Genealogical Terms Commonly Used in Genealogical Research

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This page defines the Genealogical Terms used in genealogical research you will find in documents

Select the first letter of the word from the list above to jump to appropriate section of the glossary
•  A  •  B  •  C  •  D  •  E  •  F  •  G  •  H  •  I  •  J  •  K  •  L  •  M  •  N  •  O  •  P  •  Q  •  R  •  S  •  T  •  U  •  V  •  W  •  X  •  Y  •  Z  •

- A -

  • ABATEMENT - the difference between the amount of the estate of an heir is to receive as specified in a will and the amount actually received, due to property devaluation between the time the will was made and when the death occurred; the entry of a stranger into the estate after the death of the possessor but before the heir or devisee can take control
  • ABEYANCE - the condition of an estate which either has been claimed but not taken possession of, or which is liable to be claimed by someone
  • AB INITIO - [Latin] "from the beginning"; used in reference to situations regarding the validity of a deed, marriage, estate, etc.
  • AB INTESTATE - [Latin] the condition of inheriting from one who died without making a will
  • ABSTRACT - to take the main points and essential information from a document such as a will, deed, bounty land warrant, census, etc.
  • ABUT - to adjoing or border such as in land, estates, or farms
  • ABUTTAL - a boundary where one's land joins or meets another's land
  • ACADIAN - inhabitant of Acadia (Nova Scotia); a descendant of French settlers of Acadia who live in Louisiana, i.e. Cajuns
  • ACCESSION NUMBER - number assigned by a librarian or archivist denoting the time a book, manuscript, or artifact was placed within a collection
  • ACCRETION -the right of inheritance by survival
  • ACCOMMODATION - land alloted to families in a town or settlement
  • ACCOMMODATION NOTE - a statement, draft, or paper drawn for the purpose of obtaining credit with no consideration
  • ACCRETION - the right of inheritance by survival
  • AD HOC - [Latin] for this special reason; for a special purpose
  • ADMEASURE - to give each heir or claimant his or her rightful share of an estate, dower, or property
  • ADMEASUREMENT - the adjustment or apportionment of the shares of an estate, dower, pasture held in common, inheritance, etc.
  • ADMEASUREMENT OF DOWER - the readjustment of a dower when an heir becomes of age because a parent or guardian was receiving an unfair share to support the child
  • ADMINISTRATION - the management or settling of the estate of a person who died without a will, of a person whose estate is being handled by an executor under a will, or of a minor or mentally incompetent person
  • ADMINISTRATION BOND - a specified amount of money, usually twie the estimated value of the estate, posted by the person chosen by the court to act as administrator of an estate which insures that the administrator will fulfill his obligations satisfactorily according to law
  • ADMINISTRATION CUM TESTAMENTO ANNEXO - see ADMINISTRATION WITH WILL ANNEXED
  • ADMINISTRATION DE BONIS NON - administration of a deceased person's property that was not completely distributed by the first administrator
  • ADMINISTRATION DE BONIS NON CUM TESTAMENTO ANNEXO - administration granted by the court when part of the estate is still unadministered because of the death of the executor
  • ADMINISTRATION PENDITE LITE - administration of an estate carried out while a suit is pending concerning the validity of the will
  • ADMINISTRATION WITH WILL ANNEXED - [also administration cum testamento annexo] administration granted by the court in instances where the person who makes a will has neglected to name an executor, or where the executor is unable or refuses to act
  • ADMINISTRATOR - a person appointed by the court to administer the estate of an incompetent person or an intestate who differs from an executor in that he is court appointed whereas the executor is appointed by the deceased
  • ADMINISTRATIX - a female administrator
  • ADMITTED FREEMAN - see INDENTURED SERVANT ADOPTION - To take into one's family through legal means and raise as one's own child.
  • ADOPTION BY BAPTISM - a spiritual affinity contracted between godfathers and godchildren in the baptism ceremony, and entitled the godchild to a share of the godfather's estate
  • ADOPTION BY MATRIMONY - the act of taking the children of a spouse's former marriage as one's own upon marriage
  • ADOPTION BY TESTAMENT - to appoint a perion heir if he follows the stipulations in the will to take the name, arms, etc. of the adopter
  • ADVANCEMENT - a gift given to a child by a living parent in anticipation of an inheritance
  • ADVENTURER - one who purchased shares in the Virginia Land Company at 12 pounds, 10 shillings each, and received 100 acres in Virginia
  • AD VERBATIM - [Latin] "to the word"; in full
  • ADVERSE POSSESSION - actual possession of real property obtained by aggressive or "notorious" actions, and gaining title to the property by keeping it for a statutory period of time
  • AETAS - [Latin] lifetime; age; generation
  • AETATIS SUAE - [Latin] the condition of being in a specified year of one's life - aetatis suae 25 means in the twenty-fifth year of one's age, after a person's twenty-fourth birthday
  • AFFIDAVIT - a written document created while under oath before an authorized officer such as a notary public, court officer, etc.
  • AFFIRMATION - a declaration made by a person having conscientious objections against swearing an oath
  • AFTER-ACQUIRED PROPERTY - property that was acquired after the date of a will
  • AGE OF CONSENT - age at which persons can marry without parental consent
  • AGE OF MAJORITY - age at which a person becomes able to handle his own affairs being usually 18 for girls and 21 for boys
  • AGGREGATE (census) - an enumeration in which no names are recorded, only the number of individuals within an age group, religious group, type of profession, national origin, etc.
  • AHNENTAFEL - a German word that translates as "ancestor table"
  • ALLEGATION - a document stating there was no impediment to the marriage (a) not close relatives, (b) not minors, (c) did not have a wife or husband living to whom they were already married.
  • ANCESTORS - person from whom you are descended in a direct line
  • APPURTENANCES - the rights, duties, and perquisites of one who held manorial land - usually, grazing rights, payment of fines, submission to the manorial court, and a pew in church
  • ARCHIVES - reference to the storage of older records
  • ASCENDANT - ancestor
  • ASSESSOR - the person whose responsibility is to decide on the value of property and the rate of tax to be paid, sometimes being the local sheriff or constable
  • ASSIGNEE - a person who has been assigned another's rights or personal property
  • ASSIGNOR - an individual who assigns his rights or interests in something to another person
  • AUNT - The sister of one's father or mother or the wife of one's uncle

- B -

  • BANNS - publication or posting of intended marriages, published for three consecutive Sundays prior to the event
  • BASELINE - specific survey line on which all latitude measurements are based
  • BASTARD - an illegitimate child; born out of wedlock.
  • BEQUEST- a gift, personal property or money handed down in a will
  • BEQUEATH - to give personal property to a person in a will
  • BINDING OUT - see BOUND OUT
  • BLENDED FAMILY - a family unit that includes natural children, step-children, foster children, half-brothers and -sisters, and/or adopted children, all as part of a single family group
  • BONA - [Latin] in good faith
  • BONA NOTABILIA - [Latin] considerable goods
  • BOND - A binding agreement; a covenant; a duty, a promise, or another obligation by which one is bound. See also MARRIAGE BOND.
  • BONDED PASSENGER - passengers convicted of various crimes
  • BONDMAID -a female slave; a bound servant not due wages
  • BONDMAN - a male slave; one bound to service without wages
  • BOND SERVANT - see INDENTURED SERVANT
  • BONDSMAN - a person who will vouch for or be liable for a sum of money if a person fails to appear in court
  • BORN IN THE COVENANT - in LDS records, one born to a couple who has been sealed in marriage, and thus is sealed to the parents
  • BOUND OUT - [also PUTTING OUT] the condition of apprenticed or indentured children
  • BOUNTY LAND - land designated as payment for military service
  • BOUNTY LAND WARRANT - a right to free land in the public domain; the certificate, to satisfy the law, showing time served, unit (regiment or corps), and where served

- C -

  • CADASTRE - a register kept for taxation purposes containing amount, value, and ownership of land; a poll (head) tax record of those qualifying to vote; a Domesday book
  • CALENDER - a log of events, dates or sources consulted, & a record of what was found
  • CEMETERY RECORDS - records created about burials; includes both sexton records (office records), and tombstones, both of which can yield valuable genealogical information
  • CENSUS - official listing or counting of persons; the Federal Census has been taken every 10 years since 1790; there also are state censuses in some states which may have been taken every 5 to 10 years
  • CENSUS RECORD - records that were created to number the population, especially sponsored by governments to determine the available men for soldiers; the amount of information given in a census varies, according to the needs and purposes of those who sponsored the census
  • CENSUS INDEX - alphabetical listing of names enumerated in a census
  • CHATTELS - personal property, both animate and inanimate (usually livestock)
  • CHRISTENING - baptism into most churches; often occurs a few hours or days following a birth and often was recorded for places and time periods when there are no birth records, therefore, christening records are a major source for family history information.
  • CIRCA - about or approximately, usually used in front of a date or year
  • CITATION - the source or authority from which information or data is taken. In genealogy, every fact needs at least one citation
  • COAT OF ARMS - shield with certain distinctive symbols or emblems painted on it in definite fixed colors identifying one person and his direct descendants
  • CODICIL - a supplement to a will
  • COLLATERAL - relatives descended from the same ancestors, but in a different line (aunts, uncles, cousins - those not in your direct line)
  • COMMON LAW MARRIAGE - a marriage without ceremony, civil or ecclesiastical, which may or may not be recognized as a legal marriage
  • COMMOMER - legal term meaning proprietor
  • COMMOM ANCESTOR - one shared by any two or more people
  • COMPOS MENTIS - of sound mind
  • CONSANGUINITY - blood relationship
  • CONSOLIDATED INDEX - an index combined from more than one source
  • CONVEY - transfer property or the title to property
  • CONVEYANCE - a written instrument that transfers title to property from one party to another
  • CONVEYOR - grantor or seller
  • COPYHOLD - the right by a written transcript or record to occupy a particular piece of land
  • COURT BARON - a medieval English manorial court that any lord could hold for and among his tenants; by the 13th century the steward of the manor, a lawyer, usually presided; the manorial court usually met every three weeks, and considered personal actions between its suitors; much of the business of the court was to administer the "custom of the manor" and to admit copyhold tenants; the proceedings were recorded on the court roll
  • COUSIN - [1] a child of one's aunt or uncle; also called first cousin; [2] a relative descended from a common ancestor, such as a grandparent, by two or more steps in a diverging line; [3] a relative by blood or marriage; a kinsman or kinswoman; [4] a member of a kindred group or country
  • CULTURE - concepts, habits, skills, art, instruments, institutions, and so forth of a given group of people in a given period of time

- D -

  • DAGUERREOTYPE - photographic process invented by L. J. M. Daguerre (1789-1857), a French painter, in which pictures were reproduced on silver plates by sensitizing them with iodine and then developing them with mercury
  • DANEGELD - a tax levied annually to maintain forces to oppose the Danes or to buy them off
  • DE - [Latin] from; out of; about; at; for
  • DE ANNO IN ANNUM - [Latin] from year to year
  • DE BONIS NON - [Latin] "of the goods not administered"; the distribution of property not completed by the first administrator
  • DECEDENT - the deceased individual
  • DECESSIT - [Latin] died
  • DECLARATION OF INTENTION - a declaration filed by a couple in a local court, indicating their intention to marry; also a document filed in a court by an alien who intended to become a United States citizen.
  • DEED - document signed, sealed, and delivered according to the law conveying title to real estate
  • DEED OF ACQUITTANCE - a deed by which additional acreage is transferred or sold to the original patent owner when and if it was found that, by survey, the patented land had more acreage than was originally thought
  • DEED OF AGREEMENT - a deed concerned with the sale of personal property, deeds land to persons who agree to take care of the grantor for the remainder of his life
  • DEED OF CONVEYANCE - document showing the transfer of ownership of property and perhaps the ownership of a land warrant
  • DEED OF DECREE - document showing property transferred usually as a result of a petition or court action
  • DEED OF GIFT - deed showing a transfer of property made without a monetary payment as consideration
  • DEED OF SEPARATION - an instrument through the medium of a third party acting as trustee, in which provision is made by a husband for separation from his wife, and for her separate maintenance
  • DEED OF TRUST - a mortage arrangement which allows a third party to hold the deed until the buyer has paid his debt
  • DEED POLL - a deed made by one person, and ony one person is obligated to fulfill the terms of the deed
  • DE FACTO - [Latin] "in fact"; something accomplished and done but not necessarily legally sanctioned
  • DEGREE OF CONSANGUINITY - degree of blood relationship used to determine right of inheritance
  • DEGREE OF RELATIONSHIP - the distance between two persons related by blood - under Canon Law (used in most states) two persons who descend from a common ancestor, but not one from the other (brother, cousins, etc.) have a collateral consanguinity and a degree of relationship of the same number as the number of generations the furthest is removed from the closest common progenitor; for example, an uncle and nephew are related in the second degree because the nephew is two generations from the common ancestor (his grandfather and his uncle's father); two brothers are related in the first degree and first cousins are related to each other in the second degree; in lineal relationships (direct lines) each generation is a degree
  • DE JURE - [Latin] "by right"; an action or deed lawfully and legitimately accomplished as opposed to de facto
  • DEPOSITION - a written testimony by a witness for use in court in his or her absence
  • DESCENDANT - one whose ancestry can be traced to a particular individual
  • DESCENDANT CHART - graphic document that shows descendants of a source couple for a specified number of generations
  • DEVISE - to give real property by will
  • DEVISEE - the person to whom real property is left in a will
  • DIRECT LINE - descent from an ancestor through succeeding children
  • DOMESDAY BOOK - [also Doomesday Book] ancient record of the Grand or Great Inquest or Survey of lands in England by the order of William the Conqueror, giving a census-like description of the realm, with the names of the proprietors and the nature, extent, value, liabilities, etc. of their properties
  • DOWAGER - a widow with a title or rank - the queen dowager; a jointure, or property from her husband
  • DOWER - provision made from a husband's estate for the support of his widow and family, usually one third of the value of the estate (real estate only)
  • DOWER RIGHT - the right of a wife to one-third of the land which her husband had at the time of their marriage or aquired during the marriage, after his death
  • DOWERY - [also DOWRY] any land, money, goods, or personal property brought by a bride to her husband in marriage

- E -

  • EASEMENT - a right to use another's land because of necessity or convenience
  • EASEMENT APPURTENANT - an easement proper or one which passes with the dominant estate to all subsequent grantees and is inheritable
  • EASEMENT IN GROSS - a personal privilege to use another's land, which is not assignable and cannot be inherited
  • EASEMENT OF NECESSITY - an easement necessary for the continued use of land when a large tract has been subdivided
  • EMIGRANT - one who leaves one country or region to settle in another
  • ENUMERATION - the process by which persons are counted for purposes of a census
  • ESTATE - the whole of one's possessions; especially all the property left by a deceased person
  • EXECUTOR - the individual appointed by the one making the will to dispose of his or her property after death in accordance with the terms of the will
  • EXECUTRIX - a female executor
  • EX FACTO - [Latin] from or by the deed
  • EXHERES - [Latin] disinherited
  • EX OFFICIO - [Latin] by virtue of office
  • EX PARTE - [Latin] judicial proceeding or judgment brought on behalf of one party without notifying the other party
  • EXPATRIATE - one deported from one's native land, or one voluntarily absent from his homeland
  • EXPEDE - to sign, seal, and deliver a document
  • EX POST FACTO - [Latin] after the act
  • EXTANT - in existence or not destroyed

- F -

  • FACULTY - a person who did not own land and as a professional, and thus was taxed on income - faculty included lawyers, physicians, dentists, carpenters, merchants, bankers, etc.
  • FAILURE OF ISSUE - in a will or deed, indicates that in the event of there being no children born to or surviving the deceased person, the property will go to a third party; in common law, the condition continues with the chidlren of the first taker
  • FAMILY HISTORY LIBRARY (FHL) - of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) located in Salt Lake City has the world's largest collection of genealogical information
  • FAMILY HISTORY CENTER (FHC) - located in many towns throughout the United States and many cities throughout the world, these are local research centers where one may access the information of FHL through the use of microfilm, microfiche and computers
  • FEE SIMPLE - an inheritance having no conditions or limitations in its use; a direct and complete inheritance
  • FEET OF FINES - documents, first kept during the reign of Richard I, that had the same function as deeds in transferring land; the bottom part of an indenture or deed kept by the recording office FEODARY - one who holds land of an overlord on condition of homage
  • FILIA - [Latin] daughter; female off-spring
  • FILIA FRATRIS - [Latin] brother's daughter (niece)
  • FILIA SORORIS - [Latin] sister's daughter (niece)
  • FILII NOBELIUM - [Latin] sons of nobles
  • FILIOLA - [Latin] little daughter
  • FILIOLUS - [Latin] little son
  • FILIUS - [Latin] son; male offspring
  • FILIUS FRATRIS - [Latin] brother's son; nephew
  • FILIUS NULLIUS - [Latin] an illegitimate person
  • FILIUS POPULI - [Latin] "a son of the people"; a bastard
  • FILIUS SORORIS - [Latin] sister's son; nephew
  • FOLIO - [1] a large sheet of paper folded in half to form the pages of a book; [2] a book numbered only on one side; [3] a library designation for large oversized books
  • FOOLSCAP - writing paper varying from 12 x 15 inches to 13 1/2 x 17 inches
  • FORBID THE BANNS - public or formal objection to a marriage
  • FORTNIGHT - two weeks
  • FRANKLIN - see STATE OF FRANKLIN
  • FREEHOLD - an estate held outright with no other claims on it and which may be transferred to heirs or others
  • FREEHOLDER - a person who owns property rather than rents it; one in possession of a freehold
  • FREEMAN - in general, a white male over 21 years of age holding full rights of citizenship who is free to ply a trade, own land, and to vote

- G -

  • GEDCOM - acronym for GEnealogical Data COMmunication; file format supported by most genealogy database programs for the exchange of genealogy information between different programs and computers
  • GENTLEMAN - a member of the gentry, a descendant from an aristocratic family whose income came from the rental of his land
  • GENTLEWOMAN - a woman of good family or breeding; a woman who has the occupation of waiting on or caring for a person of high rank
  • GOODMAN - a man ranking below a gentleman but above a freeman
  • GOODS AND CHATTELS - personal property - goods meant inanimate objects; chattels were livestock
  • GOODWIFE - the wife or mistress of a household
  • GOODY - a woman or housewife, especially an old woman
  • GRANDFATHER CLAUSE - an exception to a law, such as the right for blacks to vote, which gave only those blacks whose parents had voted before 1867 the right to vote
  • GRANGE - a farmhouse or small hamlet; a center of cultivation owned by a monastery, but too far away for the monks to work it
  • GRANT- to transfer property by a deed
  • GRANTEE - the buyer, purchaser, or receiver of real or personal property rights from the seller or grantor, usually be a deed or through a trust document
  • GRANTOR - the seller or person who sells, grants, transfers, or conveys real or personal property or property rights to the purchaser, buyer, or receiver, usually by a deed or through a trust document
  • GRASS WIDOW - an unmarried woman with a child; a divorced or separated woman; a discarded mistress
  • GREGORIAN CALENDAR - named after Pope Gregory, but referred to as the "New Style" calendar which replaced the Julian calendar in 1582 in some countires; in Great Britain, her colonies (America) and other protestant countries, it was not adopted until 1752
  • GUARDIAN - a person appointed by the court to take care of someone unable to care for himself, such as a minor, an incompetent, an invalid, an idiot, etc.
  • GUILD - a medieval association of merchants and craftsmen which regulated price, quality, and decided who could make and sell the merchandise under its supervision

- H -

  • HABENDUM ET TENENDUM - [Latin] "to have and to hold to the grantee (buyer or donee) his heirs and assigns"; a clause in a deed that specifies the type of property or estate that the buyer will receive
  • HEIR - [1] a person who inherits or is entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit the estate of another; [2] a person who succeeds or is in line to succeed to a hereditary rank, title, or office
  • HERALDRY - the art or office of a herald; the art, practice, or science of recording genealogies and blazoning arms or ensigns armorial
  • HOLOGRAPHIC WILL - a will written entirely by hand and bearing the date and having the signature of the testator
  • HOMESTEAD - the house and adjoining land where the head of the family lives, which passes to the widow when her husband dies and is exempt from the claims of his creditors; this is similiar to a widow's dower, the difference being that the homestead includes the dwelling
  • HOMESTEAD ACT - any of several legislative acts authorizing the sale of public land

- I -

  • IMMIGRANT - one who settles in a country having emigrated from another
  • IMPRESSMENT - the act of seizing people and forcing them into labor
  • INDENTURE - an agreement or deed between two or more parties conveying real estate, originally made in two parts so that it could be separated by tearing in a jagged line and matched later; a contract in which a person is bound over for service
  • INDENTURED SERVANT - a servant who sold himself to a master for a period of time (usually 4 to 7 years) in order to pay for passage to another country; the contract was transferrable, saleable, and was passed on to heirs if the master died
  • INDIDEM - [Latin] from the same place or thing
  • INDIRECT TAX - tax from sources other than property or income, such as businesses, professions, entertainment, and animals
  • IN-LAW - colonists used this term for any familial relationship that occurred from a marriage; a woman's father-in-law could be her husband's father or her stepfather; her son-in-law could be her daughter's husband or her own stepson
  • INPRIMIS - [Latin] in the first place
  • INSTRUMENT - a formal document such as a deed or a will
  • INTESTATE - condition of a person who dies without leaving a valid will
  • INVENTORY - a list of goods in the estate of a deceased person
  • ISSUE - lineal descendants of a common ancestor
  • ITEM - a term marking the beginning of a paragraph in a will

- J -

  • JOINT TENANCY - the condition of two or more persons owning a piece of property - this type of ownership allows all persons to use the property and share in it equally
  • JULIAN CALENDAR - a calendar named for Julius Caesar, it is referred to as the "Old Style" calendar, which was used from 45 BC until 1582, when it was replaced by the Gregorian calendar JUNIOR, SENIOR - these terms did not necessarily indicate father and son; they were used within a small community to distinguish between two persons of the same name; sometimes "the elder" and "the younger" were used in the same fashion
  • JURAT - [Latin] certification that a document was written by the person who signed it
  • JURE UXORIS - [Latin] in right of his wife

- K -

  • KINDRED - a group of blood-related persons
  • KITH AND KIN - friends and neighbors

- L -

  • LEGACY - similiar to a bequest, although it often has the meaning of money, whereas bequest usually means personal property
  • LEGATEE - the person to whom a gift is given or left to in a will; any person receiving real or personal property by will
  • LEGATOR - a person who makes a will and leaves property to others
  • LESSEE - the person leasing the property
  • LESSOR - the owner of property that is leased to another
  • LETTERS TESTAMENTARY - a document from the court allowing the executor named in the will to carry out his duties; he has no authority until this document is issued
  • LIBER - [Latin] a book of public records
  • LIBERI - [Latin] children; grandchildren
  • LIBERUM ANIMUM TESTANDI - [Latin] free will in bequeathing
  • LIEN - a claim held by a person upon the property of another until a debt has been paid; a form of security for unpaid debts
  • LIFE ESTATE - an interest in property that lasts as long as a person lives
  • LIFERENT - property which the owner can hold for a lifetime but cannot be passed on LINEAGE - [1] direct descent from a particular ancestor; ancestry [2] the descendants of a common ancestor considered to be the founder of the line
  • LINEAL CONSANGUINITY - being descended in a direct line from another such as son, father, and grandfather
  • LINEAL DESCENDANT - being descended in a direct line from another such as son, father and grandfather
  • LIS PENDENS - notice of suits pending litigation, sometimes called equity notices; these usually involve actions concerning real property such as mortgage foreclosures
  • LIST - official description of property assessed for the purpose of taxation
  • LITIGANT - a person who is involved in a lawsuit
  • LOCO - [Latin] to place; to let for hire
  • LOCO CITATO - [Latin] in the place cited
  • LOCO PARENTIS - in the place of parents
  • LOCUS - [Latin] in the place (of the parent)
  • LOCUS SIGILLI - [Latin] "the place of the seal"; the place where the seal is affixed on written documents
  • LONGEAVUS - [Latin] of great age; ancient

- M -

  • MAJORITY - the age at which one is legally no longer a minor
  • MANUMISSION - a formal written act to free slaves
  • MARRIAGE BOND - a document executed to guarantee that no legal or moral impediments existed to an intended marriage
  • MESSUAGE - dwellinghouse
  • METES AND BOUNDS - (also Courses and Distances) a method of surveying property which made use of the natural physical and topographical features in conjunction with measurements and artificially designated objects or places - metes refers to the measuring of direction and distance while bounds refers to natural or man-made features on the land
  • MIDWIFE - a woman experienced in the birthing process who helps other women in the birth of a child
  • MISNOMER - mistake in a person's name for identification purposes
  • MORTALITY SCHEDULES - schedules which counted the number of deaths that occurred in the year before the census was taken, and exist for the 1850 through 1880 censuses, listing the individual's name, age, sex, occupation, cause of death, date of death, and place of death by county MORTIS - [Latin] death; corpse
  • MORTIS CAUSA - [Latin] in view of death
  • MOURNING ARTICLE - funeral gift
  • MOURNING PIECE - a pictorial representation of a tomb, intended as a memorial of the dead MOVEABLES - personal property such as furniture, animals, food, clothing, etc. which can be carried from place to place and is in the possession and use of the owner MR. pronounced "Master" - a title that could only precede the names of gentlemen, clergymen, or government officials; identified in the records with the abbreviation "gent."
  • MRS. or MISTRESS - a feminine equivalent of Mr., it did not denote marital status, but social position; a young girl coming from a higher class family would also be called "Mrs.", even though unmarried
  • MULATTO - the offspring of one white and one black parent - sometimes used, especially on census schedules, for Indians
  • MUNIMENT - documents showing that a person has legal rights to land, possessions, or other privileges
  • MUNIMENT OF TITLE - all written evidence of title which can show proof of ownership
  • MUSTER OUT - a discharge from military service

- N -

  • NATURALIZATION - the process of becoming a citizen of the U.S.
  • NATURALIZE - to grant full citizenship to one of foreign birth
  • NECROLOGY - a listing of obituaries, as in a newspaper; records of death
  • NÉE - born; usually refers to a woman's maiden name
  • NEPHEW - son of one's brother or sister; also an illegitimate son of an eccleasiastic, a niece, or a male or female grandchild
  • NIECE - daughter of one's brother or sister; sometimes, granddaughter; (pre-seventeenth century England) any descendant, male or female, and occasionally, any younger relative
  • NON COMPOS MENTIS - [Latin] incompetent, or not mentally capable of handling one's affairs NUNCUPATIVE WILL - oral will which, to be valid, must be given by a person in their last hours, witnessed by two or more witnesses, and written within a period of six to twelve days
  • NOW WIFE - exclusively found in wills, this term implied that there was a former wife

- O -

  • OBIIT - [Latin] he/she died
  • OBIIT SINE PROLE - [Latin] died without issue
  • OBITUARY - published notice of a death, sometimes with a brief biography of the deceased

- P -

  • PASSENGER LISTS - names and information of passengers who arrived by ship, often including their age, sex, occupation, place of origin
  • PATENT - a grant made by a government to an individual, conveying fee-simple title to public lands; the official document of such a grant; the land so granted
  • PATRONYMIC - in strict usage, a name formed by the addition of a prefix or suffix indicating sonship or other relationship to the name of one's father or paternal ancestors, as Johnson (son of John), MacDonald (son of Donald), etc.
  • PEDIGREE - a list of ancestors; a lineage
  • PEDIGREE CHART - graphic document that begins with one person and moves backward in time, showing the parents of each person in the tree
  • PERSONAL PROPERTY - property other than real estate
  • PER ANNUM - [Latin] by the year
  • PER STIRPES - [Latin] distribution of an inheritance by giving equal shares to family groups rather than an equal percentage to each descendant
  • PLACING OUT - [also PUTTING OUT] the placement of children outside the home as apprentices or servants to other people, usually in exchange for payment to the parents POSTHUMOUS - after death
  • POSTHUMOUS CHILD - a child born after the death of the father
  • PRIMARY RECORD - a record created at the time of the event (birth, marriage, death, etc.) as opposed to records written years later
  • PRIMOGENITOR - the earliest ancestor or forefather
  • PRIMOGENITURE - an old common-law system of inheritance whereby the oldest son inherited the father's property
  • PROBATE - originally the proving of a will; now describes the process of legally establishing the validity of a will of a deceased person and settling an estate before a judicial authority
  • PROGENY - the issue or descendants of a common ancestor
  • PROGENITOR - an originator of a line of descent, frequently used in reference to the immigrant ancestor
  • PROLES - offspring
  • PROVED - documents such as wills, deeds, bills of sale, etc., having their accuracy and honesty attested to through legal proceedings in a court of law

- Q -

  • QUADROON - a child of a mulatto and a white; a child with one black grandparent
  • QUID PRO QUO - [Latin] "value for value"; that which is received in consideration for something that is requested, done, or given
  • QUIT-CLAIM DEED - a deed releasing claim to an estate or property by an individual to another person
  • QUIT-RENT - a fee paid to a feudal lord so that the tenant could farm the land without being obligated to serve the lord in other capacities
  • QUIT RENT FEE - in early Virginia, an annual fee (1 shilling for 50 acres of land) paid to the king in exchange for the right to live on and farm the property
  • QUORUM - the legal number of persons required to be present to conduct business

- R -

  • RAGMAN'S-ROLL - a register, compiled by a representative of the pope, of the beneficiaries in Scotland
  • RANGE - the area between range lines (north-south runnin glines) as a part of the Rectangular Survey System - together with the township lines (east-west running lines) range lines form areas of six miles square or 36 square miles, called townships
  • RECTANGULAR SURVEY SYSTEM - a method of surveying propety provided for under the Land Ordinance of 1785 passed by the Continental Congress which divided the public land states into thirty-seven separate survey systems, each separate survey consisting of a starting point, an east-west running base line, and a north-south running principal meridian
  • REDEMPTION - the regaining of property once lost to forfeiture or foreclosure
  • REGISTRAR - an official who registers/records events such as land transactions, probates, births, deaths, etc.
  • RELICT - a widow or widower; the surviving spouse
  • REMAINDER - the part of the estate that is left after a prior interest ends
  • REMOVED - moved; left
  • RESIDUARY BEQUEST - a bequest which consists of anything left over after the fees and debts have been paid in an estate
  • RESIDUARY CLAUSE - a clause in a will which conveys any and everything left of a residuary legacy to the beneficiary
  • RESIDUARY DEVISEE - beneficiary in a will who is to take all real property remaining after other legacies have been satisfied
  • RESIDUARY ESTATE - all the rest and residue; everything that has not been disposed of other than what remains in the residuary clause
  • RESIDUE - the surplus of a testator's estate when all other obligations have been legally taken care of
  • RESIDUUM - [Latin] the remainder of an estate after all debts and legacies have been dispersed
  • REVENUE STAMP - a stamp placed on goods and documents to show that the tax had been collected
  • REVERSE INDEX - in probate, an index listing those involved in the probate process, not the deceased

- S -

  • SECONDARY RECORD - or secondary source; a record created some time after the event or copied from other sources
  • SEISIN/SEIZIN - a freehold (held in fee or for life) estate - at one time land could only be held in seisen, because all land was owned by the reigning sovereign
  • SEISED/SEIZED - to be the legal fee simple possessor
  • SELECTMAN - in New England, one of 3 to 7 men chosen annually to manage to affairs of a small town
  • SEPARATISTS - [also Independents] those who withdrew from the Church of England in the sixteenth century
  • SEQUENTIA - [Latin] the following
  • SHARECROPPER - a person who would farm ground owned by another, and divide the crops or the profits with the owner
  • SHILLING - an English coin equivalent to twelve pennies or one twentieth of a pound
  • SHIRE - a county in Great Britain
  • SIBLING - a brother or sister
  • SINE - [Latin] without
  • SINE DIE - [Latin] "without a day"; dismissing a proceeding, such as a court term, without determining a day for it to begin again
  • SINE LOCO - [Latin] without place
  • SINE PROLE - [Latin] without issue; without children
  • SINE PROLE SUPERSITE - [Latin] without surviving issue (children)
  • SOCIAL SECURITY DEATH INDEX - an index of records containing names of deceased Social Security recipients whose relatives applied for Social Security Death Benefits after their passing which includes the individual's name and Soundex code, birth date, death date, Social Security number and state where it was issued
  • SOUNDEX - a card index system prepared by the Works Progress Administration for the federal censuses; names are arranged by letter and number codes according to the sounds of their consonants; thus, even if a name is misspelled or spelled in an unexpected way, it can often be located in the Soundex index
  • SPOUSE - a husband or wife
  • STATE OF FRANKLIN - a state reorganized in 1784 in the western part of North Carolina and which ceased to exist in 1788, now a part of eastern Tennessee
  • STEERAGE - a section in a passenger ship for those paying the lowest fare
  • STIRPES - [Latin] [1] a family or branch of family; [2] in law, the person from whom everyone in a family is descended
  • SUPRASUPRA SCRIPTUM - [Latin] as written above
  • SURETY - a guarantee or a person who assumes the responsibility for another such as one who promises to pay someone else's debts if he defaults
  • SURNAME - the last or family name that a person bears in common with others in his/her famil
  • SURRENDER - a land record which involves giving up land before the lease has expired with the mutual consent of both parties

- T -

  • TAIL - an estate which does not descend to heirs generally, but to the heirs of the donee's body in a direct line if the posterity continues in a regular oder and upon the death of the first owner without issue the esate is terminated
  • TENANCY - residence on, and use of land, without owning it
  • TENANCY BY THE ENTIRETY - the ownership of property by a husband and wife together in which on the death of one the entire interest in the property diverts to the other - property that is owned by both the husband and the wife will pass to the survivor no matter what the will states
  • TENANCY IN COMMON - property that is held by two persons - in tenancy in common the right of survivorship does not apply - in this case the property automatically becomes part of the estate and is taken care of according to the terms of the will
  • TENANT - a name used for indentured servants who were settled on farms, supplied with tools, and engaged to remain on the land seven years; one who holds property by ownership or temporarily by leasing or renting
  • TENANT FARMER - a renter or one who is allowed to farm a particular piece of land in trade for services given; famer who did not own the land worked
  • TENANTS-IN-CAPITE - a person holding feudal land directly from the king, usually several manors, who would in turn sub-infeud to other tenants
  • TENANT IN COMMON - a possession of the land as a whole by several persons, each having a separate title, although the land is not divided
  • TENEMENT - any property that can be held, but most often refers to houses and land
  • TENOR - the exact wording in a legal document or an exact copy
  • TERCE - a life-rent given by law to a widow, which consists of a third of her husband's estate on the condition that the marriage has lasted one year and a day, or that there is a living child of the marriage
  • TERCE LAND - the rent from land given to a widow as her terce
  • TERRIER - book or scroll used to record land description, usage, etc.
  • TESTABLE - something that can be given by will; capable of making or witnessing a will
  • TESTAMENT - the disposition of one's personal property by will
  • TESTAMENTARY - referring to, given by, or appointed by a will
  • TESTAMENTARY BOND - security posted with the court by the executor of an estate to insure that the wishes of the deceased be followed
  • TESTAMENTARY GUARDIAN - a guardian appointed to be responsible for the inheritance of a minor child
  • TESTAMENTUM - [Latin] will; testament
  • TESTATE- having a valid will upon death
  • TESTATOR - the person who makes a will
  • TESTATRIX- a female who leaves a valid will
  • TESTE - the concluding and witnessing clause of a writ or other legal document which expresses the date of its issue and the name of the judge
  • TESTIS - [Latin] a witness
  • TITHE - associated with the payment of offerings (in kind or money) to a church or the government as tax
  • TRUSTEE - one who holds legal title to property in order to administer it for a beneficiary

- U -

  • ULTIMO - [Latin] in the month immediately preceding
  • ULTIMO DIE -[Latin] final day
  • ULTIMUS - [Latin] last, end, furthest
  • UNDERGROUND RAILROAD - the system which took slaves to freedom in fourteen Northern states by 1830, and about 50,000 between 1840 and 1860
  • UNIGENA - [Latin] only-begotten; only; of one family
  • UNIGENITUS - [Latin] the only son
  • UNLAW - any transgression of the law, act of injustice, a fine, or a law that has no real authority
  • UNOFFICIOUS WILL - a will made without any regard as to natural obligations of inheritance
  • UNPROBATED WILL - a will which was never submitted for probate, which may have been lost for a time
  • UNREGISTERED WILL - will that has been proved but not entered into a volume of copy or registered wills at the probate court, either because an executor was not disposed to pay fees for registering, or because the probate court did not maintain registered copies at that period of time
  • UNSEATED - persons who were taxed for land that they owned but did not live on
  • UNSEATED LAND - unsettled area
  • UNSOLEMN WILL - a will where no executor is named
  • USUFRUCT - the right to enjoy property and the benefits thereof as long as the property itself is not harmed nor depleted
  • USURY - the practice of lending money at a rate of interest that is excessive or unlawfully high
  • UT - [Latin] in what manner; in the manner that
  • UTERINE - having the same mother but different fathers
  • UT INFRA - [Latin] as below
  • UT SUPRA - [Latin] as above
  • UXOR - [Latin] wife; spouse; consort

- V -

  • VACANCY - [1] an opening refering to land or housing; [2] a pause or break in the workings of a probate court because of the death or resignation of the main official; [3] in Texas, an area of unsurveyed school land, not listed in land office records, between two or more recorded surveys
  • VACANT LAND - unappropriated public land, including land that has been occupied but on which no binding title had been given and the land thus reverted to the state
  • VALID - that which is legally binding, legitimate or good
  • VANITY BOOK - a county (any local) history book for which people subscribed before the book was written on the conditiont their families would be included in its pages
  • VASSAL - in the Middle Ages, a person who held land under the feudal system by pledging loyalty to a lord and performing services, miitary or otherwise, in return for his protection
  • VENDUE - a public auction or sale
  • VERBATIM - [Latin] word for word
  • VICULUS - [Latin] village; hamlet
  • VIDELICET - [Latin] namely; to wit; that is to say
  • VIDEUS - [Latin] living; true to life; vigorous
  • VIDUA - [Latin] widow
  • VIDUUS - [Latin] widower; widow
  • VILLANAGE - base servitude; tenure on condition of doing the lowest kind of services for the lord
  • VILLEIN - serf
  • VILLEINAGE - see VILLANAGE
  • VIR - [Latin] man; boy; male; husband; soldier
  • VIRGIN - in bonds or licences of England, an unmarried woman
  • VITAL RECORDS - civil records of birth, marriage and death
  • VITIOUS INTROMISSION - the unwarranted dealing with the movable estate of a deceased person
  • VIVUS - [Latin] alive; living
  • VIXIT ANNOS - [Latin] he or she lived (a certin number) years
  • VIXOR - [Latin] wife

- W -

  • WAIVER - an intentional and voluntary giving up of one's rights
  • WAMPUM - small cylindrical beads made from polished shells and fashioned into strings or belts, formerly used by certain Native American peoples as currency and jewelry or for ceremonial exchanges between groups; also called peag
  • WARNING OUT - the practice of ordering poor or indigent persons or families to leave a community if they are looked upon as potentially becoming dependent upon the town, township, city, etc. for support
  • WILL - the legal document containing the statement of a person's wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property after death
  • WRIT OF ARREST - see WRITE OF CAPIAS
  • WRIT OF ATTACHMENT - a court order to a court official to seize and hold property enough to cover debts and court costs for not appearing in court
  • WRIT OF CAPIAS - a formal arrest document; warrant
  • WRIT OF CAPIAS AD SATISFACIENDUM - a document which required the loser (debtor) to be imprisoned until the debt was paid
  • WRIT OF FIERI FACIAS - a cout order to seize (attach) and sell goods belonging to the loser in a court case to pay debts owed
  • WRIT OF SUMMONS - a document commanding a person to appear in court
  • WRIT OF VENIRE FACIAS - a document issued to call men to be jurors

- X -

 

- Y -

  • YARD LAND - land area which varies from fifteen to forty acres, depending on the locality
  • YEAR'S PROVISIONS - a widow is entitled to a twelve months supply of goods and money or provisions out of her husband's estate - this specified amount cannot be used or given to creditors to clear her husband's debts.

- Z -

 
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