I had the pleasure of reading a great reference book entitled Time Traveller’s Handbook: A Guide to the Past, by Althea Douglas. Although the book is written for the genealogist or historian researching in Canada, there is plenty of useful information for researchers without Canadian roots.
The book is well-written, sourced where appropriate, and makes for an easy read. There are 16 chapters with historical facts galore, an appendix of historical dates and events, and a comprehensive index. A bibliography is also provided that lists the many sources referred to in the text.
Many of the chapters include lists of terms and definitions or other helpful tables (e.g., measurement conversions). Douglas also uses various anecdotes to illustrate certain facts, providing the reader with a better context of life back in the day in a more tangible way.
Chapter 8 “Trades and Their Tools” is a fascinating chapter. Did you know that a plumber in the early days was something much different than what we know one to be today? Want to know what a currier is? Did you know that a butcher may have also been called a flesher? I was very happy to see a definition for a cooper. I remember a few years ago searching the internet for a definition and it took several sources to finally find the answer, which wasn’t really much help. This book not only had a definition, but one that gave me a better picture of the trade.
Chapter 9 “Work Away From Home” is also an informative chapter, especially the discussion of rail workers. Chapter 13 “Health in the Past” is also a very helpful chapter and includes a list of common ailments with definitions.
While the book is a great reference to the past, it’s also good to read it from cover to cover. There were many pieces of information contained in the text that I had never even thought of before as being relevant to genealogy. But these tidbits got me thinking, and because of that, I have revised some of my research plans to include other avenues of research.
Time Traveller’s Handbook: A Guide to the Past. By Althea Douglas. Published by Dundurn Press, Toronto; 2011. ISBN 978-1-55488-784-2. 341 pp. Appendix, bibliography, index, notes, photographs, tables. Paperback.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.