ROOTS Genealogical Dictionary



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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[Welsh narrow, thin] Also as main.
[Heraldry] originally indicating squirrel fur, it is represented by a series of small shields, resembling bells,  placed close together, and alternately white and blue. Counter vair is a fur resembling vair, except in the arrangement of the patches or figures.
[Welsh fine, proud, splendid]. Also as balch
a freeman who holds a fief from a lord, to whom he pays homage and swears to be faithful.  in return, he may owe various specified services, especially military.  
[Welsh young, junior] See also fychan.
an inferior baron or vassal, holding of a baron  
[Latin] slave dealers
wife, mother
[Welsh daughter of] Properly as 'ferch'. "Verch"/"ferch" comes from the word "merch" meaning "daughter". It also developed forms without the "v" or "f" in the late Middle Ages - "ach", "arch", "erch" - but they don't seem to have been as widely used. Verch is the English corruption of ferch, since the Welsh 'f' is pronounced as 'v' in English.
[Latin] certainly - to be sure
part of the monastic timetable for liturgy, called horarium.  This worship service typically occurred between 4pm-5pm in winter and 6pm-7pm in summer  
[Heraldry] green, or represented in black-and-white as diagonal lines from dexter chief corner
The vestry is an elected body of people, usually around 10 people, to make decisions necessary for an Episcopal church's continued function. Terms of office vary from time frame to time frame, and parish to parish.
[Latin, vicarius]
(1) an administrative deputy 
(2) a minister of a church who serves under the authority of another minister
         [Roman] -- in late Roman times, the provincial governor over one of the dioceses
[Latin vice-dominus] One of a class of temporal medieval European officers who originally represented the bishops, but later erected their offices into fiefs, and became feudal nobles.
a medieval jurisdictional authority which allowed the owner to control the militia to enforce the law. See also FRANKPLEDGE
the day before
village, equivalent to a civil parish. Seen in old English documents.
a member of a feudal class of partially freemen, who were serfs with respect to their lord, but otherwise had some of the rights and privileges of freemen, was subject to the manorial court and bound to the land.  He typically was a tenant of 20-40 acres. {R}
tenure by delivery of a wand
neighboring area
also know as a yardland, it was a medieval English unit of area equal to about a quarter of a hide, or about 30 acres
in the 1700's, a small keyed instrument, sort of a miniature harpsichord, generally played by unmarried daughters to entertain suitors and guests, thus the name "virginal"
a visit for the purpose of making an official inspection or examination. This term was used to describe:
(1) census activities.
(2) In order to determine whether individuals were illegally using coats of arms to which they were not entitled, and to establish descent and maintain clear title to lands, the English Crown sent heralds across the countryside to make record of the families using arms, and their pedigrees, to assist in determining their right to that coat. The records of such visitations provide contemporary and reliable information on the families involved (and also less contemporary and less reliable information as one moves back the pedigrees provided). -- Todd Allen Faramerie, GEN-MEDIEVAL
document the major events in a person's life: birth, marriage, divorce, death. (i.e: birth certificates, death certificates, etc.)
[Latin, from videlicet] Namely
[Arabic] high civilian officer of state, generally head of the bureaucracy and the day-to-day conduct of government 
[Ger.] steward, usually of an abbey or convent, not a priest or nun, and usually with other titles

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{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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