This week I used a massive collection of books all scanned and placed onto one CD-ROM disk. The "Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire, 1635-1771" has long been a standard reference for anyone researching colonial New Hampshire ancestors.
I have spent a significant amount of time in those nine volumes myself in years past. I always had to travel to a genealogy library to access them, however. Reprints of the original books may be purchased but at prices that are a bit too expensive for most individual genealogists. Searching online, I found that a reprint of Volume 1 alone is available for about $150. I assume the prices for the other eight volumes would be about the same for a total in the neighborhood of $1,350. I don’t think I can find that much money in the piggy bank! Besides the purchase price, I am not sure where I would find room in my bookshelf at home for nine more thick, hardbound volumes.
Luckily for me and for many other New Hampshire descendants, Archive CD Books USA recently released all nine volumes on one half-ounce plastic disk. In fact, it is now possible to search all nine volumes for any word or phrase within seconds, something that is impossible with nine printed volumes. The best part is the price: $59.95 for all nine volumes.
Prior to 1641, the four towns of Portsmouth, Dover, Hampton, and Exeter were independent settlements. The place name of "New Hampshire" had not yet been invented. The towns were under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1641to 1679, when the new Province of New Hampshire was formed.
In 1881 the New Hampshire state legislature authorized the publication of all early probate records. Clerks traveled to all the towns and counties of the original Province of New Hampshire as well as to Norfolk, Essex, and Suffolk counties in Massachusetts and to York County in what became Maine. They examined all the original probate records that they could find and created abstracts for all wills and for some other important documents, such as estate distributions. Other documents, especially those including probate inventories, are presented as brief abstracts. Albert Stillman Batchellor, Editor of State Papers, was the editor of the books that were then published; he was assisted by Otis Grant Hammond and Ezra Scollay Stearns.
As soon as I received this new CD, I placed it in the drive and started using it. After all, I have a number of ancestors who died in New Hampshire during those years. I expected to find a number of wills, and I was not disappointed. Along the way, I learned a few things about the proper use of this CD.
I first went looking for Henry Dow. Without bothering to read the instructions, I entered the name of "Dow" and pressed SEARCH. I was rewarded with hundreds of "hits." In fact, there were far too many. The simple search looks for those three letters anywhere. In fact, the word "meddowes" appears hundreds of times in these volumes, and each occurrence was found within 2 or 3 seconds of my first search attempt. I found not only "Dow" but also "down," "medowes," "meddowes," "dowery," and more.
NOTE: "Medowes" was a common spelling of "meadows" in old documents. Men of colonial days often mentioned pasture land, or "medowes," in their wills.
Since my first search was a bit too successful, I broke down and read the instructions. I found that I could search by Boolean terms (exact word, approximate spelling, AND, OR, proximity, etc.) and more. I conducted the same search again, only this time I specified that "Dow" was to be a freestanding word, not a part of another word. This time I found fewer hits but still too many to be useful.
I then specified a search for "Henry Dow," my earliest New Hampshire ancestor. I was rewarded with 57 hits. One more click of the mouse, and I was immediately looking at the citation from the original books. Indeed, a few were for his will, but there were many more references to the same man as mentioned in the wills of other people. In some cases, he was a witness to someone else's will. In other places, he was mentioned as a neighbor, such as "I leave to my son the land that is adjacent to the land owned by Henry Dow."
In short, this is a great resource for anyone researching New Hampshire ancestry prior to 1772. The CD includes high-quality images of every page as originally published, not just a transcript. Not only is it much cheaper than printed books, but it is also faster and easier to use. The one CD-ROM disk consumes only a fraction of the storage space required by nine thick volumes.
The data on this disk is stored in Adobe Acrobat format, an excellent choice in my opinion. The data on this CD is completely self-contained and requires no installation and no separate software, other than the computer's operating system. This disk will work on any modern Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer that has a CD-ROM drive installed. I even tested it on a tiny 2-pound laptop after connecting an external CD-ROM drive to the laptop's USB port. Everything worked well.
The "Probate Records of the Province of New Hampshire, 1635-1771" on CD-ROM sells for $59.95 and is produced by Archive CD Books USA. You can order it online by a safe and secure shopping cart system at http://www.archivecdbooksusa.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Code=US0291.