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Glossary of Genealogical Terms

This is a glossary of terms used in Genealogy. We would like to acknowledge all of those who have worked in the compilation of these terms. The original list was obtained from a Rootsweb mail list post.

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TermDefinition
ABSTRACT Summary of important points of a given text, especially deeds and wills.
ACRE See measurements.
ADMINISTRATION (of estate) The collection, management and distribution of an estate by proper legal process.
ADMINISTRATOR (of estate) Person appointed to manage or divide the estate of a deceased person.
ADMINISTRATRIX A female administrator.
AFFIDAVIT A statement in writing, sworn to before proper authority.
ALIEN Foreigner.
AMERICAN REVOLUTION U.S. war for independence from Great Britain 1775 - 1783.
ANCESTOR A person from whom you are descended; a forefather.
ANTE Latin prefix meaning before, such as in ante-bellum South, "The South before the war"
APPRENTICE One who is bound by indentures or by legal agreement or by any means to serve another person for a certain time, with a view of learning an art or trade.
APPURTENANCE That which belongs to something else such as a building, orchard, right of way, etc.
ARCHIVES Records of a government, organization, institution; the place where records are stored.
ATTEST To affirm; to certify by signature or oath.
BANNS Public announcement of intended marriage.
BENEFICIARY One who receives benefit of trust or property.
BEQUEATH To give personal property to a person in a will. Noun - bequest.
BOND Written, signed, witnessed agreement requiring payment of a specified amount of money on or before a given date.
BOUNTY LAND WARRANT A right to obtain land, specific number of acres of unallocated public land, granted for military service.
CENSUS Official enumeration, listing or counting of citizens.
CERTIFIED COPY A copy made and attested to by officers having charge of the original and authorized to give copies.
CHAIN See measurements.
CHATTEL Personal property which can include animate as well as inanimate properties.
CHRISTEN To receive or initiate into the visible church by baptism; to name at baptism; to give a name to.
CIRCA About, near, or approximate - usually referring to a date.
CIVIL WAR War between the States; war between North and South, 1861 - 1865.
CODICIL Addition to a will.
COLLATERAL ANCESTOR Belong to the same ancestral stock but not in direct line of descent; opposed to lineal such as aunts, uncles & cousins.
COMMON ANCESTOR Ancestor shared by any two people.
CONFEDERATE Pertaining to the Southern states which seceded from the U.S. in 1860 - 1861, their government and their citizens.
CONSANGUINITY Blood relationship.
CONSORT Usually, a wife whose husband is living
CONVEYANCE See deed.
COUSIN Relative descended from a common ancestor, but not a brother or sister.
DAUGHTER-IN-LAW Wife of one's son.
DECEASED Dead.
DECEDENT A deceased person.
DECLARATION OF INTENTION First paper, sworn to and filed in court, by an alien stating that he wants to be come a citizen.
DEED A document by which title in real property is transferred from one party to another.
DEPOSITION A testifying or testimony taken down in writing under oath of affirmation in reply to interrogatories, before a competent officer to replace to oral testimony of a witness.
DEVISE Gift of real property by will.
DEVISEE One to whom real property (land) is given in a will.
DEVISOR One who gives real property in a will.
DISSENTER One who did not belong to the established church, especially the Church of England in the American colonies.
DISTRICT LAND OFFICE PLAT BOOK Books or rather maps which show the location of the land patentee.
DISTRICT LAND OFFICE TRACT BOOK Books which list individual entries by range and township.
DOUBLE DATING A system of double dating used in England and America from 1582-1752 because it was not clear as to whether the year commenced January 1 or March 25
DOWER Legal right or share which a wife acquired by marriage in the real estate of her husband, allotted to her after his death for her lifetime.
EMIGRANT One leaving a country and moving to another.
ENUMERATION Listing or counting , such as a census.
EPITAPH An inscription on or at a tomb or grave in memory of the one buried there.
ESCHEAT The reversion of property to the state when there are no qualified heirs.
ESTATE All property and debts belonging to a person.
ET AL Latin for "and others".
ET UX Latin for "and wife".
ET UXOR And his wife. Sometimes written simply Et Ux.
EXECUTOR One appointed in a will to carry out its provisions. Female = Executrix
FATHER-IN-LAW Father of one's spouse.
FEE An estate of inheritance in land, being either fee simple or fee tail. An estate in land held of a feudal lord on condition of the performing of certain services.
FEE SIMPLE An absolute ownership without restriction.
FEE TAIL An estate of inheritance limited to lineal descendant heirs of a person to whom it was granted.
FRANKLIN, STATE OF An area once known but never officially recognized and was under consideration from 1784 - 1788 from the western part of North Carolina.
FRATERNITY Group of men (or women) sharing a common purpose or interest.
FREE HOLD An estate in fee simple, in fee tail, or for life.
FRIEND Member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.
FURLONG See measurements.
GAZETTEER A geographical dictionary; a book giving names and descriptions of places usually in alphabetical order.
GENEALOGY Study of family history and descent.
GENTLEMAN A man well born.
GIVEN NAME Name given to a person at birth or baptism, one's first and middle names.
GLEBE Land belonging to a parish church.
GRANTEE One who buys property or receives a grant.
GRANTOR One who sells property or makes a grant.
GREAT-AUNT Sister of one's grandparent
GREAT-UNCLE Brother of one's grandparent.
GUARDIAN Person appointed to care for and manage property of a minor orphan or an adult incompetent of managing his own affairs.
HALF BROTHER/HALF SISTER Child by another marriage of one's mother or father; the relationship of two people who have only one parent in common.
HEIRS Those entitled by law or by the terms of a will to inherit property from another.
HOLOGRAPHIC WILL One written entirely in the testator's own handwriting.
HOMESTEAD ACT Law passed by Congress in 1862 allowing a head of a family to obtain title to 160 acres of public land after clearing and improving it for 5 years.
HUGUENOT A French Protestant in the 16th and 17th centuries. One of the reformed or calvinistic communion who were driven by the thousands into exile in England, Holland, Germany and America.
ILLEGITIMATE Born to a mother who was not married to the child's father.
IMMIGRANT One moving into a country from another.
INDENTURE Today it means a contract in 2 or more copies. Originally made in 2 parts by cutting or tearing a single sheet across the middle in a jagged line so the two parts may later be matched.
INDENTURED SERVANT One who bound himself into service of another person for a specified number of years, often in return for transportation to this country.
INFANT Any person not of full age; a minor.
INSTANT Of or pertaining to the current month. (Abbreviated inst.)
INTESTATE One who dies without a will or dying without a will.
INVENTORY An account, catalog or schedule, made by an executor or administrator of all the goods and chattels and sometimes of the real estate of a deceased person.
ISSUE Offspring; children; lineal descendants of a common ancestor.
LATE Recently deceased.
LEASE An agreement which creates a landlord - tenant situation.
LEGACY Property or money left to someone in a will
LEGISLATURE Lawmaking branch of state or national government; elected group of lawmakers.
LIEN A claim against property as security for payment of a debt.
LINEAGE Ancestry; direct descent from a specific ancestor.
LINEAL Consisting of or being in as direct line of ancestry or descendants; descended in a direct line.
LINK See measurements.
LIS PENDENS Pending court action; usually applies to land title claims.
LODGE A chapter or meeting hall of a fraternal organization.
LOYALIST Tory, an American colonist who supported the British side during the American Revolution.
MAIDEN NAME A girl's last name or surname before she marries.
MANUSCRIPT A composition written with the hand as an ancient book or an un-printed modern book or music.
MARRIAGE BOND A financial guarantee that no impediment to the marriage existed, furnished by the intended bridegroom or by his friends.
MATERNAL Related through one's mother, such as a Maternal grandmother being the mother's mother.
MEASUREMENTS Link: 7.92 inches
Chain:100 Links or 66 feet
Furlong: 1000 Links or 660 feet
Rod: 5 1/2 yds or 16 1/2 ft (also called a perch or pole)
Rood: From 5 1/2 yards to 8 yards, depending on locality
Acre: 43,560 square ft or 160 square rods.
MESSUAGE A dwelling house.
METES & BOUNDS Property described by natural boundaries, such as 3 notches in a white oak tree, etc.
MICROFICHE Sheet of microfilm with greatly reduced images of pages of documents.
MICROFILM Reproduction of documents on film at reduced size.
MIGRANT Person who moves from place to place, usually in search of work
MIGRATE To move from one country or state or region to another. (Noun : migration)
MILITIA Citizens of a state who are not part of the national military forces but who can be called into military service in an emergency; a citizen army, apart from the regular military forces.
MINOR One who is under legal age; not yet a legal adult.
MISTER In early times, a title of respect given only to those who held important civil officer or who were of gentle blood.
MOIETY A half; an indefinite portion
MORTALITY Death; death rate.
MORTALITY SCHEDULES Enumeration of persons who died during the year prior to June 1 of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 in each state of the United States, conducted by the bureau of census.
MORTGAGE A conditional transfer of title to real property as security for payment of a debt.
MOTHER-IN-LAW Mother of one's spouse.
NAMESAKE Person named after another person.
NECROLOGY Listing or record of persons who have died recently
NEE Used to identify a woman's maiden name; born with the surname of
NEPHEW Son of one's brother or sister.
NIECE Daughter of one's brother or sister.
NONCUPATIVE WILL One declared or dictated by the testator, usually for persons in last sickness, sudden illness, or military.
ORPHAN Child whose parents are dead; sometimes, a child who has lost one parent by death.
ORPHAN'S COURT Orphans being recognized as wards of the states, provisions were made for them in special courts.
PASSENGER LIST A ships list of passengers, usually referring to those ships arriving in the US from Europe.
PATENT Grant of land from a government to an individual.
PATERNAL Related to one's father. Paternal grandmother is the father's mother.
PATRIOT One who loves his country and supports its interests.
PEDIGREE Family tree; ancestry.
PENSION Money paid regularly to an individual, especially by a government as reward for military service during wartime or upon retirement from government service.
PENSIONER One who receives a pension.
PERCH See measurements.
POLE See measurements.
POLL List or record of persons, especially for taxing or voting.
POST Latin prefix meaning after, as in post-war economy.
POSTERITY Descendants; those who come after.
POWER OF ATTORNEY When a person in unable to act for himself, he appoints another to act in his behalf.
PRE Latin prefix meaning before, as in pre-war military build-up.
PRE-EMOTION RIGHTS Right given by the federal government to citizens to buy a quarter section of land or less.
PROBATE Having to do with wills and the administration of estates.
PROGENITOR A direct ancestor.
PROGENY Descendants of a common ancestor; issue.
PROVED WILL A will established as genuine by probate court.
PROVOST A person appointed to superintend, or preside over something.
PROXIMO In the following month, in the month after the present one.
PUBLIC DOMAIN Land owned by the government.
QUAKER Member of the Religious Society of Friends.
QUITCLAIM A deed conveying the interest of the party at that time.
RECTOR A clergyman; the ruler or governor of a country.
RELICT Widow; surviving spouse when one has died, husband or wife.
REPUBLIC Government in which supreme authority lies with the people or their elected representatives.
REVOLUTIONARY WAR U.S. war for independence from Great Britain 1775 - 1783.
ROD See measurements.
ROOD See measurements.
SHAKER Member of a religious group formed in 1747 which practiced communal living and celibacy.
SIBLING Person having one or both parents in common with another; a brother or sister.
SIC Latin meaning thus; copied exactly as the original reads. Often suggests a mistake or surprise in the original.
SON-IN-LAW Husband of one's daughter.
SPINSTER A woman still unmarried; or one who spins.
SPONSOR A bondsman; surety.
SPOUSE Husband or wife.
STATUTE Law.
STEP-BROTHER / STEP-SISTER Child of one's step-father or step-mother.
STEP-CHILD Child of one's husband or wife from a previous marriage.
STEP-FATHER Husband of one's mother by a later marriage.
STEP-MOTHER Wife of one's father by a later marriage.
SURNAME Family name or last name.
TERRITORY Area of land owned by the united States, not a state, but having its own legislature and governor.
TESTAMENTARY Pertaining to a will.
TESTATE A person who dies leaving a valid will.
TESTATOR A person who makes a valid will before his death.
TITHABLE Taxable.
TITHE Formerly, money due as a tax for support of the clergy or church.
TORY Loyalist; one who supported the British side in the American Revolution.
TOWNSHIP A division of U.S. public land that contained 36 sections, or 36 square miles. Also a subdivision of the county in many Northeastern and Midwestern states of the U.S.
TRADITION The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, genealogies, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth.
TRANSCRIBE To make a copy in writing.
ULTIMO In the month before this one.
UNION The United States; also the North during the Civil War, the states which did not secede.
VERBATIM Word for word; in the same words, verbally.
VITAL RECORDS Records of birth, death, marriage or divorce.
VITAL STATISTICS Data dealing with birth, death, marriage or divorce.
WAR BETWEEN THE STATES U.S. Civil War, 1861-1865.
WARD Chiefly the division of a city for election purposes.
WILL Document declaring how a person wants his property divided after his death.
WITNESS One who is present at a transaction, such as a sale of land or signing of a will, who can testify or affirm that it actually took place.
WPA HISTORICAL RECORDS SURVEY A program undertaken by the US Government 1935-1936 in which inventories were compiled of historical material.
YEOMAN A servant, an attendant or subordinate official in a royal household; a subordinate of a sheriff; an independent farmer.

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