I often write about various genealogy products and write reviews for this newsletter. I frequently start off by writing, "this week I used something that I have never seen before" or some similar words. In other words, I am describing something that is new to me. This week's review is quite different.
This week I had a chance to use something that I have used hundreds of times before in the past twenty years, something that is invaluable to anyone researching Colonial ancestry in New England. The Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England by James Savage has long been recognized as the standard reference for New England immigrants before 1692. I purchased this four-volume set about twenty years ago and have referred to it time and again. I think my copy is dog-eared from use.
This week's experience with Savage's Dictionary was different, however.
Instead of turning to the four volumes of that Dictionary on my bookshelf, I inserted a half-ounce CD-ROM disk into my computer. I found that I could search information even more easily than before and find references that I had never seen before because they were not in the index. I also found the CD-ROM version much easier to see. The on-screen text was easier to read than the small print in the printed version. In fact, I could enlarge or shrink the text in the CD-ROM version as I wished, something that is impossible with printed books and becoming more desirable as my eyes age. I can also make copies of individual pages much more easily from CD-ROM than from the books.
Did I mention that the CD-ROM version is also much cheaper than the same item in print?
I was using The Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England by James Savage as produced by the newly announced company, Archive CD Books USA. This CD is one of the first offerings from the new company.
The Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England is the basic genealogical reference of early New England settlers, giving the name of nearly every settler who arrived in New England before 1692 regardless of their station, rank, or fortune. It gives the dates of marriage and death, dates of birth, marriage, and death of children, and birthdates and names of the grandchildren of each male immigrant.
Quoting from the CD-ROM's introduction, written by Robert Charles Anderson, FASG:
Even a hundred and forty years after publication, Savage's four-volume set remains the starting point for most research problems in seventeenth-century New England. Savage applied his acute analytical skills to every family that he could find in the first, second and third generations of settlement.
Savage scoured every record available to him in the Boston area, and corresponded copiously with historians and genealogists all over New England in an attempt to make his compendium as complete as possible. Some correspondents were less diligent than others, so the coverage in the areas away from eastern Massachusetts can be spotty. Nevertheless, no other single source covers the first century of New England settlement so broadly.
Savage has been superseded in a limited portion of his range by the Great Migration Study Project, but that effort has at this date covered somewhat less than half of the immigrant generation, and will never cover the second and third generations in the way that Savage did.
Savage was in some ways a precursor to the Jacobus generation of genealogists, exploding myths with great gusto, and taking care not to confuse and combine in one sketch records that belong to two or more men. His sketches are often relieved by his personal comments, stemming from his Victorian political and religious sensibilities.
Use of the CD-ROM version of Savage's Dictionary is simple for anyone who has used other books on CD-ROM. Even first-time users can learn to use these books on disk within a few minutes. The CD-ROM version was created in Adobe Acrobat, the industry standard for publishing books and other documents electronically. If you have ever used Adobe Acrobat before, you will immediately feel at home with this CD.
This CD-ROM disk works on both Windows and Macintosh computers. I also used it briefly on a Linux system, and it seemed to work well there in the few minutes that I used it. However, Archive CD Books USA does not guarantee use on Linux.
As soon as I opened this set of electronic books, the first screen displayed a Table of Contents on the left side of the screen and an introduction to the series on the right.
The Table of Contents simply lists "Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, and Volume 4." However, clicking on any one of those volumes opens up a secondary level of contents, showing the letters of the alphabet. Clicking on any letter then takes you to the first page of surnames of that letter. I found that I could get to the letter "E" for Eastman within a very few clicks. It did require more clicks, however, to page past the entries for Eames, Earle, Early, Earthy, and other surnames that preceded Eastman.
That actually turns out to be the slower way to find anything. It seems that every word in these four volumes is indexed and searchable. Instead of using the slow method just described, I quickly learned to use the Search function to find words that I wanted. I clicked on the icon that looks like binoculars (signifying a search) and typed in a word that I wanted. This quickly took me to the first occurrence of the word or phrase that I had just entered. Clicking on "Find Again" took me to the second occurrence, clicking on "Find Again" then took me to the third occurrence, and so on.
In the case of Eastman, entering that name into the search field took me immediately to the first page that contains that name, the first occurrence of the name anywhere in the books. This was much faster than the method described earlier.
The every-word index is much better than the original books' use of alphabetical listings. Not only can you find entries of the family, but you can also find references that appear under other families' names. For instance, suppose you found an entry that mentions an ancestor's wife, Ruth. The question is, "What was Ruth's maiden name?" You may have already looked at the printed version of Savage's Dictionary and found that her maiden name is not listed under her husband's family information. However, a quick search for all occurrences of her husband's name anywhere on the disk soon zeroes in on what you are looking for: under another family's section you find the name of a daughter who married your ancestor. You may have had the printed books on the shelf for years but would never have found that information buried under another family's name. Use of this electronic version of these classic books may allow you to find information that eluded you in the printed version.
The best part of this disk, in my mind, is that it allows you to easily copy and paste information from the CD-ROM books into any most any other Windows or Macintosh program, such as a word processor or a genealogy program. Many of the genealogy CD-ROM disks that I review have the copy-and-paste functions disabled. Luckily, that is not an issue with the Archive CD Books. When viewing any page, you can select the Text tool ("T" on the toolbar), then drag the cursor over the text you need. Using the EDIT menu's "Copy" selection, you can easily copy that the selected text to another program, such as your favorite genealogy program or a word processor.
I found it was also easy to print a page or a range of pages on the local printer. The printouts made on my laser printer are far superior to the photocopies of pages from the printed books that I made years ago.
The software also prints "Archive CD Books USA" on the bottom of the printed page. I would have preferred it to also include the name of the volume from which the page is printed in order to provide a complete source citation.
I have used similar electronic books on various web sites. The advantage of the CD-ROM version becomes apparent if you have used both versions. The CD-ROM version is much faster to search or to "page" through manually, one page at a time. Even on a broadband connection, searching for twenty or fifty names or more on a web version can be excruciatingly slow. Doing the same on the CD-ROM version is both fast and easy.
All in all, I found the Archive CD Books USA version of Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England to be an excellent product. It is easy to use, fast and complete. I found information quickly in the CD-ROM version that was elusive in the printed books.
Best of all is the price. Unlike the printed four volumes that sell for $150, the CD-ROM version of Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England sells for $29.95. However, Archive CD Books is offering a special introductory price right now of $9.95. You have to follow the instructions on the company's web pages to obtain the discount.
Ten dollars for this easy-to-use version or $150 for the printed version? Your choice. I know what I will use. I already have all four printed volumes of Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England on my bookshelf. However, the next time I wish to search those books for information, I'll be using the CD-ROM version. I find it easier to locate information on the CD-ROM version than in the printed books.
For more information about Savage's Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England from Archive CD Books USA, or to order the CD-ROM via a safe and secure shopping cart system, go to http://www.archivecdbooksusa.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROJINFO