Is your genealogy research stuck? Use PERSI to find publications and articles to help you find your ancestors.

How To Use PERSI To Improve Your Genealogy Research


I am always excited to receive questions about learning more our ancestors beyond just the facts.  Initially, genealogists look for the birth, marriage and death dates of ancestors. That’s a good thing.

But, somewhere along the way, our research gets stuck. No more tradtional records can be found and brick walls spring up. We need to know more about our ancestors and the lives of those around them to get our research moving again.  We need to use other sources beyond traditional genealogy records.

PERSI is a potent tool for the genealogy researcher. The PERiodical Source Index connects researchers to publications and articles to use in their genealogy research.
Lillie Thomas

We need to know things like:

Were they prominent in the community?  

Were they upstanding citizens?

Were they criminals?  

Did they own a plantation or work on a plantation?

We need to find articles written about the community they lived in, too.

Finding that type of information on our ancestors often requires finding and using  family history periodicals.

These include historical articles, genealogical publications, ethnic publications, and even photographs. Finding the publication(s) and article(s) you need requires a finding aid such as PERSI.

Is your genealogy research stuck? Use PERSI to find publications and articles to help you find your ancestors.

How To Use PERSI In Your Genealogy Research

PERSI is the Periodical Source Index and is the locator guide of over 2.5 million publications. FindMyPast hosts the PERSI index (previously found on the Allan County Public Library site). You will need a subscription to the FindMyPast site. (You can try it out with a 14 day free trial.)

When I first started using PERSI, I was so excited I jumped right into searching.

I was not successful. [Insert long sigh…..]

Then I read the directions. [Insert sheepish grin. 😳]

The key to successfully searching PERSI for information pertinent to your ancestors is understanding how PERSI is set up and how to search it.  You want to search PERSI by subject or record type – not by  individual ancestors’ names. The 22 subject headings include biographies, church records, court records, etc.

Let’s get started!

From the FindMyPast homepage, click on the “Search” tab in the top toolbar.

Using PERSI at FindMyPast for genealogy research

You will then see this drop-down and you will click Newspapers & Periodicals.

Using PERSI for genealogy research

You will then come to the PERSI homepage. Click PERSI and fill in your search parameters.  

For example, I am interested in researching my Halifax County, VA  ancestors in the church records there. Information about their religious lives can provide information about the individuals and/or about the community they lived in. Importantly, this information can lead me to other clues on my ancestors.

I entered “Halifax County, Virginia” and “Churches” in the appropriate search boxes.  For now, I just left the Who field blank.

Finding genealogy articles using PERSI

21 results were returned.

Using PERSI for genealogy research

This is just a sampling of the 21 results and includes an address on Baptist history, marriage records, and cemetery records. I have researched extensively in the Halifax County, VA area and all of these are new to me! My genealogy search for my ancestors went from being stuck to having multiple research options with just one search.

[Insert genealogy happy dance here.]

Now……remember…..this is an index.  We still have to find the article.  It’s not hard, I promise.

First, click on the blue icon to the right of the record of interest.  The periodical the article is located in is shown.  In this case, the article I want was published in Volume 4, Issue 2 of the  VA-NC Piedmont Genealogical Society Bulletin/Piedmont Lineages journal.

PERSI for genealogy research

How can I get my hands on that journal? Open WorldCat in a new tab and enter the name of the periodical in the search bar.  

Tip:  Keep WorldCat open in a separate tab any time you are searching PERSI.

Worldcat for genealogy research

Click search.  Turns out my county library has this journal. [I did not know that when I chose this example!]  A 10-minute car ride will get me to this journal and the article.

I can hear your next question…..

“What if the closest repository  with the publication is too far away to travel to?”

Contact your local library and ask about an inter-library loan or if they will make a copy for you. I’ve done this many times, and my local librarians have been happy to help.

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Your Take Away

Pair your PERSI search in FindMyPast with the free site to obtain unique records and publications for furthering your genealogy research.

Have you used PERSI in the past? Are you currently using PERSI in your genealogy research?  In the comments below, I would love to hear what you have found.

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16 thoughts on “How To Use PERSI To Improve Your Genealogy Research”

  1. … so one must first pay for Find My Past before the ‘search’ link appears? I have shelled out so much for these index sites I am about to give up. Was PERSI not freely available before (thru Allen County Library?)

      1. Thanks, Lisa. Thank you for the tips on searching PERSI … I have in the past searched with little success. Mostly, I think my ancestors avoided being mentioned anywhere as much as possible!

    1. I have persi in my files but not used it got my genealogy research. now I plan to do that very thing. thanks for the hint!

  2. Pingback: Researching English Ancestors - Let's Get Started | Are You My Cousin?

  3. Searched in person throughout Halifax for ancestors Davis. I have some records but found it interesting with this latest post on digging in to Halifax County records. I will try to follow your directions. Ruth

    1. Ah yes, I’ve seen the Davis family name in those Halifax County records, though I do not have any ancestors (as yet discovered) by that surname. I do see it appear as a middle name every now and then.

  4. Hi Lisa,
    PERSI may also be available at larger historical societies, such as Historical Society of Pennsylvania, for those who live in the area. And if you know a college student, they may have access at their college library.
    Thanks for all your great tips, I always look forward to reading your articoes.

  5. Ann (Johnson) Faber

    Totally discouraged. The countries I am dealing with are Lithuania, Russia, Germany and Poland. My father’s side is 100% Swedish. Patience gets you a long way with Swedish records. Just wish they would quit changing the names all the time. A baby is born and the last name ends up being a combination of mother and father’s names. Anyway, have not done very much as of late. Cannot get anyplace.

    1. Hang in there, Ann! Eastern European genealogy is tough and an area I am not as familiar with. I plan to attend some lectures on that topic at RootsTech this year. My husband’s family traces back to Eastern Europe.

  6. Does PERSI have Canadian content? Often when you demonstrate a good source I try it and find there is no Canadian info available. It would be nice to know that ahead of time.

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