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!

Hodgkin – Hotchkin – Hotchkiss Family History

Hodgkin.  Hotchkin.  Hotchkiss.  Three names for a single family?

In a word, yes.  A fellow names John Hodgkin (sometimes also spelled Hodke) immigrated circa 1648 from England, settling in Guilford, Connecticut.  He married and raised a family.  And his descendents commonly used the  three variants in this post’s title for their surnames, but, just to keep things interesting, also pluralized the first two of these on occasion, so one occasionally finds Hodgkins and Hotchkins as individual surnames.  Compounding the problems, from a genealogical perspective, is the fact that a man named Samuel Hotchkiss arrived in New Haven proper around the same time.  Samuel also produced a large family, but they at least stuck to Hotchkiss as a surname pretty generally.

If your reaction so far is a big “so what?” it’s not entirely a surprise.  Back in the day spelling of surnames (and pretty much everything else) was an opportunity to exercise one’s creativity, so deviant spellings of surnames are a dime a dozen, really.

However, there were a few aspects of this family that are a bit more interesting than that.

First of all, how’s your British (and American colonial) history?  John Hodgkin came here as part of a migration of Puritans from England — the fact that he settled in Connecticut rather than Massachusetts Bay Colony suggests that he was probably a very strict Puritan as well.  He appears in the records as “Governor Leete’s man” so we find no reason that he would not have fit this pattern.  Fast forward a few years, until the Puritan takeover (think Oliver Cromwell) in England, when the victors decided to execute the King they had deposed.  The judges on that court became known, after the monarchy was restored, as the Regicides (and king-killing is not favorably viewed by monarchists in general).

So, unsurprisingly, the hunt for the Regicides began.  Two, named Whalley and Goffe, had fled to New England (they were fortunate to get out of England alive) (for a list of all the Regicides and what happened to them, try Wikipedia).  Since New England was still a British colony, they had not outrun the law, however, and the King’s agents searched for them here.  They were spirited from house to house, from community to community, even from colony to colony — and one of their stopovers was with John Hodgkin and his family.

The Hodgkin/Hotchkin/etc. family tended, in subsequent generations, to produce clergymen, a few of whom developed well-deserved reputations as writers, and others of whom developed reputations for other things.

The writers included the Rev. James Hervey Hotchkin, who wrote an early history about the settlement of Western New York State (which we have re-published on CD-ROM — find more information HERE); and the Rev. S. F. Hotchkin (he defied family tradition and became an Episcopal priest) who wrote a series of local history books about Philadelphia and the surrounding area — we plan to republish one of these soon.

Less savory were Hotchkin clergymen who sided against a Connecticut girl marrying a Hawaiian native to the extent that he led a schism in the local Congregational church, and another who had a missionary interest in Native American and black women in the South around the time of the Civil War.  He is notable not because he saved many souls, but because his ministrations to these unfortunate women produced a branch of the family referred to today as the Black Hotchkins.

John Hodgkin (Hotchkin) of Guilford, CT and his Descendents
John Hodgkin (Hotchkin) of Guilford, CT and his Descendents

All of this is prelude to the fact that the principal partner of Between the Lakes Group, along with a number of hard working and intelligent family members, back in the 1980s, produced a book entitled “John Hodgkin (Hotchkin) of Guilford, CT and his descendents”.  The book sold out two printings in hard cover almost immediately — there are indeed many descendents of John Hotchkin, or at least many people who want to know about his and the family he produced —  and now we have re-published it in digital form as a download.  If you go HERE to our New Haven, CT page, you can learn more about this download — and perhaps enjoy a copy of your own.

(We should add that unlike some in the genealogy biz, we believe that all lines, male and female, legitimatized by matrimony or not, deserve to be followed.  In preparing this book we followed this practice, and we hope that you appreciate this and understand that as a result there are some surnames appearing in the index nearly as frequently as Hotchkin does — Beers is an example.)