Retrospect Publishing - Pennsylvania Genealogy Books on CD-ROM 

The following article is from Genealogical Computing:  It is re-published here with the permission of the Editor..

Genealogical Computing  

Review by Elissa Scalise Powell, CGRS
October - December 2003, Volume 23.2, pp 44


Pennsylvania Archives Retrospective Series:

Third Series, Volumes XI thru XXII: Pennsylvania Tax List

Published by Retrospect Publishing; 1307 Warrington Place; Alexandria, VA 22307. 2003. CD-ROM. System Requirements: Windows 95 through XP; Pentium II at 400 MHz or faster, 16MB RAM, 4 MB hard disk space, CD-ROM drive, VGA display with 256 colors. $98.95

The published Pennsylvania Archives consists of 138 volumes divided into ten series. They were printed between 1838 and 1935 and contain transcribed documents of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from the seventeenth eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. These books are invaluable to the Pennsylvania researcher, containing the papers of the Colonial government and its governors, as well as military records, church records, land records, election returns, diaries and journals, naturalizations, marriages, oaths of allegiance, pension applications, maps, portraits, and tax lists.

Tax lists are valuable tools for placing landowners and non-landowners in a geographic location where other records may be found. The lists published in volumes 11-22 of the Pennsylvania Archives Third Series cover the period 1765 through 1791 for the counties of Allegheny, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Fayette, Huntingdon, Lancaster, Northampton, Northumberland, Philadelphia, Washington, Westmoreland, and York. Retrospect Publishing, which previously published each volume on individual CD-ROMs, has now placed the 12 volumes on one searchable disk.

With great anticipation of tapping into such a wealth of knowledge on my own computer, I sailed through the installation without a hitch. After opening the CD Library, a Retrospector screen displays a scanned image at the right and navigation tools at the top and left. I recommend reading the beginning material listed under the contents tab. It explains search considerations, wildcards, lists of abbreviations, surname and spelling variations, and name order. Found in the discussion of evolving county boundaries is a chart detailing the tax years included for each county, and a series of Pennsylvania maps showing the boundary changes. These last two items are invaluable in understanding what areas were included in these volumes since each person is recorded in the township and county in which he resided at the time of the taxation.

Retrospect has enhanced the search capability by providing translations for certain contractions, which are given in a table in the Publisher’s Notes. A search for "Weygand" and "blacksmith" gave two results, one for Peter Weygand, "b’s" and one for "b’smith." Without enhancement to the search engine, these abbreviations would not have been seen and the search would have failed. In the moderate-level search mode a built-in Soundex converter may be used for any word including given names. Searching for "Eberhard" through this converter also yields "Everhart" and all variations in between. The proximity of any set of words is adjustable. Searching for "Pine" (17 hits) within two words of "Township" (1,611 hits) yields six hits including "Pine Grove Township" and "Pine Creek Township."

Another nice feature is that once a page on the hit list has been explored, the bolded text returns to normal so that the unexamined pages are more obvious. Bookmarking the entries is easy and utilizes user-defined labels.

This part of the published Pennsylvania Archives series certainly has been made much simpler, obtainable, and infinitely more searchable with the convenience of this product.

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