An astounding amount of valuable information is published by small, local genealogy and history societies around the world, but there's one major problem - how do we make that information accessible to those who need it?
The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) - an amazing resource for genealogists and historians around the world - is the answer.
If you're unfamiliar with PERSI, make sure you brush up on how powerful it is and how it's becoming more than just an index.
You'll be surprised at the many helpful things you can find in genealogy periodicals - whether you're trying to break through a brick wall, searching for rare record sets, or just looking to add some context to your research, you simply can't ignore them.
PERSI would not exist at all without the amazing work of the dedicated staff at the Allen County Public Library (ACPL). Findmypast joins ACPL and Internet Archive in our efforts to bring as many digital images of periodicals online as possible.
Let's take a look at what goes on behind the scenes of PERSI.
The PERSI Partnership
The Allen County Public Library creates and maintains PERSI by joining the thousands of genealogical and historical societies around the country, who send their publications to the library in Allen County, Indiana. The staff at ACPL then indexes and preserves the periodicals in their massive genealogy collection, which contains far more than just periodicals.
An in-person visit to ACPL is certainly a "bucket-list item" for the serious genealogist.
The Internet Archive has several scanning machines located in the basement of the ACPL, which they are using for a separate initiative. They kindly allow for use of this equipment to scan the hard copy periodicals.
Findmypast takes care of the licensing, image upload and hosting - so as you can see, each organization contributes a different yet vital piece of the PERSI puzzle.
Let's take a look at the process from start to finish.
A mutually beneficial agreement
The first step of the process is for a genealogy society to agree to be a part of this exciting new initiative. Each society needs to give permission for Findmypast to digitally publish material from their periodicals that are still being actively published.
A member of the Findmypast licensing team works closely with each society in a one-on-one environment to develop the contractual agreement necessary.
Each agreement is fully customized and based on the specific society's needs and situation - Findmypast provides any extra support we can to help that organization, offering a wide variety of benefits. Once the contract is signed, the images are guaranteed to be published within 12 months.
Interested societies should should email firstname.lastname@example.org to hear more about our fully customizable arrangements.
The best part about this process, from the society's perspective, is that there isn't much further action required. Since ACPL already has all of the publications in their library, societies don't need to risk sending their own material all over the world.
Findmypast simply sends a monthly list to ACPL, whose staff members locate the periodicals in the stacks and bring them to the basement to get digitized.
The Publication Team then scans them with the equipment from Internet Archive. Any PERSI material that is already in the public domain is also given to Internet Archive. Check out the Findmypast PERSI collection on the Internet Archive for a small sample.
Once scanned, publications go right back to the shelves. Many other institutions will destroy hard copies once the material is digitized, but not the ACPL - they make it better.
Once enough volumes and years of publications are collected, ACPL binds them into books, which makes them easier to organize and store over time.
Bringing access to millions
Before digital images started coming online, PERSI was still incredibly valuable as an index. It's actually very simple and easy to order a hard copy of a PERSI article by mail or find it at your local library, so don't get spoiled and only look for digital images! Those are only the tip of the iceberg.
But because the ACPL and other libraries can only handle so many requests by mail, we feel it's incredibly important to allow easy access to this high-quality content through the internet.
Once we have the digital images, we take the time to individually link each publication with the index itself on the back end of our website. ACPL sends us their most up to date version of PERSI every month - creating the index itself is probably the most labor intensive part of the process, because it's a subject based index.
This means an ACPL staff member needs to read each article and decide on subject and keywords to assign to it. This is a very interesting process, and is really important to understand when you're searching.
For a more detailed discussion of the indexing process and how it affects search, make sure to read out tips and tricks for navigating PERSI.
Once the images are uploaded to Findmypast and linked with PERSI, the periodical images are officially open for business!
We make sure to send out monthly updates to let the world know what periodicals have newly digitized images.
The future of PERSI
ACPL's ambitious goal is to become the largest repository for genealogical, historical and lineage society material in the world, and they're well on their way.
Consider that the 8,000+ publications already indexed are only societies based on geography. ACPL has yet to index publications from national organizations (such as NGS) or societies with other defining themes (such as the Daughters of the American Revolution).
In many cases, ACPL has the copies of these periodicals, but has yet to add them to their index. This time consuming process is slow but worthwhile - there is no doubt ACPL is outpacing the rate that new material is published, so it's only a matter of time until all periodicals under the sun are captured in the index.
And of course, we'll be there along the way to provide as many digital images as possible!