This week I had a chance to use a new CD-ROM disk, called the Compendium of New England Gazetteers produced by Archive CD Books USA. It is a collection of ten early New England gazetteers (geographic indexes or dictionaries that describe many locations).
When I first opened the package I thought, "Oh, this is a collection of old books that have been re-released as PDF files on a CD-ROM disk." Looking back, I can now say that I was both right and wrong. Indeed, it is a bunch of PDF files. But this disk is also a lot more. In fact, I wish more old books on CD disks were like this collection. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The Compendium of New England Gazetteers contains ten of the most popular gazetteers ever published about the various New England states:
- John Hayward, The New England Gazetteer; Containing Descriptions of All the States, Counties and Towns in New England: Also Descriptions of all the States, Counties, and Towns in New England and Fashionable Resorts within that Territory, Alphabetically Arranged (1839)
- John C. Pease and John M. Niles, Gazetteer of the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island (1819)
- P.J. Hannifan and Co., Road and County Map of Connecticut and Rhode Island and Gazetteer... and Business Directory (1898)
- Geo. J. Varney, Gazetteer of the State of Maine; With Numerous Illustrations (1886)
- Rev. Elias Nason, M.A., A Gazetteer of the State of Massachusetts (1874)
- Eliphalet Merrill and Phinehas Merrill, Esq., A Gazetteer of the State of New Hampshire, In Three Parts (1817)
- John Farmer and Jacob B. Moore, A Gazetteer of the State of New-Hampshire (1823)
- Alonzo J. Fogg, The Statistics and Gazetteer of New-Hampshire; Containing Descriptions of all of the Counties, Towns and Villages; Also Boundaries and Area of the State and its Natural Resources (1874)
- Zadock Thompson, History of Vermont, Natural, Civil, and Statistical in Three Parts, with a new Map of the State, and 200 engravings (1842, 1853)
- E. P. Walton, Walton's Vermont Register and Farmers' Almanac for 1879 (1879)
These ten books total more than 4,600 pages of densely packed information.
These classic books are difficult to obtain now as printed books although they are available on CD-ROM disks. In fact, you can purchase them individually from Archive CD Books USA for a total of about $177.
I spent a bit of time looking at the information on this disk. Since all of my ancestry is from Maine for the past 150 to 200 years, I found plenty of interest. I learned that a narrow gauge railway was being built in the town where my great-great-grandfather lived in 1886. I found references to the factory where a great-grandfather worked. I also learned that the highest hill in my home town, which I climbed hundreds of times as a child, had a name in 1886 that I never heard of previously.
I also noted many name changes of towns, including my mother's home town of Ashland, Maine, which was incorporated under that name in 1862. In 1869, the name of the town was changed to Dalton and then in 1876 it was changed back to the original name of Ashland. I have many similar examples of town name changes in my family tree and suspect that many others have the same problem. A gazetteer can solve such mysteries quickly. If you are having difficulty finding census records for a particular town, check the gazetteer!
In short, anyone with ancestry in New England can probably find facts of interest in the Compendium of New England Gazetteers. You may not find your ancestors listed by name, but you undoubtedly will learn about the places where they lived.
The search capabilities are impressive. Not only can you search a single book or all books at once, but the search capabilities also include:
- Search by a single word or phrase
- "OR" searches - Specify a search for "Ashland OR Dalton" and find all references that mention either word.
- "AND" searches - Specify a search for "Ashland AND Dalton" and find only those articles that contain both words.
- PROXIMITY searches - similar to AND searches except that all words specified must be bear each other.
- BOOLEAN searches - a combination of AND, OR, and NOT.
- Whole words only - a search for ASHLAND would ignore the word ASHLANDER.
- CASE SENSITIVE - specify matches of only uppercase or lowercase.
- STEMMING - Search for words that share the same common stem word, ignoring common suffixes such as "s," "ing," and "ion."
The Compendium of New England Gazetteers is a freestanding disk. It does not install any software on the computer's hard drive. All required data and software remains only on the CD-ROM disk.
This disk contains images of each page from the original books, not transcriptions. The images that I saw were all crystal clear, much better than some of the books I have looked at from other vendors. Illustrations and maps were also crystal clear. I found it easy to print pages on my local printer. They look much better than the typical photocopies of the original books made at a local library.
Macintosh users will want to know that I was able to use most features of this CD successfully in the Macintosh but with one notable exception: the software used to search across multiple books at once seems to work only on Windows. I was able to view each book individually, using Preview on the Mac, and then search the contents of that one book easily and quickly. In fact, the searches seemed to perform much more quickly on my 1.83-gigahertz Intel core duo Mac Mini than on a high-powered Windows XP system (3.0-gigahertz processor and one gigabyte of memory). I also tried a Windows Vista system with a core duo processor and two gigabytes of memory. However, the speed on Vista seemed to be roughly the same as on Windows XP and significantly slower than the tiny Mac Mini.
On the downside, Macintosh users will need to "poke around" a bit to find the files of interest. The menu system built into the system also works only on Windows. To be sure, Macintosh users will see all the books with file names that are visible but somewhat cryptic, such as US0339.PDF. I wish it had file names such as "Gazetteer of the State of Maine.PDF." That is a minor quibble, and I am sure that any Macintosh user will poke around for a bit to find what he or she seeks.
Again, when I first thought this disk was a simple collection of PDF files, I was both right and wrong. Indeed, it is a group of PDF files containing valuable information for genealogists. However, the fact that information on this disk is fully searchable by every word of all ten books in one search makes for a much better collection that is easy to use. This search feature alone makes the CD much more valuable than others that I have used. I wish that all PDF-based CD disks had similar search capabilities.
If you have New England ancestors, you will want to add the Compendium of New England Gazetteers to your collection. I suspect you will refer to it often as you search for more and more information about your ancestors and the towns in which they lived.
The Compendium of New England Gazetteers produced by Archive CD Books USA sells for $59.95 U.S. funds. It can be purchased via a safe and secure online shopping cart system at http://www.archivecdbooksusa.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=US0401.