Saturday, 26 March 2011

Book Review: Time Traveller's Handbook

Time Traveller's Handbook: a guide to the past
Althea Douglas
Dundurn Press
ISBN 978-1-55488-784-2 (softcover) $19.99/£12.00

Imagine sitting down for a conversation with a veteran genealogist, one who has an MA from McGill, a CG(C) certification, extensive research experience, publications dating back to 1958 including several in the past two decades published by the Ontario Genealogical Society with interesting titles like "Help! I've inherited an attic full of history" and "Here be dragons!"

The conversation skips across a range of topics and is peppered with stories, information about past times, and wisdom distilled by the fire of experience and cool of judgement.

That's what you'll find in this new, nearly 350 page, volume published by the OGS and Dundurn Press. in 16 eclectic chapters plus end material.

Chapter 5 "Money", goes into the currency our ancestors used. Perhaps like me you used tanners and half-crowns and know how many of one there are in the other. But you may be as flummoxed as I was over Halifax currency and York currency.

Chapter 13 "Health in the Past" explains what was meant by apoplexy, dropsy and ship fever.  A timeline mentions that in 1892 a worldwide cholera pandemic killed some two million people.

Chapter 15 has a list of early magazines.

Chapter 16 will tell you the difference between a brig and a schooner; and what is meant by Wavy Navy.

As pointed out in the book's introduction, this is the type of information available on the internet - somewhere - and you can waste a lot of time hunting for it. To find it in the book there's a comprehensive seven page index.

As with any veteran you're liable to hear favourite stories repeated, in this case not within the book but items are recycled from older material in Here Be Dragons! and Here Be Dragons Too! Even the title harks back to a phrase used in the introduction to Genealogy, Geography, and Maps.


I enjoyed delving into the Time Traveller's Handbook. It finds its target "family historians working in Canada whose ancestors originated somewhere else" and will find a place on my bookshelf.

There will be a book launch at 8:45am next Saturday, 2 April, at Gene-O-Rama with copies available for purchase and signing at the Ottawa Branch OGS stand.

Marta, a Publicity Assistant at Dundurn Press has interesting background on Althea in a blog posting at:  http://www.definingcanada.ca/2011/03/18/how-i-became-a-time-traveller/

1 comment:

Mike More said...

John, actually the books, and Althea between sessions, will be at the OGS Region VIII table.