Using PERSI Old Style!

September 18, 2020

At Rustic Pathways, the recent OGS virtual fall seminar, OGS editor Sunny Morton spoke on PERSI, the PERiodical Source Index, a project of the Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne, Indiana). This is an online index, now offered through, who provide links to some of the articles digitally. However, an attendee posed the question – what are all those large thick books in the Ohio Genealogical Society library that say “PERSI” on the cover. How quickly the old style is forgotten!

Former OGS Executive Director, Anne Dallas Budd, of Ashland, Ohio, served as the editor of the “PERSI Project” at the Allen County Public Library from 1986 to 1989. The plan was to create a retrospective index of genealogical articles published between 1847 and 1985. These sixteen volumes were published in 1989. In addition, there is an annual publication beginning in 1986 and running through 1997. They are split into two indexes, one geographical entitled “Places” and the other by surname called “Families”.

The index technically includes periodicals worldwide but the concentration is definitely on the United States and Canada. Articles may be tagged by location, record type, surname, subject, and if a how-to article. This is not an every name index but a subject index. The rule used to be that the article had to be at least eight lines long to get an entry. They did not include queries, charts, society news, book reviews, or surname newsletters.

Still the coverage is extensive – 11,000 periodicals including over 3,000 that are now defunct, listing 2.7 million subject entries under 22 basic subject headings. PERSI was first made available to the public in print and microfiche format. then produced a CD and later a database. The project later went to Heritage Quest and in 2014 to where it may be searched today. The index is free but a fee is charged to bring up digital images for those periodicals that have been scanned. The ACPL also offers a $7.50 copy service which covers up to six articles (PLUS 20 cents per page). They provide an invoice with the photocopies. Request the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) Order Form.

The Findmypast product and PERSI are available in the Ellis Computer Lab at the OGS library, but we encourage you to take a glance at that original published series. Something is to be said for the advantages of simply browsing through the list of all references to your surname or to a given geographical locale. Many times, the online user is limited by what is entered into the search box and not everything is found. We often stumble upon the answers in genealogy, although hopefully our research methodology led us to PERSI in the first place. Yes, OGS publications and our OGS chapter publications are indexed in PERSI.

PERSI is certainly something old but it just may be a new tool for many of you!

Tom Neel, OGS Library Director