Vital records, land records, legal documents, and many other genealogically critical resources are full of legal terminology. As laws and countries change, so does the verbiage in such records. The older the document the more difficult it may be to interpret all the legal mumbo jumbo. Over the decades, Black’s Law Dictionary has been a great resource for sorting out legalese. The current 9th edition is really reserved for attorneys and legal professionals. However, older versions of the dictionary can help genealogist decipher older records and documents. Called Black’s dictionary because it was originally written and assembled by Henry Campbell Black, the 1891 first edition and the 1910 second edition of Black’s Law Dictionary are available on CD as A Dictionary of Law.
This CD of the first two editions of the dictionary takes the genealogist out of time and puts them in a different place, where the language of the law and its place in society was different than today’s world. This dictionary can help researchers interpret documents from the American colonial period and from a similar time period in England. Terms, words, and phrases from Scottish and Welsh law are included, along with many Latin and French words of kinship. Words are similar to those that would have appeared in will, land grants, and even agricultural records.
The second edition includes more entries for law reports and case law; plus, additional words including medically related terms. The two editions are in .pdf format (Acrobat). Acrobat reader is available on both MAC and PC, making this book usable on both platforms. Acrobat files are also easily searchable, making finding terms uncovered in research easy to look up and verify. Genealogist searching ancestors living more than 100 years ago will find this CD a vital part of their reference collection.
Black’s Law Dictionary is available from Family Roots Publishing.