Over the course of the last few years, NEHGS has made a serious commitment to
providing easier access to many of its collections through electronic
publication. and , were published in May 2001. Since that time the catalog has
grown to fourteen titles, with more releases scheduled for the future. The most
recent title, Vermont Historical Gazetteer by Abby Maria Hemenway, was
released in January 2004. (The first CD-ROM published by NEHGS contained volumes
1–145 of the Register; it did not use the same software, and is now out
Electronic publications have many advantages over their print counterparts.
The ability to search every word instead of being limited to indexes can make it
easier to locate previously hidden information. There is much flexibility in
searches — for instance, combining words and using wildcards to limit large
searches (such as John Smith) to the more appropriate possibilities. CD-ROMs
require less space on the shelf than equivalent print volumes (for example,
the CD-ROM takes up three-eighths of an inch, while the
four-volume printed set consumes a whopping nine and three-quarter inches).
As with any electronic publication, users will get the most out of CD-ROMs by
exploring their features and discovering the wealth of data at their fingertips.
Unfortunately many people have a tendency to load the CD-ROM and jump
immediately into searches. While the software makes it easy to do so, users will
benefit more from taking the time to read help files and search tips included on
All CD-ROMs produced by NEHGS use Folio infobase software. This software was
selected because of both its variety of options and its versatility in dealing
with files. It is also one of the few products available that works on both
Windows and Macintosh operating systems. The Society has a large number of Mac
users and is dedicated to supporting their needs as well as those of the Windows
Installation of the CD-ROMs is easy, and simple instructions are included on
each one. Simply run the setup.exe file from the CD-ROM by selecting Run from
the Start Menu and pressing Enter. Follow the directions and a moment later you
will be ready to begin. Mac users either press the NEHGS install icon, or drop
the folder onto the desktop or hard drive, depending on which title is being
used. You have the option of installing all of the files or just the minimum
number to run the program. Those selecting the minimum number of files will need
to have the CD-ROM in the CD drive of their computer every time they wish to use
the data. Installing all of the files allows users to access them at any time,
without needing the actual CD-ROM.
When opening the infobase (“infobase” is the Folio term for the records,
shortened from information database), the screen defaults to the Browse window.
The pane on the left side is the Table of Contents for the infobase. In the
right pane is the actual infobase. Think of this pane as a giant piece of paper.
Imagine that an entire book was printed on a single sheet of paper, and you need
to read down the paper to find the information you seek. It is possible to read
straight through from the title to the last entry in the infobase. Doing so is
not, however, the most efficient way to access the information. Using the Table
of Contents pane and the search functionality, it is possible to move between
entries within the infobase, looking for information on your family. Clicking on
any entry in the Table of Contents pane will move the cursor to that exact point
in the infobase pane. Click on the plus and minus signs to expand and contract
the Table of Contents.
Those using Folio for the first time (or those who haven’t taken the time
previously) will find it very beneficial to read the information under the Help
option in the menu bar. Select Contents from the Help menu to open the Help
infobase. This file is generic to the Folio infobase software, and will allow
you to use the features of the product better. You will likely discover new ways
of finding and organizing the facts you unearth.
In addition to the generic help file, many titles often have specific search
tips included in the Table of Contents. For example, many infobases have names
listed in one record as “last name, first name,” making it more difficult to
find people. In this case you can search for text strings (a series of
characters in a row) in that order for better results. The introductory matter
for each title should also be read thoroughly for explanations of abbreviations
and other conventions that may be specific to that infobase. The transcriber’s
notes on many of the CD-ROMs help to explain the condition of the original
material, its organization, and guidelines used when converting to electronic
format. These details will assist you not only in using the CD-ROMs, but also in
locating and using the original records.
There are four types of searches available in the Folio software:
• Keyword and phrase searches
• Wildcard searches
• Proximity searches
• Boolean operator searches.
Keyword and phrase are the most basic type of search. Clicking on the
binoculars icon will open the Advanced Query dialog box. You can also open this
box by selecting Advanced Query from the Search menu. This box allows for
searching records within the infobase, using as many individual words as the
user wishes. The area on the left side of the dialog box contains a list of each
unique word in the infobase in alphabetical order. Just type in a series of
words in the dialog box and click on OK. For example, a search for John Smith on
reveals 179 matches, but John Smith Hingham reduces the number to five. To clear
the results of any query, simply click on the icon with the crossed-out
binoculars or select Clear Query from the Search menu.
Advanced searches allow you to choose specific parts of the infobase to
search. In the lower left corner of the Query dialog box are two buttons: one
with an open bracket ( [ ) and the other with a close bracket ( ] ). Clicking
the Open Bracket inserts that character in the dialog box, and changes the word
list on the left to a scope list. Here you can limit a search to a particular
area: chapters, highlighters, sticky notes, etc. Just select a scope, click on
the Close Bracket and type in your search information.
Remember that performing a keyword and phrase search by typing in the words
John and Smith does not guarantee that the John Smith in that record is from
Hingham [Massachusetts], only that the words John, Smith, and Hingham all appear
in the same record. It could turn out that one or more of the hits is not for
anyone named John Smith at all. For example, in the above mentioned search, one
of the results is a list of jurors for the court of Common Pleas session of
November 1821 and reveals that Sylvanus Smith of Carver, John
Beals of Hanson, and Benjamin Jones and Joseph Whiton of Hingham produce
the search result. To search for an exact word group just enclose the words in
quotation marks, such as “John Smith.” This will only return results where the
words John and Smith are located next to one another, in that order.
Records can be different lengths. In some infobases they are a single line,
while in others they can be paragraph length or longer. Records are not of
uniform length even within a single infobase. The length of a record is set
after viewing the infobase and attempting to optimize the data within the
infobase for the best search results, in addition to other considerations. The
length of a record can affect search results.
One of the major issues affecting an electronic product search is that
computers are very literal. They will look for the string of characters that you
enter, and only for that specific string of characters. For example, if you type
in Smith you will not receive hits for Smyth, Smythe, or Smithe, but you
may see results such as Smithfield, Smithson, and Smithers.
To allow for these spelling variations, the Folio software allows the use of
wildcard characters when searching. There are four types of wildcard searches
available: single character, multiple character, word form, and synonym. These
searches allow users to locate words using patterns for a set of words and to
find synonyms or forms of a word.
Single character wildcard searches replace any given character in a word. The
single character wildcard is a question mark (?). The question mark replaces a
character to allow variations of the word to appear in the results. For example,
a search on Sm?th would return results for Smith and Smyth. More than one
question mark can be used in a search, such as Sm?th?, which would return
results for Smithe, Smiths, Smythe, and Smyths. However, the single character
wildcard requires a character to be in the position of the question mark.
Therefore, the search for Sm?th? would not return a result for Smith or
Multiple character wildcard searches allow for wildcard subsitution of
several characters in a row. The multiple character wildcard is an asterisk (*).
For example, a search on Smith* will return results for Smithson,
Smithfield, and Smithers among others. It is not necessary for a character to
appear in the location of the wildcard for a result to be returned. For
instance, searching on the term ?smith will return blacksmith,
silversmith, and tinsmith as well as the surname Smith.
To help find additional relevant results, try proximity searches. Two are
available: word proximity and record proximity. Word proximity specifies a
certain range within which the words must appear in a single record. A specific
range must be set for all proximity searches.
Word proximity searches can be “ordered” or “unordered.” To perform an
ordered word search, enclose the terms in quotation marks followed by a forward
slash and the number of words within which they must be located from each other.
For example, “John Smith Hingham”/10 indicates that the words John, Smith, and
Hingham must appear in the same record, in that order (i.e. John first, then
Smith, then Hingham), within a single record in the infobase within ten words of
each other. Unordered searches look for all of the terms, regardless of their
order. To perform an unordered search, use the @ symbol instead of a forward
slash: “John Smith Hingham”@10.
Record proximity searches look for the search terms within a specified number
of records. Operators are the symbol that tells the computer to conduct a
specific type of search. The operator for record proximity searches is the pound
sign (#). These searches locate terms within a set number of records. Record
proximity searches are unordered searches. For example “John Smith Hingham”#3
would return a result for all locations where the terms John, Smith, and Hingham
were located within three records of each other.
When conducting proximity searches, whether word or record, the computer
starts counting the proximity when it finds the first word for which you are
searching. In the last example, the computer would start with the first record
that shows John, and continue looking for Smith and Hingham. If it does not find
both of these words within the next two records, it will not return a
Boolean operator searches allow you to refine your searches in ways that a
simple word or phrase search cannot match. Folio offers four types of Boolean
searches: And, Or, Not, and Exclusive Or. The And search is the default when
typing in a phrase. It is indicated by a single space, an ampersand (&), or
the word “and.” For example, the following entries will all return the same
results: John Adams; John & Adams; John and Adams. This search will
return results for all appearances of John and Adams in the same record. A
simple And search is the equivalent of a keyword and phrase search.
The Or operator looks for appearances of either of two words. The words may
or may not appear in the same record. Typing the phrase Boston or
Plymouth will return results for all records where either the word Boston or
the word Plymouth appears. The Or operator may be indicated by the word “or” or
using the pipe symbol ( | ).
The Not operator looks for records that do not contain the specified
information, and can be used alone or in word or phrase pairs. The search term
not Braintree, for example, would return all records where the word
Braintree does not appear. This search is most often used for word or phrase
pairs, such as Chamberlain not Providence. This search would return all results
where the name Chamberlain appears but the word Providence does not appear. The
Not operator is signified by using the word not or a carat (^).
The XOr (Exclusive Or) operator searches for records which contain one of two
words, but not both. This operator is indicated by using the term xor or the
tilde (~). For instance, you could type in David xor Samuel to find
records that contain David but not Samuel, or Samuel but not David. This search
functionality is probably of only limited use to genealogists.
In order for the Boolean search to work properly, the words or phrases must
appear on either side of the operator. The only operator where the order does
not matter is the Not operator. Boolean searches can be combined for more
effectiveness. For example, searches with the operators John and Adams not
Abigail would return results for all records where John and Adams appear in
the same record without the word Abigail.
When Boolean searches are combined, they are executed in a specific order,
regardless of the order in which they are entered. The order of precedence for
executing a search is: Not, Or, XOr, And. Consider the following query: John
or Samuel and Adams not Braintree. This search would execute in the
1. not Braintree (records without the word Braintree)
2. John or Samuel (records from the above subset with the words John or
3. and Adams (records from the last subset above with the word Adams)
The precedence of search can be overridden by using parentheses around terms.
Parentheses force terms to be grouped together. Parentheses within parentheses
are searched first, moving outwards until the last search is ended. Let’s use
the same words as above, but with parentheses, to illustrate. John or (Samuel
and (Adams not Braintree)) will execute in the following manner:
1. Adams not Braintree (all records with the word Adams but not
2. Samuel and (all records from the subset defined above that contain
3. John or (all records from number 2 above as well as all records with
Effective combination of Boolean searches will allow the greatest flexibility
in using infobases, and give you the richest results. Such searches can be
especially helpful in filtering out common names and a large number of results
that are not yours (as when you are looking for a John Adams who was not the
former president and married to Abigail). Another important factor to consider
when searching is that infobases cannot tell the difference between types of
words (e.g. surnames, given names, place names, etc.) or word classes (i.e.
nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc.).
Tools for managing information
Folio infobase software provides many tools to assist you in finding,
marking, and organizing information. Once information is located, using these
tools will make it easier to locate the entry again in the future without having
to go through a cumbersome process of reviewing search results.
Any location in the infobase can be marked with a bookmark for easier access
later. Simply place the cursor wherever you want a bookmark, but do not select
any text. Choose Bookmark from the Tools menu. Type a descriptive name for the
bookmark into the dialog box and press Set. Initial creation of a bookmark
limits the characters to 39, but you can later rename the bookmark using up to
127 characters. Just select a bookmark in the dialog box and click Rename.
To jump from anywhere in the infobase to a specific bookmark, open the dialog
box, highlight the bookmark, and click Go To. The cursor will immediately
relocate to the bookmark. To move a bookmark place the cursor where you would
like to move the bookmark. Open the Bookmark dialog box, highlight the bookmark
you wish to move, and click Move. To delete a bookmark, open the dialog box,
select a bookmark, and click Delete. To open the Bookmark dialog box quickly,
press Ctrl+M on your keyboard. In order to keep your bookmarks you must save
your infobase before closing it. When you close the infobase, a dialog box will
ask if you want to save your changes. Click Yes and all changes will be saved.
Sticky notes are a way to make comments about information in the infobase.
They can be placed anywhere in the infobase, and are fully searchable. Place the
cursor next to the text you wish to annotate (do not select the text) and click
on the yellow sticky note icon in the toolbar (or select Note from the Tools
menu). Enter your notation in the dialog box that pops up. Close the box by
clicking the x in the upper right corner. A message will appear asking if you
wish to save the note. Click Yes, and the box will close and a small sticky note
icon will appear in the left margin next to the text. Double-click on the icon
and the note will open. If you wish to delete a note, simply place the cursor on
the text where the note resides and select Remove Note from the Tools menu. The
icon will disappear. The keyboard shortcut for creating a sticky note is Ctrl+N.
The shortcut to remove a note is Ctrl+Shift+N. Sticky notes will only be
retained if you save the infobase before closing it.
Another useful tool for marking information is the highlighter. Text in the
infobase can be highlighted much the same way as text in a book can be
highlighted with a color marker. Select the text you wish to highlight and click
on the Highlighter tool (or select Highlighter from the Tools menu). Select New
from the dialog box and type in a name for the highlighter, such as “Smith
Deaths after 1800.” You can then select from one of fifteen different colors for
the highlighter. Once the color is selected, click OK and the highlighter will
be ready to use.
If you wish to change the appearance of the text in the infobase, as well as
its color, click the Format button in the dialog box. This move will allow you
to set the font, style, and size. Once you have done so, click Apply and close
the window. Then click Apply in the highlighter dialog box. The dialog box will
close and the text will be highlighted and change appearance according to the
options you have selected. To remove the highlight from the text, simply select
the same text and choose Remove Highlight under the Tools menu. The highlight
will disappear and the text will return to normal appearance.
There is a Highlighter Tool dropdown box next to the Highlighter icon in the
toolbar. This feature gives you rapid access to any previously created
Highlighter. Highlighted text can be searched separately. The keyboard shortcut
for highlighting text is Ctrl+H. There is no keyboard shortcut for removing
highlights. As with bookmarks and sticky notes, it is necessary to save the
infobase before closing to retain all highlighters.
Tagging records is done primarily for printing purposes. Tagging allows you
to print a single record as opposed to the entire infobase. To tag a record,
simply click the Tag icon in the toolbar and click in the record you want to
tag. To untag a record, simply click within the record again, and the tag will
be removed. You can also tag records by selecting Tag from the Tools menu, or
using the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+T. Once you have tagged all records you want
to print, click the Printer icon in the toolbar and select Tagged Records in the
dialog box. You can also select Print from the File menu or use the keyboard
You can limit printing to only a certain segment of text. To do so, simply
highlight the portion of text you wish to print. Once it is highlighted, click
the Printer icon and choose “Selection” from the dialog box. The dialog box also
allows you to print by record number. When viewing the database the record
number appears in a box in the lower left-hand corner of the window.
Entire sections of the infobase can be printed as well. In the lower part of
the dialog box is a reproduction of the table of contents. Choose the section or
subsection you would like to print, and choose Section in the dialog box. The
final option is to print the entire infobase by selecting All in the dialog box.
Warning: The infobases are quite large, and even sections or
subsections can sometimes run to hundreds of pages. It is highly recommended
that you do not select either of these last two options. There may also
be copyright restrictions on printing out sections or the entire infobase.
Contact the electronic publications department at firstname.lastname@example.org before
attempting either of these last two options!
Remember that some records are themselves quite long, and tagging them may
still produce a long printout. Another option is to select the text you wish to
print and choose Copy under the Edit menu. Then open your word processing
program and paste the text into a new document by selecting Paste under the Edit
menu. This feature allows you to format text any way you like before printing.
This method can also be used to copy and paste text into a genealogy database
NEHGS is dedicated to providing greater access to its collections by
producing high-quality research materials in electronic format. These tips
should allow you to research them most effectively, and extract the most
pertinent information. If you have any problems or questions about using the
CD-ROMs, please contact our technical support team at any time by email at
call toll-free 1-866-571-5351. Users can provide feedback about individual
CD-ROMs by emailing email@example.com.
Michael J. Leclerc is director of electronic publications at