the National Archives, this is a fantastic opportunity! If you have never been to one of these repositories, there are several guided tours that still have space available, as well as a tour of the National Museum of African American History & Culture. Check this page for more information.

In addition, this conference is different from previous FGS conferences. The society management topics are woven throughout the entire 4-day conference allowing you more choices in each time slot.

The Friday night event sounds fantastic, “Swing Back to the 30s with Your Ancestors” where you can represent one of your 1930s ancestors with live jazz playing in the background! Personally, I am excited for some of the luncheon speakers! There are still a few tickets left for those as well.

I will be speaking on Thursday, once on the society management topic “Create an Attractive Education Plan for Your Society” (T-217), once on research methodology “Unfamiliar Territory: Researching in a New (to you) Geographic Area” (T-232), and I’ll be participating in “Ask FGS! Panel with FGS Leaders” (T-247) with other members of FGS leadership.

This incredible opportunity is coming up quickly and I hope to see you there!

Thoughts About Online Trees

IMG_3012In our time as genealogists, we have probably uploaded a GEDCOM file or two (or a dozen). It seems that every month a new site (or an old one) has a system for uploading and managing your family tree on their website. The most popular site today for building a tree is probably Ancestry.com. There are others:

Each of these has their advantages. Ancestry.com probably has the best system for locating hints from their databases as seen by the “shaky” leaves that appear. FamilySearch’s Family Tree is more like a wiki where you don’t actually “own” the individuals in the tree but instead collaborate with other researchers and have the ability to have discussions or post proof arguments.

Family information didn’t trickle down the family tree evenly. My cousins probably know more about my Businger ancestors than I do because they lived nearby whereas my branch of the family moved “out west.” They most likely have more family photographs and papers than I do stored in their attics or basements. I happen to have a lot of information on my Miller ancestors simply due to the relationships formed and the relatively small “competition” pool to get old photos and papers (there’s me, my brother, and our one cousin Andy). However, think about those families not so many generations ago that bore eight, ten, twelve, or more children. There were a lot of children to pass these treasures down to, and it didn’t all flow evenly. If there was a rift in the family, these artifacts may have followed one line only. If there was estrangement, these might have gone to a family friend, or not have been saved at all.

Just like family information, online trees today are not all located on one site. Some people only put their tree up in one location. I happen to have mine in a few, but not “all” of them. Posting your tree online can be an exceptional research tool, especially if you are looking for collaborators; people who may have been on that side of the family tree where the information flowed more fully. By posting your tree online, and in several locations, you can cast a wider net and reach more potential cousins who are researching the same or connected family lines.

I have a few ideas on what I think are some best practices for posting your tree online:

  • Make sure your email address or other contact information is up-to-date. You could even include your social media contacts if you have them, your Facebook profile, Twitter handle, or other social media of your choice.
  • Make sure you keep your tree at least moderately updated. The problem with having many trees online is that there is not an easy way to keep them all updated at the same time, no syncing across sites. If you are not doing any attaching of documents like what happens at Ancestry.com, you could simply delete an old tree and upload a new GEDCOM periodically. However, I don’t recommend this if you do a lot of attaching from the host site. One solution: you can post a “skeleton” tree with basic information in order to “catch” those collaborators, then invite them to your better tree, wherever that is hosted, once you’ve made contact.
  • Attach as many source citations to your trees as possible. If you keep one main tree and then post skeleton trees to a variety of sites, make some mention of this in your profile information. Something like “This tree does not contain many sources, but if there is a name or family group you are interested in, please contact me for more information.” This will at least let them know that there are sources available.
  • There are other more obvious “rules” I like to follow such as not posting personal information of my living relatives, not spreading gossip or rumors about living people, or the recently deceased, and not copying the trees or work of others without their permission (and I mean by asking them directly, not just clicking “add to my tree” because of the “well, if it is out there, they must not mind sharing” attitude to sharing.

If you do not know how to make what I call a “skeleton” GEDCOM file, I recommend reading some of the help files and/or video tutorials that came with your genealogical software. But in a nutshell, there is usually a way to mark a line of people you’d like to create a GEDCOM for. For example, if I only want to post a tree for my Kindervater ancestors, I can choose to begin with one particular person and then in Reunion (for Mac) there is a command to mark all ancestors of said person, and I can also choose whether to include all children or not, all spouses or not, etc. What you choose here will create a larger or smaller file to post.

These are just some thoughts I have about online trees. I have been working on a project trying to identify the parents of a female ancestor. I have been combing through many online trees, most of which have no sources and appear to repeat the same information that I am not sure is correct. It is a lot of time-consuming work. Most trees have no sources, they don’t all have working emails, and not everyone responds to emails when they are working. Online trees can offer many useful clues and hints and send you in directions you may not have known to go, and perhaps some of the people posting these trees online were on the side of the family tree where the information flowed down more freely than mine. I will keep investigating.

Some helpful articles or resources I found online:

http://lisalouisecooke.com/tag/online-family-tree/

http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2014/10/01/6-tips-to-get-your-family-tree-off-to-a-good-start/

http://enchantedfamily.com/blog/family-tree-tips/

http://www.archives.com/experts/breland-claudia/online-family-trees.html

http://www.cyndislist.com/family-trees/online-family-trees/

*I love the Find My Past site a lot, and it is growing on me more and more with every addition and update. This is the only like of which I am an affiliate. If you click through this link and sign up with Find My Past, I will get a small amount of compensation. This is one of the ways I try to supplement my income and to allow me to provide educational opportunities for low cost. Many of the things I do are pro-bono. So consider using an affiliate link (from me or any other generous genealogists who are in the same boat I am).
**Please know that I am not affiliated with any of the other above links and do not receive any compensation from them when you click on their links.

How I Got Started

photo-13I recently had a reader ask me how I got started, more specifically, where I took my first genealogy class. So here is a quick summary of my genealogical education.

I have always enjoyed research. In college I was an art major and spent a semester as a research assistant for my art history professor. It was a blast. Also, I was one of those weird kids who was delighted every time a research paper was assigned in class. I love being in libraries and archives and this is probably one of the aspects of genealogy that drew me in.

When my first child was born in 2000, I felt myself losing brain cells. There’s only so much Sesame Street and Bob the Builder one can take in a day before their vocabulary is reduced to one-syllable words. As a stay-at-home mom I needed an outlet, some place where I could hang out with and converse with adults that also had a purpose. I had been dabbling in genealogy for a little while by this point so I found a local genealogical society and joined. (Hi Boulder Genealogical Society!)

A genealogical society usually offers lectures, classes, regional conferences and other people with experience from whom you can ask questions and grow as a genealogist. At the society I attended, I learned about genealogical methods, records, and other topics as well as about conferences and classes I could attend. Shortly after this I attended my first national conference in 2003. A national conference has the benefit of having a lot of lectures to choose from on a large variety of topics. You can also meet other people who are also researching their family history and begin a wider network of genealogists.

As for actual classes, I attended any regional conference that came my way. I begin in the Denver-metro area and there were many active genealogical societies who brought in a lot of high-caliber genealogists. I also began attending week-long institutes that focus on one topic for an entire week. And now I have found many online opportunities such as free or for-pay webinars that I enjoy attending in my sweat-pants and slippers in the comfort of my own home. I wrote a series of blog posts about these institutes which can be read here.

Other educational pieces I’ve done are:

So in a nutshell, that’s how I got started … and kept going … and am still doing. I enjoy all aspects of genealogy from the research to teaching to attending classes to writing.

What I Don’t Know, Part 11: That’s a lot of stuff I don’t know!

Ok, so this is really just a follow-up. Remember in the post on military records, I said that the information about Franklin Dimick being a Justice of the Peace led to some interesting information. Well, this is that story.

Sometimes I begin with this, sometimes I remember to do it later. But sometimes, I do a straight up Google search with the name I’m researching in quotes. Sanders Scroggins, Jeduthan Dimick and Franklin Dimick are such unique names I did just that. They didn’t turn up much except when I decided to look more into the fact that Franklin was a Justice of the Peace. A Google search for “franklin dimick” “justice of the peace” turned up a county history I hadn’t found before when searching for Hardin County histories.

2014-03-31 11.15.03 pm

The first entry, “Memoirs of the lower Ohio valley: personal and genealogical…” leads to a Google Book. This is a full digitized version of that county history and gives biographical sketches for two of Franklin’s sons and discusses details about Franklin’s origins.

That was quite a long journey through records you can locate on the Internet (and I’m sure I missed many) in a short amount of time. One of my next steps is to begin writing up a biographical sketch of the research subjects. This is one of the quickest ways to highlight any holes in your research and where you might need to do more to strengthen your proof.

2014-03-31 11.22.48 pm

I hope this series helped you learn more about distance research, what can be done online and in a short amount of time, and about Illinois research.