Book Review: Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary Compiled by Maurine and Glen Harris

Prepared by Gena Philibert-Ortega.

Every pursuit has its own specialized vocabulary. As a new genealogist some of the terms used by more seasoned veterans of the pursuit can be confusing. Acronyms and abbreviations like PAF, FHL, DAR and Bef. need explanation. Do you know what a notarial will is, or a corporeal right or the Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America? Lucky for genealogists, there is a dictionary that can help you as you navigate your research.

"Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary" provides the definitions to thousands of words and unscrambles acronyms and abbreviations used in genealogical and historical research. According to its Preface, "The words included in this guide may be found in apprentice, church, census, tax, land, naturalization, immigration, and medical records, as well as in deeds, probates, civil registrations, and poll books." (p. v). Words found in this dictionary were gleaned from such sources as the Oxford English Dictionary, Black's Law Dictionary and Webster's. This work includes both definitions for words and a section that spells out abbreviations most often used in genealogy.

There are other dictionaries and encyclopedias that can be useful to your research; this dictionary lists them in its bibliography. However, purchasing these works can be expensive and take up a lot of bookshelf space. The "Concise Genealogical Dictionary" is meant to be small and portable, making it perfect to take with you or to store near your computer. As I peruse the 246 pages of this dictionary, it really is a reference work you could consider reading like any other non-fiction book to gain a better understanding of historical terms, concepts and methodology in genealogical research.

While you could do your genealogical research without a dictionary, it enhances your understanding if you include one on your genealogical bookshelf. "Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary" gives you the tools to better understand unfamiliar terms.

In case you are wondering, a notarial will is "an authentic will made by the testator before a notary and retained by him until the death" (p. 149). A corporeal right is a "tangible right in property such as an estate" (p. 57). The Order of Colonial Lords of Manors in America is a group established in 1911 for lineal descendants of the Order's twenty-seven recognized patrons, lords of the manor, or seigniors." (p. 152).

Ancestry's Concise Genealogical Dictionary, compiled by Maurine Harris and Glen Harris. Ancestry Publishing, 1989.

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