Periodical Source Index (PERSI)

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The Periodical Source Index, or PERSI, is the largest subject index to genealogy and local history periodical articles in the world. Created by the staff of the Allen County Public Library Foundation and the ACPL’s Genealogy Center, PERSI is widely recognized as a vital tool for genealogical researchers. PERSI indexes articles in 11,000 periodical titles (including 3,000 defunct titles) published by thousands of local, state, national and international societies and organizations, arranging 2.25 million entries by surname or location and 22 basic subject headings. An important tool for genealogists looking for new avenues of investigation, PERSI’s usefulness is not limited to family history researchers. Local historians and academics, archaeologists and demographers, as well as students from elementary to graduate school and beyond, will all find PERSI an important asset in their research.

The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is the largest subject index to genealogical and local history periodical articles in the world with more than 1.8 million index entries from nearly ten thousand periodicals written in English and French (Canada) since 1800.  Searchable via, the index covers magazines, journals, or newsletters published primarily the United States, Canada, England, and Ireland. This index, created in 1985 by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is updated with entries from current periodicals, although the index lags approximately 18 months from article publication date[1]

PERSI search screen.jpg
PERSI is widely recognized as an important source for high-quality genealogy research. Periodicals may contain about 20 percent of published genealogical material. Genealogical periodicals often included articles about local cemeteries, census, church, land, naturalizations, and probate records. So, PERSI is most useful as a genealogical subject index for a selected state, province, county, or town.

It only indexes family names in article titles, not all the names of people mentioned within the body of an article. It is more useful for researching American and Canadian families prior to the mid-1800s because they are more likely to have descendents who published an article about their ancestors. But PERSI may also help with more recent arrivals as well.

How to use PERSI

  • Open PERSI on the Internet. For the HeritageQuest version, click Search PERSI.
  • There are four search options:
  1. People--Search for articles about specific people or families by searching by surname or keyword to find any matching articles. This search does not take into account where these families lived, although there usually is some mention of a place or origin in the description or title of the article. This may be helpful when trying to narrow down if there is a large number of search results.
  2. Places--Search for articles about specific regions of the United States, Canada, and the world. Researchers using this option can even search for matches within a specific county or city. To search for a particular city, enter the state and county in their respective blanks and the name of the city can be entered as an option in the keyword blank. If your search terms match any of the periodical articles that are indexes, they will be brought up. If your search returns with zero results, try lessening the number of search terms (for example, take out the name of the city or even the county name, if necessary).
  3. How To's--Search for articles on research methodologies. Each of the articles under this section have been put under a category heading (see the list below).
  • Biographies
  • Cemetery Records
  • Census Records
  • Church Records
  • Court Records
  • Deeds
  • Directories
  • History
  • Institutions
  • Land Records
  • Maps
  • Military Recoreds
  • Naturalization
  • Obituaries
  • Other
  • Passenger Lists
  • Probate Records
  • School Records
  • Surname
  • Tax Lists
  • Vital Records
  • Voter Lists
  • Wills
  1. Periodicals--Search periodicals by title. The PERSI Bibliography lists the various publications referenced in the other three main PERSI sections. The section also lists the organizations responsible for publication, to enable researchers to obtain copies.
  • As a note, most methodology articles are encoded "Other" because the study of genealogy goes well beyond the 23 record types in PERSI, other areas are: Documenting your genealogy, Writing your family history, Photography, Heraldy, Preservation, Computers, etc.

What PERSI does not index

  1. Every name in every article
  2. Queries, ancestor charts, family group sheets
  3. Society officers, membership lists, meeting notices
  4. Book and computer software reviews
  5. Surname journals and newsletters
  6. Page numbers

Access to PERSI

Online. PERSI is searched via HeritageQuestOnline. This subscription-based web site is available for free through many public libraries throughout the United States and Canada. Some libraries provide patrons to access from home to HeritageQuestOnline and PERSI by using their library card number like a password. The Family History Library and some larger Family History Centers also have access to HeritageQuestOnline.

An older PERSI version on the Internet is still available on, a subscription Internet site. Some public libraries and the Family History Library, and some larger Family History Centers have a subscription to with access to its older PERSI.

It is currently accessible for free at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana and in over 200 other library locations throughout the world. There is also the option of purchasing the PERSI Index on CD-ROM.

Finding a LDS Family History Center with PERSI

To find a LDS Family History Center that does or will offer PERSI Index for free, go to Move your mouse over the "Family History and Temples" option on the left and click on "Family History Centers". From there, select the country you live in and fill in the remaining blanks more specific to where you live. Since access to this service will be limited to 1,400 family history centers in North America, patrons should contact their local family history center to see if this service is available. Family History center directors should contact Family History Center Support with questions.

Finding a library with PERSI

There are more than 200 libraries worldwide that offer free access to the PERSI Index. To find a library location nearest, go to or go to and type in "Periodical Source Index" and click Search. A list of results will come up and you need to choose the link with the "Periodical Source Index" tile by the Allen County Public Library, Genealogy Department.

Then, while under the library tab, you can enter your location information (this can include your city, state, zipcode, or country). I have found the search to be most effective when I have entered both a city and a state or just a zipcode for a location. (That way if there is more than one location that has this service available in the state you live in, the answers will be in order by those closest to you.) Then, click the "Go" button to the right. A list of the closest libraries, historical societies, and any other place that offers free access, will be ranked in order of proximity (distance from your location). A city, state, and zipcode will come up for each location, as well as the approximate number of miles each site is located away from the location that was entered. An address and other contact information regarding the site that you are interested in visiting can be obtained under each site by clicking on the "Library Information" link.

Obtaining a copy of articles found in PERSI

After having done a search, click on the title of the periodical article that you would like a copy of. Details such as the periodical title, publisher, PERSI Code, and the other known repositories will be on the screen. If you scroll down to the lower section fo the page, you will see all of the different volumes of that periodical that are available. Carefully copy all of the necessary information for up to six articles that you would like a copies of. A copy of the order form as well as the photocopy fee schedule can be printed off by clicking here.

Put your name and address on the form where indicated, include your $7.50 and send the form and check off to the address given. When the Allen County Public Library Foundation has photocopied all the pages, they will bill you for them at 20 cents per page.


  1. "Ask a Genealogy Librarian" Service, Historical Genealogy Department, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 2010.