Saturday was Family History Coaching day at the Central Library. We had two outstanding volunteers from the Alberta Family Histories Society helping customers with their genealogical questions. As usual, the customers were not the only ones learning stuff. The volunteers and I always come away from these sessions with new information. That got me thinking about some of the lesser used resources for family history research. One source that I have used in the past, but which isn’t really used all that much by others is PERSI. You know that library people love acronyms so you probably guessed that PERSI isn’t a person. What it stands for is PERiodical Source Index – which still doesn’t tell you much about it. PERSI lives in Heritage Quest Online which you can access through our E-Library under History and Genealogy.
So why would you want to look at it in the first place? Because, periodicals (magazines, newsletters, etc.) are an overlooked resource for genealogists. An enormous amount of information is published every year in commercial journals and in the publications of genealogical societies. The good folks at Allen County Public Library in Indiana index this information and make this index available to all of us. In some cases, you can actually view the article online, in others you will have to make a request for an interlibrary loan of the periodical or a photocopy of the article. This can be done at your local Calgary Public Library branch (or, through your local library if you’re not in Calgary). You can also put in the request through Allen County PL by clicking on the request form link at the bottom of the page.
I ran a quick search to see what kinds of articles turn up when I look for information about my ancestors. The first thing you will notice is that the menu offers four options. You can search for information about people, places, how-to information and by periodical title. My first search was for my mother-in-law’s family in Ireland. I found a citation for an article about her family in Breifne magazine, published in Ireland, from 1973, as well as an article from a 1962 edition of Irish Genealogist. Cool, eh?
I also tried a place name search to see what I could turn up on the Okanagan, where my father’s family settled. I chose Canada in the search tabs and then selected British Columbia from the drop down menu. I used Okanagan as a keyword and my results included 854 hits including articles that listed the names on the Kelowna cenotaph, the names of Okanagan valley pioneers from 1881 and the names of railway workers killed on the Kettle Valley line (I’m going to request that one!) You can also use this search to find information to flesh out your family story. In addition to the drop-down menu for place names, you can also use a drop-down menu to narrow your search to a type of article or record. For example, a search using Alberta and Directories turns up many articles about directories in small towns in Alberta. Some of these may also include transcriptions.
In addition to genealogy periodicals, history publications are also indexed. These can be invaluable in filling in some of the details of your family’s story. Journals like Alberta History, Beaver and Legacy are included.
How-to articles can be searched by specific keywords or by using the drop-down menu to select article by record type. So if you want to have pointers on researching tax records or records of probate, you can see what kind of articles are available.
Whenever I do a tour for new genealogists, I like to point out our fairly large collection of magazines as a treasure trove of information. Now you don’t have to read each of the 1000 or so journals we have on our shelves, you can use PERSI to find the articles you need.
Oh, and just a reminder, if you haven’t registered for the AFHS/AGS Conference in Red Deer on April 14 and 15, you’re not too late. Check out the website and register. http://rdgensoc.ab.ca/registration.html This is going to be the Alberta genealogy event of the decade!
Ross Avenue, Red Deer, ca 191?
Postcards from the Past, PC 1086