Donna Cooper's Genealogical Words 



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Genealogical words - Research Guidance

Donna Cooper's Glossary of Genealogical Words and Terms


One can not do genealogy for very long without learning about the settlement of the United States and the terms and phrases that were used in the pioneer days. An interest of these early groups of settlers never seems to cease. This is what makes the study of genealogy such a wonderful hobby. If you think of a term you'd like to see added, just drop me a note.

Under each item that has a personal touch to my genealogy is a note that is posted on another page. Those are numbered so that you know which item goes with which note. Just click on the note item to open the other section. 



 A - J


ad litem:  Latin for word "this case only".

ae: Latin word or age and is often seen in legal documents in England and the United States.

aetal:  Latin word for the attained age or a certain age.

administrator: in the United States this is seen in probate records. It is the person who is appointed by the courts to administer that is handle bill-paying and to handle the distribution of assets for the estate of the deceased. It is seen most often when he/she dies intestate; or if a will is located belatedly (post-administration), it may be "annexed" (attached) to the administration order. Abbreviations include adm., admx. and admon.

administratrix: in a will this is a female administrator. Abbreviations include adm., admx. and admon. 

Albemarle County: By 1668 in North Carolina, Chowan, Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimans Precincts were formed and named Albemarle County.  Then in or about 1679 and for only about 6 years Perquimans was renamed Berkeley Precinct but it was still in Albemarle County. Then in 1689 Albemarle County was the working unit for the government of North Carolina. Next a government was set up that was north and east of Cape Fear and the Lords Proprietors then appointed Phillip Ludwell as a governor for it. Then the next step came in 1691 when the Carolina government was set up and head quartered out of Charles Town.    [Note 9]

Age of Enlightenment: During the 18th century historians labeled the period of intellectual movement in the western world as the age of enlightenment. New products that came from the industrial revolution and a class of wealthy businessmen in North America were the result of this period of time.

Alamo: Colonel William Travis, Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie all died at the Alamo, a world famous battle for Texas' freedom in 1836.

American Revolution: This important event lasted from 1775 to 1783 and was a conflict between the thirteen British colonies in North America and Great Britain. The war achieved independence from Great Britain and a newly created United States of America, which as a result established a republican form of government, in which the power of government resided with the people.

Aprilis (Apr): This is the Latin word for the month of April.

Armstrong Roll: One census known as the Armstrong Roll and it was done in 1831 and was taken following the signing of the Choctaw “Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek”. This treaty was the last major land concession made by the native Americans to the Europeans. Some of the information on this roll includes names of the Choctaw tribal members, whites who married Choctaw natives, and also a few slaves. This is sometimes considered a territorial schedule of census for Mississippi Territory.

Augustus: Latin word for the month of August.

Bacon's Rebellion: Bacon's Rebellion was one of the most confusing yet one of the most intriguing things that has ever happened at Jamestown in Virginia. Historians have for years considered the Virginia Rebellion of 1676 to be the first stirring of revolutionary sentiment in America, and claimed it culminated into the American Revolution that occurred almost exactly one hundred years later. However, in the past few years, historians have come to understand Bacon's Rebellion in a different light. They now say that it was nothing more than a power struggle between two very stubborn and selfish leaders, rather than a glorious fight against tyranny as it had been described in earlier times. Shortly after Bacon's death, Berkeley regained complete control and hanged the major leaders of the rebellion. He also seized the rebel property without the benefit of having a legal way of doing so and he did this without even a trial. All in all, twenty-three persons were hanged for their part in the rebellion. Later after an investigating committee from England issued its report to King Charles II, Berkeley was relieved of the Governorship and returned to England where he died in July 1677.   [Note 14]

baptizatus: In early England the parish records lists in Latin baptizatus and it means baptized.

base born child: A child born out of wedlock. This term is seen in old English parish records but sometimes is also seen in the early Colonial America court records.

bastardry bonds: a fee that was charged to a man who fathered a child out of wedlock. Often seen in England in the Quarter Session records and in the court records of some states in the early America.

bellum: war in Latin. Often seen in English records.

bis: Latin for twice.

black death: is to die of typhus.

bounty land grant: This grant gave the right to a specific number of acres of unallocated public land granted for military service - usually for service in the Revolutionary War or for the service in the War of 1812.

Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers: These were rebels of the Civil War who had not joined with either the Union or Confederate forces. They went about killing the men, who had not joined up to fight, and burning houses and barns stealing what horses and cattle that they could find, and burning houses and barns. Usually the Jayhawkers were in Kansas but they were also occasionally reported to have roaming about in southwest Missouri, too. During the Civil War the Bushwhackers were operating in full force through Missouri and Arkansas. As a result of their robbing and murdering and as a result of other war causes the Civil War almost devastated the cattle industry in Missouri. What cattle that were left were not well cared for. This really hurt the Missouri economics because the cattle raiser was almost out of business and that was a big part of Missouri's economics.

The word bushwhacker means backwoodsmen.    [Note 11]

Calendars:  Until 1582 all of Europe used the Julian Calendar issued by Julius Caesar and after that Pope Gregory XIII ordered its replacement with what has become known in modern times as the Gregorian Calendar. This is the same calendar that we use today.  Most European countries adopted the Gregorian Calendar. At that time England refused to change and didn't do so until the year of 1752.  This was during the interim period (1582-1752). Sometimes Quaker records are located in either New Style (NS) or Old Style (OS) but the record may state which it is.  By an English Act of Parliament passed in 1750, the Gregorian (New Style) Calendar  replaced the Julian (Old Style) Calendar, the day after 2 Sep 1752 was called 14 Sep 1752, and the legal first day of the year became the first of January.

Chain carrier (and often times are listed as CC or SCC): This term is often seen in North Carolina records and in the early Virginia records. It usually meant someone who helped with the survey but other times it meant the person who carried the chain of ownership down from the original granted owner.

Cherokee: The most familiar name for this Indian tribe was Cherokee, which comes from a Creek word "Chelokee" meaning "people of a different speech." In their own language the Cherokee originally called themselves the Aniyunwiya (or Anniyaya), which means "principal people" or the Keetoowah (or Anikituaghi, Anikituhwagi) "people of Kituhwa." They usually accept being called Cherokee, but many prefer Tsalagi from their own name for the Cherokee Nation (Tsalagihi Ayili).   

The Cherokee have been divided into three divisions depending on location and dialect (east to west):  Lower, Middle, and Over-the-Hill; Other distinct bands were: Atali, Chickamauga, Etali, Onnontiogg, and Qualia;  Three Cherokee groups are currently federally recognized: Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Oklahoma), and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (North Carolina). The Echota Cherokee are recognized only by the state of Alabama.   

Cherokee Strip: The Cherokee Strip was actually the Cherokee Outlet land, which the Cherokee Indians had been allotted for hunting of the buffalo. It was intended to be their permanent hunting grounds, but it was among the lands appropriated by white settlers in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. In fact the Cherokee had already been coerced into acceding much of their land prior to the 1893 Cherokee Strip land rush. It wasn't long until the natives and dislocated Indians alike were relegated to reservations, and as one might figure, they were usually placed on the poorer plots of land or land that no one else wanted.    [Note 5   ]

Civil War: a military conflict between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. It is sometimes referred to as the War of Rebellion. It brought freedom to 4 million black slaves. The white plantation owners of the South viewed the election of Abraham Lincoln as a threat to their economic well-being and believed that the ending of slavery was on the horizon.

Civil War Pay: In the Union Army white soldiers were paid $13.00 per month and black soldiers were paid $10.00 a month.

Consort: a woman who was survived by her husband.

Cordwainer: one who works with fine leathers, a shoemaker or a leather worker.

corporeal hereditament: the right to inheritance of tangible property, e.g. an estate in real property - in land.

corporeal rights: tangible rights in real estate - in property.

Creek Indians: They controlled much of the state of North Carolina before 1755 and remained there until about 1827. They were living in Georgia prior to the 18th century as was other tribes of their confederacy. The name "Creek" came from the shortening of "Ocheese Creek" Indians - a name given by the English to the native people living along the Ocheese Creek - or the Ocmulgee River. Many early deeds of certain parts of Northeastern Georgia often times listed the name of the deed holder and then gave a location as the Ocheese Creek with hardly any other property description. After awhile the Creek name was soon applied to all groups of the confederacy. The Apalachicola, Oconee, Chiaha, Osochi, Creek, Okmulgee, Guale, Tacatacuru, Hitchiti, Tamathli, Icafui, Yemasee, Kasihta, and the Yui were all part of the confederacy. Most of the groups that were in the confederacy shared the same language, the Muskogean, the same types of ceremonies, and had the same type of village. The Creek people were living in these villages in large permanent towns.     [Note 7 ]

curo: means to administer in Latin.

de:  In Latin this is a surname prefix meaning of, generally references a location (de dutton), but may also refer to the son of a father   (son of Dutton). Also "atte" (Old English "at" or "of" )  

debitum: Latin for debt.

decem:  In Latin this is the number ten.

decimus, decimo: In Latin this is the tenth.

demise:  this term has to do with leases. It is transferring from a lesser to a lessee a leasehold estate for a term of years, for life.

die: In Latin this is the meaning of day.

domus: Latin for house, home, or residence.

dower:  after the death of a husband, a widow's one-third interest in his land for the rest of her life.

duo:  In Latin this is the word for the number two.

duodecimus:  In Latin the meaning is the twelfth.

duodevicesimus, octavo decimo: In Latin the meaning is the eighteenth.

Dutch in the Hudson Valley: The Dutch East India Company, a trading organization in Europe, was looking for a new route to the Orient, to China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. The company sent ships to the northwest, expecting to reach Asia, but instead, they stumbled onto North America. In 1609 Henry Hudson, who was an Englishman, sailed for the Dutch East India Company, sailed up the Hudson River. His ship, the Half Moon - In Dutch was "Halve Maen" sailed around 150 miles upriver towards Albany, New York, before they realized their mistake. Instead of finding a quick passage to China, they had sailed into one what is known today as one of the roughest rivers in the American northeast. A charter to the area was granted in 1615 to the United New Netherlands Co. This was the first time the name "New Netherlands" was used to refer to the New World. In 1664 the British took the area of New Netherlands, and under Governor Edmond Andros, New Netherlands became what is today New York

duxit, matrimonium duxit: In Latin this is married.

entail, entaile:  this has to do with property (real) which cannot be deeded or willed by the present owner, but must transfer, upon current owner's death to a pre-designated individual, which was usually a family member.

famulatus: This means slavery in Latin. Also may mean servant.

feudal system:  The English common law that dealt with land ownership was based upon the feudal system where the monarch who owned all the land but could give it to favored individuals. It was often given in exchange for services.  The tenancies that were held were called "feuds", "fees", or "fiefs", and the tenants would then pass on the rights to others. It went like this: King to overlords, overlords to vassals, vassals to serfs. The service could be anything from military service to some other type of service. But eventually this system was replaced with the tax system such as the Virginia quitrents. The main thing with the feudal system was that the king had control of the land because the title to a track of land was always subservient to the king. One issue was the question of inheritance. The land that was held in fee simple was inheritable, and the heirs could continue to enjoy the tenancy providing that they could render the service that was required in order to keep it.

fil: The Latin word for son.

filia:  The Latin word for daughter.

forda: In Latin this is a cow with a calf. This term is sometimes seen in early Colonial American and in old English wills.

forenis: Latin for legal.

fratri: This is Latin for  brother.

freeman or freedman:  a feuda or medieval term. In England and in Colonial America, it was a man who had the full right of citizenship, including the right to vote and engage in business. Indentured servants and apprentices who were, in a sense, the property of another person.  In the American Colonies, this term was sometimes used to denote a person of color who was not the property of another - who had been freed from bondage or slavery.  In Virginia, voting required owning land, whereas Maryland did not add that prevision until sometime later on.  Sometimes this term is seen in the colonial documents of Massachusetts and Virginia.

French Huguenots: This was the name given in the time of the Reformation to the French Protestants. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, all protection of law was withdrawn from the Huguenots. Even though they were forbidden to leave France, hundreds of thousands of them fled. They took with them their arts and knowledge of manufacturing. They spread their French culture throughout England, Germany, the Netherlands, and also the British colonies of North America. In the Hudson Valley of New York there was a pocket of French Huguenots that lived there among the Dutch. They first inhabited the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam during the 1640's. They populated the capital Duzine, meaning "New Village,"  and this was later known as Kingston in peaceful coexistence with the Dutch. However, the Huguenots desired a place of their own to preserve the French language. The governor of New York granted them thirty nine thousand acres of land south of Kingston, New York, which later became known as New Paltz. By the spring of 1678 there was only about twelve families that made the journey to New Paltz. Among this group was the ancestral family of Paul Revere, a family of silver smiths.

fuit:  The Latin term for was.

gens: Latin for a race or tribe.

Gentleman: This was a title originally given to a man of noble or gentle birth, later a member of the landed gentry, the lowest degree of nobility, above the rank of yeoman, and later yet, a man of independent means.

Georgia Land Lottery: Georgia’s Land Lottery was a method by which western lands were sold to settlers. It stipulated that every bachelor - meaning man - with three years residence in Georgia was allowed one draw and every married man with like residence was allowed two draws. Under an act of December 15, 1818, Revolutionary War veterans were given preference and allowed two additional draws beginning in the Third Land Lottery of 1820.

Germanna:  In 1713, forty or more Germans left their homes in Nassau-Siegen, expecting to go to the New World and to mine silver.  In 1717, another group left Southwest Germany and for that trip there was about eighty or so passengers. They thought that they were going to Pennsylvania. Neither of these groups were able to fulfilled their expectations. Instead, and sadly as it is, they became guardians of the frontier in Virginia and a vanguard in the westward expansion of English civilization on the North American continent. The Lord Proprietors of North Carolina had earlier received permission to send several hundred of the what was really thousands of Germans that were now living in London to their new colony. These proprietors agreed to provided transportation for an initial group of Swiss if Christoph Von  Graffenried, a citizen of Switzerland, would be responsible for the Germans they were sending over. So believing that he could pursue dual objectives of colonization and that of silver mining also, Christoph Von Graffenried agreed to lead the several hundred Germans and a smaller contingent of Swiss to North Carolina. So with this, the silver mining was pursued and Johann Justus Albrecht was hired. He was to purchase tools and to recruit German miners.  So in order to find miners, Albrecht went to Siegen where there were working in the iron mines. Christoph Von Graffenried thought that the North Carolina colony could be set up rather quickly and that he could therefore devote his attention to the silver mines that they were now holding in the colony of Virginia. Christoph Von Graffenried's company had now obtained the Queen's approval for land in Virginia to establish a Swiss colony there. There was no real intention of using the Swiss citizens since the German miners were going to live there. But In America, many misfortunes - one after the other - befell upon Graffenried. He first was to escape what could have been his death while he was in the hands of American Indians. The German - Swiss Colony did not prosper well in these early years. As it is reported in American history Graffenried and Michel had a disagreement. This conflict happened before Michel had shown Christoph Von Graffenried the location where the silver mines were in Virginia. So Graffenried went to Virginia to see if he could find a site where he could relocate what was left of the North Carolina colony and to see if he could find the silver mines by himself. While he was there, he attracted the attention of Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood even invested significantly in what he thought was a silver mine. And soon Graffenried gave up in America and the colonization enterprise of silver mining was now bankrupt. In 1713, he returned to Europe. And when he went to London he learned that Albrecht was living there. He had forty-odd people from the Siegen area who were expecting to go to the colonies and have that trip financed by Graffenried. There is nothing that seems to explain why the Germans were motivated to go to London in the first place and at this time. So Christoph Von Graffenried, who was now broke, could only advise them to go home and so that is what he did. They did not want to return home and so they were now living in England and without a country. This was when the Germans agreed to pay a part of their transportation costs and to work four years to pay off the remaining balance. The agent for Virginia, who was in London, England, took it upon himself to obligate Governor Spotswood to pay the balance, but Governor Spotswood didn't know about the agreement.    [Note 3 ]

Gulielmi: The Latin term for the given name of William. [Such as Gulielmi Smith]

Habet: The Latin word for he or she has.

Headright: In Virginia, in 1627 Governor George Yeardley began the system of granting land that was known as the headright system. Anyone who brought someone to the colony could get 50 acres of land. Grantees had to pay annual quitrents, which was in a sense a type of real estate tax. And in addition, the owner had to "plant and seat" the land in order to keep it.

hedomada: Latin word for week.

habitans: In Latin the meaning is habituate or residence.

his: In Latin it means this or the latter.

hodie: The Latin word for today.

husbandman: In England this was  a farmer, cultivator or tiller of the ground; originally a tenant who cultivated leased ground.

Indentured servant and apprentices: They who were, in a sense, the property of another person.

intestate: This means that one has died without a legal will.

in capite:  Latin for a chief; in England, "tenure in capite" was a holding directly from the crown.

incol: ae: This is Latin for resident, inhabitant of a place, or a foreign resident.

indentured servant: an individual voluntarily or involuntarily contracted to working for another for a fixed number of years (often four to seven) in exchange for specific considerations (such as passage to the Colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries), usually including freeman status. 

infantia: Latin for infancy or babyhood.

instituta apostolica: This is Latin for canon law.

Jamestown: On May 14, 1607 passengers from England arrived in Virginia. After the disastrous first colony that was located at Roanoke, the English once again came to the New World, this time to the Chesapeake area. This was in May 1607. An English businessman recruited 120 men, who wanted to go to America, and they sailed on three ships for the New World and they set sail with Captain John Smith. Then later on and in 1620 a group of ninety young women landed in Jamestown on the Bride Ship. The Virginia Company sent it to Jamestown. Most of the women worked in the kitchen, vegetable garden, smokehouse, orchards, tobacco fields or in the main house. Interestingly - when a man married one of the women from the Bride Ship he had to pay the Virginia Company for her trip with his tobacco crop. The original colonists were quick to build a fort at Chesapeake Bay. James Fort was with a notable triangular-shaped fence around it to protect from Indian attacks. It encompassed a total of 1,600 acres. They settled, however, too far down stream on the river; the water there was too salty from the ocean waters. The Indians who visited these Jamestown settlers remarked that they had made a poor choice, and so told the colonists to pray "to their god" for rain; the settlers took it as a compliment, because they saw their God as mighty and strong. By the winter of 1609, there were around 500 colonists now living at Jamestown. From the diggings that have been done at Jamestown, VA, we now know that it was occupation by many skilled craftsmen     [Note 1]

Januarius, Ianuarius (Jan): In Latin this is the month of January.

Julian calendar: This calendar was established by Julius Cesar and used as late as 1751. In Quaker records this is referred to as the Old Style Calendar.

Juvenhus: Latin for the age of youth.


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