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Genealogy for Christmas

Did you give or receive any genealogy-related gifts for Christmas? I did.

Every December I write a character sketch for one of my ancestors and distribute it to the family. Christmas provides a good opportunity for this because it falls at the end of my research year and provides a natural gift-giving opportunity. The relatives seem to enjoy learning about their forebears without having to do the research themselves.

Because genealogy is such a big part of my life, I also enjoy receiving any genealogy gifts that come my way.

This year, I received a great one. My husband/tech advisor gave me a reprint of the 1891 edition of Black’s Law Dictionary. I have long coveted one of these. Why?

This book will help me immensely with research on my colonial and nineteenth-century ancestors. Many came from England. They lived there and in the United States under what is known as the common law. The legal documents and court cases dating from this time were filled with now-archaic legal terms that are not included in modern legal dictionaries. So where does one turn to find definitions of these strange words?

Henry Campbell Black, a New York lawyer and legal scholar, published his first comprehensive law dictionary in 1891. The original edition did contain common law legal terms that have now become obsolete. Armed with a copy of Black’s 1891 dictionary, I will have a much easier time deciphering any legal documents I discover as I pursue my research.

I know I could get an electronic copy of the dictionary, but I really, really prefer printed books. I will set this one in a prominent place on my desk. I am sure I will use it regularly. The perfect gift for me.

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