Get a sense of your ancestors' space with these five furniture guides.
1. The Big Book of Antique Furniture by David P. Lindquist and Caroline C. Warren (Krause Publications). This photo-laden, three-volume reference features English, Continental, Colonial Revival and Victorian furniture. Although the guide targets antiques dealers and collectors, genealogists will find it useful in identifying family heirlooms. The furniture examples span Colonial times to the early 20th century. You'll learn not only how to appraise a piece, but also what happens to old wood and how mass-market production affected the industry. The book covers furniture makers who operated in major cities such as New York and Philadelphia, as well. Each volume contains its own index.
2. Early American Furniture: A Practical Guide for Collectors by John Obbard (Collector Books). You don't have to be a collector — just an appreciator — of antique furniture to get useful information from this book. Like other tomes on this topic, it's arranged by furniture type and supplies plenty of illustrations with detailed descriptions. But it also provides background on the furniture trade in early America, plus chapters on understanding period and style, evaluating quality, identifying period workmanship and uncovering fakes and frauds. Utilize this book as a social history of the early American furniture that decorated your ancestors' homes.