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Dictionary of Genealogy & Archaic Terms


Last Edited: January 17, 2012

This file contains many of the common "buzzwords", terminology and legal words found in genealogy work. If you think of any words that should be added to this list, please notify Randy Jones.

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[Latin] same
[Anglo-Saxon] an individual in charge of large regions, equivalent to (although not exactly co-terminal with) the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms - not just the counties that Earls came to control. For example, in 1066 under Edward, you could draw a line from Portsmouth to Edinburgh, and only pass through the lands of three ealdormen, Harold (Wessex), Edwin (Mercia), and Morcar (Northumbria). At this period, they are sometimes called Earls and Earldoms, due to the replacement of the English word "ealdorman" by the Scandinavian "jarl", but these Earldoms are not the same as the Anglo-Norman ones, which are more comparable to the shires of Anglo-Saxon times.
[Latin] she
[fr. Anglo-Saxon eorl] The earl, as a royal officer, superseded the Anglo-Saxon ealdorman and was sometimes set over several counties, in the courts of each of which he presided with the bishop of the diocese. The English earl was in general entitled to the "third penny", a third of the profits of justice in the shire court. In the two great count palatine earldoms of Chester and Durham, the earl possessed regalia, special royal privileges. The earl is similar and probably derivative from the Scandinavian jarl and is equivalent in rank of peerage to the continental count.
The Earl Marshal of England was (or is) the eighth officer of state; the title is hereditary, being held by the Duke of Norfolk (since 1672). The Earl Marshal has jurisdiction in the court of chivalry during a vacancy in the office of High Constable. Until 1386, the title was marshal. With the lord high constable he was judge of the court of chivalry.
earmarks used in identification of livestock. Many times, earmarks stayed within a family. It was possible to identify family relationships, as earmarks could be passed father to son
[Latin] church
[French] somewhat like that of an English country squire, except in the case of an "ecuyer" of a royal house where it is considered a title IIRC, is either fifth or seventh in order of precedence in a royal household. --
[Scot.] in medieval times, the compensation due for killing a man
[Latin] I
[Irish] the Irish name for Ireland
[Latin] he
[Latin] of the same
a German Imperial (German Kurfrsten) group of ecclesiastical and secular German princes invested with the power of electing the king of Germany, who in turn would usually be crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by the pope. Originally, all the princes of the empire voted in the election of the German king. In 1263, however, Pope Urban IV issued two bulls recognizing the authority of seven German potentates to choose the king. Nevertheless, the authority and membership of this electorate were not definitely settled until 1356, when the Golden Bull was issued by Emperor Charles IV. The bull named to the electorate the archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier and four lay members, the margrave of Brandenburg, the duke of Saxony, the count palatine of the Rhine, and the king of Bohemia. From that time the composition of the electorate remained unchanged until 1623, when the vote of the count palatine was transferred to the duke of Bavaria. In 1648 an eighth electoral vote was added so that the count palatine could vote again, and in 1692 a ninth vote was created for the electorate of Hannover. The number of electors reverted to eight in 1778 after extinction of the Bavarian ducal line. Beginning in the 15th century, the electors normally awarded the kingship to the head of the house of Habsburg; the practice of papal coronation disappeared after 1530. With the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the German Imperial Electorate was simultaneously dissolved.  
[Heraldric] crenulated 
a day or month inserted into the calendar to better align it with the cycles of the moon.  An example if the leap day on the western calendar.
see AMIR
the phenomena whereby the consonant sound at the end of a word is transferred to the word that follows it
a familial system where marriages between close relatives are allowed.  This was common in ancient Egypt (the pharaoh usually married his sister) and the Middle East, as opposed to the currently accepted exogamy
1. To invest with a fee or fief.
2. To hand over as a fief.
a surrender or relinquishing, especially land
[Heraldric] indented with small curves
To entail is to restrict the inheritance of real property to a specific group of heirs, such as an individual's sons, different than normal inheritance dictates. By the statue English De Domis Conditionalibus, (1285), an estate so limited devolved, on the death of the donee, on his issue; and, on the failure of issue, reverted to the donor and his heirs.
process by which persons are counted for purposes of a census
census taker
[Latin] to the same place/person/day
see EARL
[Anglo-Saxon] a man of noble birth
a Roman and Byzantine official title for a manager or curator of financial or sacred matters of the market, harbor or weights & measures.  The title also could be an honorary one.
[Latin] bishop
a Roman and Byzantine title indicating one in charge; trustee; administrator; governor; viceroy
a family, group or dynastic name or identification create from the name of an ancestor.
a person attached to the royal stables who attends the sovereign on state occasions  
[Heraldic] one of the seven colors allowed -- represented by an argent field, tufted with black. Ermines is the reverse of ermine, being black, spotted or timbered with argent. Erminois is the same as ermine, except that or is substituted for argent.
[Irish] the Irish name for the Irish language
[Heraldic] shell
a reversion of property to the state in consequence of a want of any individual competent to inherit. Escheat at feudal law was the right of the lord of a fee to re-enter upon the same when it became vacant by the extinction of the blood of the tenant. This extinction might either be per defectum sanguinis or else per delictum tenetis, where the course of descent was broken by the corruption of the blood of the tenant. As a fee might be held either of the crown or from some inferior lord, the escheat was not always to the crown. The word "escheat" in the U.S. merely indicates the preferable right of the state to an estate left vacant, and without there being any one in existence able to make claim thereto. {B}
an officer or assistant of the office of Escheator General (or his assistant) - the officer who presided over the hearing held to determine whether land escheated (because the owner died without heirs)
armorial bearings displayed on a shield
  1. A member of the English gentry who ranks just below a knight.
  2. It also refers to a candidate for knighthood who serves as an attendant to a knight, and carries his arms, as opposed to an armiger, who is entitled to wear his own arms.
  3. Someone who holds an office from the crown such as a Justice of the Peace, a sheriff, or a judge.
  4. An attorney who has graduated from law school and passed the bar.(modern use)
  5. landed proprietor, or landed gentry. Often shortened to "Squire"
  6. An obscure usage: When a son is named after his father, he is called I, II, III, etc. (ie: William M. Radford, VI). When the first born mail heir of that lineage is given a different name, he is given the title "esquire".
allegation of an excuse for non-attendance at court at the appointed time
[Latin] is
the whole of one's possessions; especially all the property left by a deceased person, although the term may be used for a living person as well 
an estate of inheritance given to a man and his wife, the wife being of the blood of the donor, and descendible to the heirs of their two bodies. {W} One of the pecularities of this mechanism is that when a father gives a daughter land in marriage and her issue fails within a few generations or she has no issue, the land reverts to him or his heir. If the land is given in frankmarriage, no homage is done until the daughter's third heir has entered, for were homage once done, there would be a danger that the land would never come back to the father or his heir. See also TENURE EN PARAGE.
[Heraldric] small star
[Latin] and
[Latin] also, besides, again
[Latin] and others
[Latin] and wife  
ruler of a people, rather than a territory.  Term was applied by the Romans to Archeleus III of Judæa, for his inheritance from his father Herod the great
a multivolume and multiseries of European medieval genealogy, considered the best secondary source in that area
[German]  in Germany it is synonymous with Lutheran, whereas in Switzerland it meant Reformed Protestant Church, or followers of Calvin and Zwengli
obligation of military service to a lord
[Latin] from
[Greek] cousin 
the British agency that controlled the King's finances and revenue.  The Exchequer had its own Exchequer Court 
exclusion from membership and communion in the church
the person named in a will and appointed by the court to carry out the provisions of the will
a female EXECUTOR
the formal recitation of the composition and value of an estate, including services, rents, property, etc.
in the hierarchy of the eastern orthodox church, this priest ranked over the metropolitans, whose jurisdiction corresponded with the dioceses
ancient Jewish leader of those exiled from Judea to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 598 BC, with a dynastic line that continued until 1401 when the last leader was deposed by Tamerlane.
a familial system where marriage is made outside the family, i.e., no marriage between brother/sisters, uncle/nieces or close cousins are allowed, a opposed to endogamy.
in existence
the day before, especially before a festival.  It is not short for "evening".
[Latin, iter] right of the king to visit and inspect the property of any vassal

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}The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

{B} Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition


{E} Evans, Barbara Jean. The New A to Zax

{F}The Dictionary of Genealogy by Terrick V H Fitzhugh

{H} History of the Later Roman Empire,  Vol.1, J.B. Bury, 1958.

{O}The Oxford English Dictionary

{P} Pepys' diary

{R} Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2006)

{Q} Hinshaw, William Wade, "Encyclopedia of America Quaker Genealogy," (1938, Rpt., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994)

{W} Webster's Collegiate Dictionary; Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

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