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# Wednesday, April 08, 2009
How to Use PERSI for Genealogy
Posted by Diane

Q. What is PERSI and how do I use it in my family history?

A. PERSI (short for Periodical Source Index) is a database of references to articles in history and genealogy magazines and journals published in the United States and Canada as far back as 1800. (A searchable catalog of periodical titles is here.)

You can search PERSI for, say, a surname, town or topic, and results will show citations for articles related to your search term.

Examples of resources you might find using PERSI include a historical society journal article that mentions your ancestor, an out-of-print magazine about a family hometown, or a how-to magazine with hints for doing research in the old country.

Note PERSI doesn’t have the articles themselves—rather, it has the title, date and other information that will help you find the article of interest.

The PERSI database is searchable through HeritageQuest Online, a genealogy data service available free through many public libraries (check your library’s Web site or ask at the reference desk) or at Allen County, Ind., public library location. (The Allen County library’s genealogy staff compiled and updates PERSI.)

Subscription Web site Ancestry.com also has PERSI, though its version isn’t as up-to-date as the others mentioned.

Once you find a citation for an article you want, see if the publication is available through your library or another library near you. If not, ask if the library can borrow it (or at least get photocopies) through interlibrary loan. Another option: The Allen County Public Library has the periodicals that are indexed in PERSI; you can order photocopies for a fee using the form linked on this page.


genealogy basics | printed sources
Wednesday, April 08, 2009 6:31:59 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Reading Old Documents: The Long S
Posted by Diane

Q. I noticed that the hornbook pictured on page 12 of the May 2008 Family Tree Magazine has a 27-letter alphabet, with a unknown letter between r and s. What’s the story?

A. The 18th-century English hornbook shown in our May 2008 History Matters column (here’s the hornbook—it's from the Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections division) features a character called the long s.

The long s, which looks like a lower-case f, was common in 18th-century England and Colonial New England. It was often used as an s at the beginning or in the middle of a word (as in fentiment), or as one or both letters of a double s (congrefs).

The long s was not generally used as the final letter of a word—for that, people used the familiar short, or terminal, s.

The long s fell out of use around 1800 in England and 1820 in the United States.

For more on the long s, see Wikipedia's well-illustrated article and the book Researching Your Colonial New England Ancestors By Patricia Law Hatcher (Ancestry, $16.95).

The book is available for a limited preview in Google; I've added it to Family Tree Magazine’s Google Library for your linking convenience.

genealogy basics | printed sources | US roots
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 3:16:42 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, December 11, 2008
This Brick Wall is Murder
Posted by Diane

Q. I have a great aunt who was murdered in San Francisco, July 18, 1918, at age 30. Her husband had died four months before and she had a 3-year-old son. I was able to find the date of death, but I really want to know the facts behind the case. How did it happen? Was the killer caught?

A. You don’t mention whether you’ve already found a death certificate. If not, look for one. The certificate will confirm details such as the date and cause of death. Contact San Francisco’s Office of Vital Records or the California Department of Public Health for information.

A microfilmed index of California deaths covering 1905 to 1988 is at the Family History Library. You can rent film for viewing through your local FamilySearch Family History Center.

As a FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum member suggested, coroner’s records (also called medical examiner records) may help. Coroners would investigate suspicious deaths. The San Francisco History Center at the San Francisco Public Library has coroner’s reports from 1906 to 1950. Contact the library (415-557-4567) to request a search .

You’re right to search newspapers. You can use a service such as Proquest Historical Newspapers or Newsbank at many libraries; or you could use a site such as the subscription site GenealogyBank at home.

If searching doesn’t produce results, try browsing through newspapers for the days and weeks after your great-aunt’s death. San Francisco being a major city, your local library may have its newspapers on microfilm. Search for titles of San Francisco papers using the directory on the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site.

The above records should help you determine whether anyone was caught and tried for the crime. The State Archives of California has San Francisco criminal case files from 1850 to 1965. Learn more about researching California court records using the archives' online finding aid.


birth/death records | court records | printed sources
Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:59:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Finding Your Ancestors' Cattle Brand Registrations
Posted by Diane

Q. How would I trace cattle-brand registrations? I have the names and sketches of some brands my great-grandparents used, and I'd like to see if the documentation would provide any genealogically relevant information.

A. Ranchers such as your great-grandparents had their own marks or brands they usually burned into cattle hides to show ownership. Most states have livestock boards that regulate the movement and branding of livestock, says Robert Gant, curator of the Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyo.

It'll help to know when your great-grandparents used the brands, since records of brands are kept in annual brand books. The books are often available in county libraries or state archives; some state livestock boards may search their records for a fee.

If you're lucky, the state will have digitized historical brand books. Search Utah's Division of Animal Industry's brand books from 1849 to 1930 on the state archives Web site. Records show the brand symbol, name and county of residence of the person registering the mark, location on the body of the animal, and date the brand was recorded.

A Google search on your ancestors' state name and livestock board or cattle brand should point you in the direction of the records. Montana, for example, puts records of 1873-1950 brands in the Montana Historical Society Research Center. Once you find the repository with the books you need, you can visit or submit a research request.

You also may be able to find a book about brands in the state, such as the 1936 publication Texas Cattle Brands edited by Gus L. Ford (Cockrell, out of print).


printed sources | US roots
Wednesday, May 07, 2008 10:39:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, June 04, 2007
In the News
Posted by Diane

Q I remember seeing as a child a clipped newspaper ad for a boxing match in which one of my ancestors (with a very distinctive surname) participated.  Is there a way to track down old newspaper advertisements?  I'm almost positive this was from a Chicago area newspaper, at least 75 years old, but beyond that I don't have much to work with.

A Newspaper research can be time-consuming because not many papers are indexed online—but what a thrill it would be to find this ad!

You’d need to narrow the possibilities for which newspaper this could be, then locate repositories or online databases that carry the newspapers you want to search for the time period in question. One way to do this is searching the Illinois Newspaper Project online directory. Results show newspaper titles and years of publication; click the title to see repositories holding that publication. 

If the papers you need are in a database such as NewsBank or ProQuest Historical Newspapers (available through many libraries), or GenealogyBank (by subscription), you’re in luck: Such databases use optical character recognition to search both articles and advertisements.

If the newspapers you need aren’t in an online database, you’ll have to visit the holding library to view it on microfilm, or ask your library to request the film through interlibrary loan.

To reduce your microfilm scrolling time, narrow the time period when you think the ad ran as much as possible. Try doing a Google search on terms such as Chicago boxing history. I came up with an interesting Encyclopedia of Chicago Web page—looks like boxing was a popular pastime in the Windy City. Browse local history books, too: You could find mention of the match your ancestor fought.

You may already have done this, but ask your relatives if they remember when this boxing match happened. (You might as well ask if they have copies of the ad, too.)

The February 2007 Family Tree Magazine has an article on finding and searching old newspapers—even those that aren’t indexed. Let us know if you find your ancestor's ad!


printed sources
Monday, June 04, 2007 10:27:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [0]