A version of this article first appeared in the January/February 1999 issue of Ancestry Magazine
The revolution of indexes available on CD-ROMs has been a great boon to the genealogical community. Fingertip access using versatile search facilities to millions of indexed records have made CD-ROMs a standard tool in genealogy research. The reproduction of source materials has became a part of this CD-ROM revolution as well. CD-ROMs containing scanned images of original records are becoming more prevalent. Good examples of this are the scanned U.S. censuses available from Census View (http://www.galstar.com/~censusvu/). When scanned images of source records are also indexed and searchable on the same CD-ROM, the results are quite remarkable for researchers. The 1850 Virginia Microfilm Census CD-ROM (http://www.familytreemaker.com/309facd.html) is a example of the integration of images with a searchable index. More such combinations can be expected in the future.
The rapidity with which a CD-ROM index may be searched for individuals, surnames, dates, and more is really quite amazing. Their speed and ease of use adds to their value as a research tool. They are an exciting first step back to the original source material. That point should be stressed again - CD-ROM indexes are a finding aid for further research in the original sources from which they were prepared. The careful researcher does not rely on information from a CD-ROM index alone as evidence for their family history but drills further into the actual records. The unique advantage of CD-ROMs which contain scanned images of original source materials is that they provide the image of the original record itself - much in the same way that a photocopy or microfilm copy of the record does.
The most popular format of CD-ROM will hold 650 megabytes of data. That's the equivalent of about 460 high density floppy disks or 160,000 pages of text. These physically small yet bursting-full storehouses of data make them the ideal media for a genealogist's purposes. But as with every modern marvel, there is always a catch or two. In the case of CD-ROMs for genealogy, the main catch is their price.
Genealogy CD-ROMs which contain much-sought-after or unique databases can easily be twice the amount for a "standard" title. Internationally-known genealogical resources which previously were only available in print or microform are increasingly becoming available on CD-ROM as well. The National Genealogical Society Quarterly Volumes 1 to 85 on CD-ROM lists for $50 - (http://www.familytreemaker.com/210facd.html). An index for Griffith's Valuation of Ireland can be had for $60 on CD-ROM - http://www.genealogical.com/griffith.htm. The valuable Periodical Source Index (PERSI) from the Allen County Library and available on CD-ROM from Ancestry.com sells for $90 - (http://shop.ancestry.com/ancestry/persourinper.html). Complete census indexes on CD-ROM for single U.S. states are usually over $100.
As the commercial market for genealogy CD-ROMs developed over the last few years, the Family History Department was seemingly "falling behind" in the provisioning of CD-ROMs to the public. New CD-ROM titles were made available at the Family History Centers but with the exception of a few limited-distribution trials, individual researchers could not purchase genealogy CD-ROMs from the Family History Department. This situation has now changed and the results are very impressive.
In April of last year, the Family History Department released three new titles on CD-ROM. These titles are extremely useful as indexes to millions of logically cohesive genealogical records while also being very easy on the pocket book. The first three CD-ROMs were the initial installment of an ongoing series of inexpensive CD-ROMs being planned by the Family History Department. The original three are:
In September of 1998, two additional titles became available in this series of value-priced CD-ROMs.
Note that the titles published in this series are not exclusively related to records of the United States as most commercially-available genealogy CD-ROMs have been. Records from Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom are also indexed in the series and the Family History SourceGuide(tm) provides excellent information on non-U.S. research.
All of the above titles are extremely easy to use. Their search features are intuitive and straightforward. The information which these indexes contain includes the necessary citations needed to quickly direct the researcher back to the original source of the information. These inexpensive CD-ROMs are ideal finding aids.
Church Distribution Center
1999 West 1700 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84104-4233
800-537-5971 [from the U.S. or Canada]
or contact your nearest Family History Center for ordering instructions in your locality.
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