Here’s a new Q&A (Question and Answer)

Here’s a new Q&A (Question and Answer) we’ve written for our website.  We thought it was important enough to publish on our blog as well.  We invite your thoughts and comments!

Here’s the question:

You sell downloads of books that I can read for free online.  Why should I pay you money to download a book I can read for free?

Here’s our answer:

Thanks for asking!

First off, there are many cases when you should definitely read the book as a free online rather than paying us (or someone else) for a download, or even buying a printed book!  Here are a few examples:

Is the book historical fiction about the area you’re interested in?  Then, definitely read the freebie.  Likely you’re reading it for pleasure, but even if you’re reading it in connection with an area you’re interested in, you’re most likely looking for a sense of what things were like back then in that locale, and there’s nothing like good historical fiction to give you that sense.

Are you a little unsure whether the book is actually going to contain useful information?  There are plenty of examples of this, but here’s one:  you spot a genealogy with the same surname you’re seeking – but it’s not a particularly rare name.  Use the free download to confirm it.

Is your interest in this particularly area not quite focused yet?  Here’s an example:  many families migrated westward in steps; one generation in one locale, and the next a few hundred miles west.  If you can find local history material that you can download for free about the locales where they stopped (and also where they passed through but didn’t settle) you can pick up a lot of information at no cost.

So, then, why should I buy a download instead of (or in addition to) using a freebie?  Well, here are some factors to consider:

–Perhaps we’re offering something more than just the book itself.  For example, perhaps we indexed the book we republished.  The originals lacked an index, and we new one would add value, so we compiled one.  Indexes can be terribly useful.

–Some free (and some paid) downloads offer a PDF search.  You key in the term you’re after, and you’re presented with 100% matches.  Well, we don’t care for PDF searches, because they’re too sensitive to seemingly inconsequential differences.  They tend not to realize that “M’Cutcheon” is the same as “McCutcheon” or that Hodgkin, Hodke, Hotchkiss, Hotchkin, Hodkins, Hotchkins, Hochkin, and a variety of others are all the same family in different places at different times.  PDF search for “Hotchkin” and you won’t get matches on “Hochkin” and vice versa.  With an index to check, you’ve got a fighting chance of picking up those minor differences.  And, with a PDF search, such a minor daily occurrence in old time print shops as a damaged letter being used in setting a paragraph of type can result in a missed match.

–If you happen to be downloading files on your phone or your iPad, or somewhere else where you’re subject to a data plan, downloading the same file repeatedly can chew up your monthly data allocation pretty rapidly.

–Depending on where you download your free download from, there may be difficulties in copying or printing selections from the download.  In most cases these are designed to be difficult to copy.  We design our downloads so you can copy or print just as much of it as you want.

–This is a big one, particularly if you’re planning on publishing your work and need accurate footnotes or bibliographic citations – or if you’re applying to a hereditary society and need to be able to direct the genealogist to the specific mention in a larger book.  Most e-books, and many other publishing forms used for online books for download do not retain page numbers.  (Some, of course, do.)  Our downloads are page images, including not only original page numbers but even marginal doodling (or notes someone may have made in the copy we scanned).

–Realistically, people don’t expect ultra high quality images in downloads.  After all, you’re unlikely to want to frame an image from a download and hang it on the wall!  However, it is worth noting that the image quality in most free downloads is pretty bad.  Sufficiently so that it can be hard to tell what a person looks like.  Ours are not gallery quality, but we think they’re pretty good representations of what’s in the book.  Also, if you’ve looked at many free downloads, you’ll notice occasionally a page gets folded over in the scanning process.  What you see is what you get.  Because we hand-scan all of our material, you simply don’t have that problem with our downloads.

–In our day of government austerity, when state and Federal budget shortfalls seem to be covered by cuts in museums, libraries, archives, and that sort of thing, it’s not hard to imagine that given a choice between paying the staff and keeping a set of free downloads available online, the free downloads are apt to go first.  Remember that no matter who provides it, it does cost someone money to provide downloads, whether free or not.  Once you’ve purchased one of our downloads, you own it and you can access it whenever you want.

Bottom Line

Hotchkin's History of Western New York State
Hotchkin’s History of Western New York State

It’s always a good idea to see if you can save a little money on incidental purchases, so by all means do check to see if you can locate a free download of a book or other document you want to read.  But please consider what trade-off you’re making.

By the way, we’ve recently republished an important book about the history of the settlement of western New York State as a download (previously we sold it as a CD-ROM).  It’s Hotchkin’s History of Western New York.   It’s pretty good!  Have a look!

Suffield History and Genealogy

Suffield history and genealogy took a step forward this week, as we re-published some documents that should be genuinely helpful.

Suffield Quarter Millennial
We’ve re-published Suffield: Quarter Millennial

Here are the four:

  1. Suffield Quarter Millennial — this book encompasses the history of Suffield, CT from its founding until the time of the celebration, is also the program for the celebration, and has tons of additional Suffield information in it.
  2. An annual report from Suffield’s Congregational Church.  Town (and church) history, lists of pastors, lists of members and also “absent members”
  3. A Sagitta yearbook from Suffield High School
  4. A package of miscellany, including an article from the first volume of the Connecticut Quarterly, a short excerpt from the Connecticut Guide, and a lot of photos.

You can find all this Suffield history and genealogy on our Suffield page on our main website.  If Suffield, CT is of interest to you, have a look today!

Thanks to Gertrude Barber

Introduction to Gertrude Barber’s Records of Sullivan County, NY

By Geoffrey Brown, Between the Lakes Group LLC

Astonishingly few records exist today of people who lived in Sullivan County in the old days.  Consequently, genealogical and historical research has been difficult at best — and impossible at worst —  in all of Sullivan County.  Gertrude Barber was, almost single-handedly, responsible for much of what we do have today.

Many factors – too many to discuss here – contributed (some still contribute) to this lack of record keeping and record retention.  However, due to the shortage of records, those of us who seek to research in Sullivan County are frequently driven to accept not what we would want or expect, but what is available, regardless of deficiencies.

Enter Gertrude Barber

We really do not know what motivations inspired Gertrude Barber, nor do we actually know much about the woman, who died in Brooklyn in 1974.  The staff of the Department of Genealogy and Local History of the New York Public Library described her as a Brooklyn resident, who began around 1929  to collect cemetery inscriptions and church records in Sullivan County, and who continued from there to collect elsewhere in New York State.

During the summers, Ms. Barber would travel to her current locale of choice, visit the graveyards and record what she could make out of gravestone inscriptions.  Soon, she expanded her project to include capturing such church records and records of wills as she was able to locate and gain access to.

It appears that she collected within Sullivan County mainly for two summers, those of 1929 and 1930.  During the following winters she typed up her notes, in six carbons, in her home in Brooklyn, bringing a copy to the librarians at the New York Public Library and disseminating the other copies to other libraries that indicated an interest in them.  One of the older librarians at the New York Public described to this writer her wintertime visits bringing her typescripts for them.

We first became aware of her transcriptions at the New York Public Library, and it is to them – and, of course, to Ms. Barber — that we owe a massive debt of gratitude that we have the information she transcribed in an easily accessible form today.

You can read more about Gertrude Barber and get a sense of the other New York State locations she visited and transcribed in this article about her HERE.

As grateful as we are to Gertrude Barber today for her huge contribution to genealogy in Upstate New York, there were a few deficiencies in her work that deserve mention simply to avoid raising false hopes.

First, Ms. Barber’s survey was not comprehensive.  As an example, she collected the old section (the oldest, but probably the smallest section today) of the Liberty, NY cemetery, but did not do the newer portions.  (To our knowledge, those much larger newer sections have not yet been collected by anyone, sadly.)  She certainly overlooked other cemeteries, particularly the very small ones that one occasionally saw around the county fifty years ago that are now gone completely. In Liberty, she covered the church records to which she had access, but notably these did NOT include the principal “downtown” churches of Liberty at that time:  Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal.  Finally, she either did not locate, could not gain access to, or could not read any records of what was already becoming the substantial Jewish population of the Town of Liberty, nor did she record any of the Jewish cemeteries in the county.  Likely she did not know Hebrew, in which many of the stones are written, so the task would have verged on the impossible for her.

The second defect is in the records themselves and her transcription of them.  First off, gravestone inscriptions can be very difficult to read if the stone has been eroded or if moss and lichens have grown over it.  Of course, if the stone is broken off or buried or defaced or stolen, the data is simply missed.  She mentions problems with some stones in most of the cemeteries she collected.  Second, with the church records, many of the pastors or church clerks who originally recorded them had little interest in spelling.  For the most part, surnames had stabilized in terms of spelling by the time the earliest of these records were originally set down, but spelling of surnames in some of the records is creative at best.  Handwriting was also likely a factor here; we have not seen the original record books, so we do not really know what kind of legibility problems Ms. Barber faced.

Ms. Barber also was not a Sullivan County native — at least as far as we know she was not.  Hence, she had no familiarity with the family names typical of area, and doubtless made uninformed assumptions about spellings when transcribing.  Some of the German family names in the western portion of the County seem to have really given her fits.

Her technology, while typical of the era in which she worked, was not what one might have wished for.  Any time you are dealing with multiple carbon copies, typed on a manual typewriter, legibility inevitably suffers.  Today we easily forget just how hard it was to make corrections on six carbons when typing.  The consequences today are that the characters are sometimes blurred, there are overstrikes that make letters – and occasionally strings of letters – unintelligible.

Another defect was with Ms. Barber’s indexing skills.  Fortunately, this is one defect that we can do something about.  While she did index some of the records for Sullivan County, we surmise that her methodology was not the greatest, and since they are not up to the standard of her data collection, in our reprints of her work we have chosen to omit her indices.   Instead of including them, we have indexed many of her records in this section, and where we have done so, our index appears with our republications. When using our indexes, please be aware that we suffered with the same problems of legibility that Ms. Barber no doubt did when collecting the records.  What we saw was what we indexed.

One might say from these notes that we are being very critical, perhaps even unfair to Ms. Barber, but that is not our intent.  Given the limitations at hand, she did an admirable job.  More important, she was the ONLY PERSON WHO APPEARS TO HAVE DONE THE JOB AT ALL!

Even with the limitations of her records, we, seventy five years after she collected this material, say “THANK YOU” to Gertrude Barber for her dedication, patience, and generosity in spending a few years creating this rare compendium of Sullivan County records for us to use today.

 

What we offer

We offer in download form most of the Sullivan County records that Mrs. Barber transcribed and produced in typescript form — at least those that found their way to the New York Public Library.

Please see the Sullivan County page on our main website for a listing of what we have available.

Recovering history
Between the Lakes Group helps you recover history!

 

Methodist Church Records – Town of Liberty, NY Circuit

Back in the years preceding and following the dawn of the 20th century, the larger Sullivan County, NY, villages, such as Liberty and Monticello, had their own Methodist Episcopal (what the Methodists used to be called) churches with full-time clergy.  However, the smaller villages and hamlets might have had a church building, but the clergy was shared between several villages.  If you’ve heard the term “circuit rider” that’s what these clergy were.  They carried the records of each of the churches with them as they rode the circuit.

In the Town of Liberty, in Sullivan County, NY, there was a circuit that served White Sulphur Springs (then called Robertsonville), Swan Lake (then called Stevensville), and Harris (then known as Strongtown).   A succession of ministers served that circuit, and their compiled records are available to us, thanks to the diligence of Gertrude Barber back in 1929.

About church records

Church records, with variations depending upon denomination, tend to have records of liturgical events:  baptisms, confirmations (“joining the church”), marriages, and funerals, with occasional lists of all the members of a particular church at a particular point in time.  In an area that did not have state-mandated capture of birth, marriage, and death statistics until rather late (and then it was not infrequently neglected), church records can be the most important source of such data, surpassing even family Bibles due to their concentration of information about a locality.

Methodist Church Records: Town of Liberty, NY Circuit

We had previously included this compilation on one of our Memories of Liberty CD-ROMs, but now that we have discontinued our CD line, this one gets to stand on its own.  For anyone with ancestors in the more rural parts of the Town of Liberty, or someone interested in the history of these areas, this collection is very important.  We’ve also compiled our own index of the records.

Please CLICK HERE to see more information and to download this collection.

 

Recovering history
Between the Lakes Group helps you recover history!