GeneaGem: Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historian by Marc McCutcheon – Book Review

Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians by Marc McCutcheon is an oldie, but goodie, having been first published in 2001. I first heard about this book from another blogger (who, I can’t remember) last year.

This GeneaGem is not only a fabulous reference book for genealogists, but it’s a fun book just to read. I’d have to describe it as a dictionary of 1800s words and phrases.

There are 14 sections (not called chapters):

1. Slang and Everyday Speech
2. Getting Around
3. Around the House
4. Clothing and Fashion
5. Occupations
6. Money and Coinage
7. Health, Medicine and Hygiene
8. Food, Drink and Tobacco
9. Amusements
10. Courtship and Marriage
11. Slavery and Black Plantation Culture
12. The Civil War
13. Out on the Range
14. Crime

The 14 sections are followed by five chronologies:

Chronology of Events – a historical timeline
Chronology of Noted Books and Novels
Chronology of Selected Magazines
Chronology of Innovations
Chronology of Popular Songs

Lastly, is a section of References.

While some of the words and expressions have come down into the 21st century, for the most part, our ancestors might as well have been speaking Greek if we had been flies on the wall.

Whether you are writing up your family history, reading historical books with lots of unfamiliar vocabulary – any idea what a guttersnipe is or what a huckleberry above a persimmon might mean? – or you love language with all its intonations and meanings, this book will be an eye opener.

Can you define any of these terms?

  1. knight of the ribbons
  2. tarantula juice
  3. shut pan
  4. exfluncticate
  5. skillygally
  6. butternuts
  7. super twister
  8. snubbing post
  9. to cut shines
  10. soaplocks

Nope, I am not going to tell you what any of them mean! You’ll have to read the book for yourself. Amazon has used copies available (one of which I bought) for less than $10.00.

However, after having read this book, you will have a much better understanding of medical issues of the day, what families did for fun, black plantation culture and the Civil War, ranch life and crime.

It’s a true GeneaGem that should be in your reference library.



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