Southern California Genealogical Society

Back to Basics: Join the PERSI Generation
By Barbara McKinlay

PERSI is the "Periodical Source Index" created by the Allen County Library in Indiana. It provides a highway into hundreds of genealogical publications.

It is indexed by family name, subject and locality, and is available in nearly all major genealogical libraries. It is also on CD-ROM. If you locate a reference and cannot find the periodical, the Allen County Library will copy it for you for a fee.

Nearly always, there would be an article just for beginners (me!), which I devoured. When I first started working as a volunteer at the old SCGS library in Glendale, they had a rack where they put all the latest periodicals. After shelving books and doing what other jobs I had been given, I always gravitated to that rack and looked at those publications. Since they repre-sented places all over the United States, obviously, my family lines were not directly related to many of them

But I learned so much. Nearly always, there would be an article just for beginners (me!), which I devoured. Then, there would be queries reflecting many surnames, and one of those might belong to me. There were lists of marriages, deaths and births, as well as pedigree charts. Frequently, there was a book review of a recently published genealogy or reference book.

Some of them were handsome and professional-looking. Others were not many pages, rolled out on a mimeograph machine. Some were good, and some were not so good, but they helped to form my elementary genealogy schooling.

The articles in periodicals usually represent both the area they come from and the interests of the members of the genealogical society; consequently, they may have a fine article about a family from New England or Pennsylvania or Nova Scotia, probably written by a member whose family had originated in one of those places.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up a periodical from a coastal community--Santa Cruz, I think--and discovered an article about a soon-to-be-published book about the Caperton family. This was a major part of my father’s family, who were in Virginia and West Virginia. I began a long correspondence with the author, Bernard Caperton, and was able to supply him with some information he did not have--and he was able to give me several generations that I did not have!

One of the most helpful things a beginner can do is to find out if there is a historical or genealogical society in the area of his research. By joining the society, you automatically receive their publication, and are privy to published help, as well as help from members of the group. The public library in the area can tell you if there is a genealogical society, and there are published sources for this information, too. For example, the Genealogical Helper once a year has a list of periodicals. The “Handy Book” also lists them under each state and country. If you decide not to subscribe, then make it your business to go to a library that has a good periodical collection and spend some of your research time looking at what is there. The SCGS Library and the Los Angeles Public Library both have excellent collections.

Nearly all of the publications have a query sections. One of the things that I have never understood is the reluctance of people to use queries. I don’t know how it is now, but I know in the past, the editor of The Searcher had to beat the bushes to get even a handful of queries. The Internet certainly is a huge query publisher, too, but if you are a Searcher subscriber, it’s another way to ferret out information. Going through old issues of the Genealogical Helper or a Genealogical Helper or a local publication, is also worth investigation. There are also other references to periodicals.

  • "Index to Genealogical Periodicals," Donald Lines Jacobus.
  • "Annual Index to Genealogical Periodicals and Family Histories," Inez B. Waldenmaier.
  • "Genealogical Periodical Annual Index".

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