Research Tip 5: Your Family in Print
Finding Existing Research on Your Family
Published information on your family could appear in four types of resources: biographies, genealogies, local histories, and published original records. These resources are published as periodicals, books, and computer databases. Let's take a closer look at these publications and how to obtain access to them.
To find articles about kin and their home towns published in magazines, journals and newsletters use the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). Published by the Allen County Public Library Foundation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, PERSI can be found in many public and academic libraries' reference collections and is normally available in LDS Family History Centers.
PERSI appears in both book and microfiche format. The name and locality indexes of this series make it easy to identify articles about your family and the localities in which they lived published in journals, magazines and newsletters. About 200 periodicals that appeared between 1847 and 1985 and 2000, published from 1986 to the present, are included in the indexes. The annual volumes of both the 1847-1985 and post-1986 indexes add hundreds of articles each year as they are discovered by staff and volunteers at the Allen County Public Library.
If you want a copy of an article found in the indexes, talk with the interlibrary loan librarian at your local public or college library. He or she will know how to find the nearest library with a copy of the magazine containing the article. If you have difficulty finding a library with the needed journal or newsletter, contact the state or county historical society in the area in which your family lived. These institutions normally collect periodicals that focus on the people and places of the state or county.
Dozens of books about your family and the towns and counties in which they lived can be found in libraries. Computer library catalogs make it possible to search for information in thousands of libraries in one search.
Many public and college libraries subscribe to Worldcat and RLIN Zephyr. These computer utilities permit author, title, subject and keyword searches of library holdings in thousands of libraries, including the Library of Congress. You can search for your family name as a subject, or enter the name of the locality where your family lived. Ask your local librarian about the availability of Worldcat and RLIN Zephyr in your area. You may find that local libraries have additional computer links to libraries in the state or region where your family lived.
Today, the Internet and products on disk and CD-ROM provide valuable links to genealogical databases and persons seeking ancestors. A recent search under "German Genealogy Posen" on the Internet, for example, turned up 34,387 matches. In seconds I had contact with scores of persons who, like me, were tracing ancestors in this area. You can simply search under your ancestor's name or tie into the many databases and home pages that provide names as well as instruction on how to find ancestors. Two journals will introduce you to this and many other aspects of computer genealogy: Genealogical Computing from Ancestry; and the NGS Newsletter containing the NGS/CIG Digest published by the National Genealogical Society's Computer Interest Group.
With the suggestions above, you can find valuable information on your family in print. Periodicals, books and computer databases make it easy to enhance your research efforts, so be sure to tap these important resources.
Raymond S. Wright III is a professor at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah), where he has taught courses in family history and genealogy since 1990. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history from the University of Utah. An Accredited Genealogist of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, Wright was manager of library operations there from 1979-1990. During his employment, Wright did numerous research assignments in archives and libraries in the United States and many foreign countries. He is a specialist on genealogical records in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Wright has served twice as chairman of the American Library Association's Genealogy Committee. He is also author of The Genealogist's Handbook: Modern Methods for Researching Family History.