Weights, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors by Colin R. Chapman. Published by Genealogical Publishing Company, 1001 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore MD 21202. 1995. USA edition 1996. 92 pp. Tables, Figures, Bibliography, Index. Softcover. $15 plus $3.50 shipping ($1.25 for each additional book).

This book was originally published in England in 1995 as part of the Chapman Records Cameo Series with the title How Heavy, How Much and How Long? Weight, Money and Other Measures Used by Our Ancestors. This is the ideal companion book for anyone working with old English wills, inventories, accounts or journals. It will help you understand and identify those old terms that you encounter. It will also help you get specific and clear up any misconceptions you might have. For example, I grew up thinking that yana, tana, and tethera were Cumbrian for one, two and three and used primarily for counting sheep. This book tells me that they are actually the ancient British numerals, but were used for counting sheep in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire at least into the 19th Century.

The book is full of tables so that you can learn about crinzes, mazers, piggins, quaiches, rummers, kivers, thraves, pottles, verges and hosts of other old measurements. The measurements are divided into a variety of chapters covering length, area, volume, mass, money and metric. This variety means the measuring tools of your ancestors occupation are likely to be included whether he was a publican, thatcher, fisherman, paper manufacturer, tailor, draper, knitter, grocer or banker. The vast majority of the technical terms included in the tables are listed in the index, making them easy to find. A few were not included.

The text and tables also include examples of how the value of a particular measurement changed with time, location or the population using the measurement. For example, if your ancestor's probate inventory included 5 ells of cloth, you would need to know if that was an English, Scottish, French or Flemish ell to know how much cloth he had. There are lots of examples like this throughout this fascinating book.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.3 no.2, 1996