Retrospect Publishing - Pennsylvania Genealogy Books on CD-ROM 

The following article is from The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, PA,  
and is copyright 2002 by the publisher.   It is re-published here with the permission of the author.

Roots & Branches 

James M. Beidler - July 8, 2002

Retrospect has Specialty CDs

Just about every family historian knows about the heavy hitters in the world of CD-ROMs and online databases — the’s, the Heritage Quests, the’s.

Fewer people know about Janet McFarland’s Retrospect Publishing, which is filling a niche for specialty CDs beneath the radar of the leviathans.

The spring issue of Retrospect’s quarterly online newsletter recently arrived by e-mail and contains some interesting articles as well as updates on what the vendor is producing.

So far, Retrospect has produced a number of CDs with biographical histories and tax lists, including many from Pennsylvania counties.


What makes Retrospect’s CDs so valuable are the searches that can be done with the Retrospector Viewer software.

First of all, every word can be searched, not just surnames.

Secondly, what they call the “plus” search feature (since it’s a plus sign that is used to broaden searches beyond one specific spelling) is a great tool.


The beauty of the “plus” search is that the plus can be used at the beginning, middle or end of a word.

For example, if you are researching for an ancestor whose name ends in the suffix “-macher” but are unsure of how the name begins, then just use a plus sign in front of “macher” to generate hits for names such as Wannemacher, Nunnemacher, Rathmacher, etc.

Another good use for the “plus” search would be to put the plus sign in for vowels in a surname in which those vowels change back and forth.


Retrospect’s new Web site also has maps showing the formation of Pennsylvania counties at several crucial junctures.

The Web site also enables researchers to search the Retrospect catalog, check all of the CDs for a particular word, or look up a city or town to find out in which county it is located (mostly derived from DeLorme’s Pennsylvania Atlas & Gazetteer, 6th edition)


Most of Retrospect’s CDs are priced at $39.95. Some CDs of tax lists are less.

Each CD contains the Retrospector program, which makes using the books on CD-ROM quick and simple.  It runs on IBM compatible PCs with Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000 or XP.

To subscribe to Retrospect Publishing’s quarterly online newsletter, readers may go to the URL,

To communicate by mail, the address is: Retrospect Publishing, 1307 Warrington Place, Alexandria, VA 22307

At the time this column was written, James M. Beidler was Executive Director of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania.  He is now a free-lance writer, lecturer, and programmer. His  award winning weekly "Roots & Branches" column appears in the Lebanon Daily News and Altoona Mirror Newspapers.  Readers may contact him at the society or by e-mail to

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