Unlike a textbook or how-to book, which genealogists should consult prior to venturing upon a research trip, A Field Guide for Genealogists, by Judy Jacobson, is the perfect book to take with you once you have embarked. Consider the following scenarios: (1) You’re doing research in a courthouse when you come across a term in a will that you don’t understand; (2) You run across an old photograph of people who are supposed to be your ancestors, but you just can’t place the subjects of the photo; (3) You find your great-great-great-grandmother’s death certificate only to learn that she died from a disease you’d never heard of. The latest title from the prolific Mrs. Jacobson is designed to remove not only the foregoing stumbling blocks but also to answer thousands of other practical questions which quite naturally arise during the course of research.
A Field Guide for Genealogists is a veritable encyclopedia of solutions for situations that can arise in research. For example, to return to the problem with the photograph, the Field Guide includes sections on the basics of dating photographs and identifying historical eras from hairstyles or clothing. Similarly, legal terms found in genealogical records are identified in one of the several glossaries compiled by Mrs. Jacobson. Other lists cover antiquated names of diseases and calamities, as well as units of measurement used in bygone days. There are glossaries of genealogical terms, nicknames, surnames, place names, and occupations. The author has prepared a section on problems to anticipate at the county courthouse, offers hints for deciphering old handwriting, discusses different types of calendars, and has incorporated time lines of American history, migration, and transportation. Other topics covered are the range of records at the National Archives, the evolution of the U.S. census, what to look for in museums, American ethnic groups, finding information in museums, using library vertical files, and much more–all from the practical standpoint of solving a problem on site. In fact, short of carting around an entire library of reference books on your next research trip, Judy Jacobson’s Field Guide for Genealogists, in scarcely 300 pages, is the closest thing we know of in the way of an all-purpose manual to help you once you’ve arrived at your destination.