Genealogy researchers encounter many terms which are rarely used except in legal documents, or genealogical reports, this list is intended to aid with interpreting those terms.
Abstract - Summary of important points of a given text, especially deeds and wills.
Accordant (with) - Agreeing.
Acre - 43,560 square feet; 4,840 square yards; 160 square rods
Administration (of an estate) - The collection, management and distribution of an estate by proper legal process.
Administrator (of an estate) - Person appointed to manage or divide the estate of a deceased person.
Administratrix - A female administrator.
Ae. - (latin) Aged; Aet, "aetatis suae": at the age of.
Affidavit - A written statement confirmed by oath, for use as evidence in court.
Ahnentafel - A table of one's ancestors, from the German Ahnen (ancestor) and Tafel (table or list).
Ahnentafel Numbers - Numbering system used to identify each individual in a family tree. The numbers follow the format that an individual's father is twice that individual's number, and that an individual's mother is twice that individual's number plus one. Used in pedigree charts.
Alien - (1) To transfer property; as in a deed the seller "does grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, release, and confirm unto [the buyer]" certain property. (2) a foreigner.
ALARS - American Library Association Records Standards
American Revolution - U.S. war for independence from Great Britain 1775-1783.
Ancestor - A person from whom you are descended; a forefather.
Ancestor Chart - Report or chart that shows a person and all of their ancestors in a graphical format. As opposed to the Ahnentafel which is more of a narrative report.
Ancestral File - A database of names in linked genealogies on CD-ROM. Contains names and addresses of people that have submitted information. Maintained by the LDS FHL.
Ancestry - The lineage of all the ancestors of a person, from parents backward on time.
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.
Archive - Collection of public or corporate records; place where such records are kept.
Ascendants - lineal ancestors.
ASCII - American Standard Code for Information Interchange - type of file on a computer that is usually readable/writable by most word processors.
Attest - To affirm; to certify by signature or oath.
Banns - Public announcement of intended marriage, usually read in church on three successive Sundays
Barton - Farmyard; farm not let with rest of manor.
Base born - born out of wedlock or of low parentage.
Beneficiary - One who receives benefit of trust or property.
Bequeath - To give personal property to a person in a will. Noun: bequest.
Biblography - List of sources.
Birth Certificate - Documentation about one's birth.
Bond - A binding agreement to perform certain actions or duties or requiring payment of a specified amount of money as a penalty; at different times required of estate administrators or executors, grooms (for marriage), certain elected officials (such as constables).
Bondsman - Person acting as surety for a bond (often, but by no means ordinarily, a relative)
Bordar - a small-holder, usually on the outskirts of a village
Bounty Land - Land promised as reward or inducement for enlisting in military service.
Bounty Land Warrant - A right to obtain bounty land, specific number of acres of an allocated public land.
Buried, partly - indicates the heart is buried in one place and the body in another, usually by directions of a will
Cascading Pedigree Chart - A series of pedigree charts that span multiple generations for an individual and then for each person in the last generation of the first chart.
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 - 100 links; 66 feet
Chattel - Any property other than freehold land, including tangible goods (chattels personal) and leasehold interested (chattels real).
Christen - To receive or initiate into the christian church by baptism; to name at baptism; to give a name to.
Christian Name - Name given at christening or baptism; given name; forename
Circa - About or approximately; usually referring to a date.
Citation - Page or section reference of a source.
Civil War - War between the States; war between North and South, 1861-1865.
Codicil - An addition explaining, modifying or revoking a will or part of one.
Collateral Ancestor - Descended from the same ancestral stock but not in the direct line.
Common Ancestor - Ancestor shared by any two or more people.
Confederate - (adj.) Pertaining to the Confederacy
Confederacy - Collectively the Confederate States of America; the southern american states which seceded from the United States in 1860-1861.
Consanguinity - Blood relationship.
Consort - A husband or (more commonly) a wife.
Conveyances - Transfer of property from one owner to another.
Cottar - a small-holder
Cousin - Child of a person's Aunt or Uncle; person with whom one shares a common ancestor (excluding one's direct ancestors and siblings); formerly used as a loose term for any close friend or relative. N.B. in many Native American societies the usage differs.
Cousin German - First cousin.
Daughter-in-Law - Wife of one's son.
Death Certificate - Documentation of one's death.
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 and ownership 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.
Descendant - A person who descends from another given person.
Descendant Chart - Report or chart that shows a person and all of their descendants in a graphical format. As opposed to the Modified Register which is more of a narrative report.
Devise - To give property in a will.
Devisee - One to whom property is devised in a will.
Devisor - One who devises property in a will.
Dissenter - One who did not belong to the established church, (particularly the Church of England).
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 (laws regulating dower rights are dependant upon the year and place: under common law it was 1/3).
Emigrant - A person leaving a country and moving (permanently) to another.
Enfeoff - To grant property in fee simple; as in a deed the seller "does grant, bargain, sell, alien, enfeoff, release, and confirm unto [the buyer]" certain property.
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.
Executrix - Feminine form of Executor.
Family Group Sheet - A report listing the father, mother and each child of a family.
Family History Center (FHC) - A smaller branch of the FHL, found nationwide.
Family History Library (FHL) - Holds over 2 million rolls of microfilmed records, 400,000 microfiche, and 300,000 books. It also houses an extensive collection of written manuscripts including family histories, local histories, indexes, periodicals, and aids to help in genealogical research. It is located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Family Search - CD-ROM available at Family History Center produced by the Mormon church. Contains the International Genealogical Index, Ancestral File, SSDI, TempleReady and Military Death Index.
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 - Absolute ownership of land to sell or devise 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.
Freehold - An estate in fee simple, in fee tail, or for life.
Free Person of Color (FPC) - A person who was neither (100%) caucasian nor a slave.
Friend - Member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.
Furlong - 1,000 links; 660 feet
Gazetteer - A geographical dictionary; a book giving names and descriptions of places usually in alphabetical order.
Gedcom - An acronym for "GEnealogical Data COMmunication". A standard format created by the LDS Church that allows genealogical software programs to transfer data.
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 (in societies where the surname is inherited).
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 (also grand-aunt).
Great-Uncle - Brother of one's grandparent (also grand-uncle).
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.
Headright - System of land allocation in colonial Virginia.
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 (the law generally recognises the children of a married woman to be those of her husband).
Immigrant - One moving (permanently) 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 - A person bound into service of another person for a specified number of years, often in return for transportation to America; a redemptioner.
Infant - (in law) A person not of full age; a minor.
Instant - Of or pertaining to the current month. (Abbreviated inst.)
Intentions - Public notification of an upcoming marriage, see banns.
International Genealogical Index (IGI) - an database created of names that have been extracted from various original records from all over the world and also entries submitted by LDS church members for temple ordinances. Created and maintained by the LDS FHL.
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; descendants; progeny.
LDS - Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).
Late - Recently deceased; now deceased.
Lease - An agreement which creates a landlord-tenant situation.
Legacy - Property or money left to someone in a will.
Legatee - A person who inherits money or property through 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 - Length: 1/100th of a surveying chain; 7.92 inches.
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 woman's last name or surname before she marries.
Manse - Residense of a cleric.
Manuscript - A composition written with the hand as an ancient book or an un-published modern book or music.
Marriage Bond - A financial guarantee that no legal impediment to the marriage existed, furnished by representatives for the intended bridegroom and intended bride.
Maternal - Related through one's mother; on one mother's side of the family.
Messuage - A dwelling house.
Metes & Bounds - Property described by natural boundaries, such as 3 whites oaks and a locust tree etc.
Microfiche - Sheet of microfilm with greatly reduced images of pages of documents.
Microfilm - Reproduction of documents on film at reduced size.
Microform - Reproduction of images, reduced in size, as either: microcard, microfiche or microfilm.
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.
Migration - The move from one area to another.
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 adult; an infant.
Minner - Person who surrenders land to another in exchange for release from contractual obligations.
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.
Mortscloth - Shroud to cover a coffin.
Mother-in-Law - Mother of one’s spouse.
Mulatto - Strictly a person of one caucasian and one negro parent, but commonly used for any person of mixed heritage.
Namesake - Person named after another person.
Necrology - Listing or record of persons who have died recently.
Nee - Born. Used to denote a woman's maiden name.
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.
Octaroon - A person with seven caucasian and one negro great grandparents; 1/8 black.
Orphan - Person (usually a child) with one or both parents dead.
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.
Patent - Grant of land from a government to an individual.
Paternal - Related through one’s father; on one's father's side of the family.
Patriot - One who loves his country and supports its interests.
Pedigree - Ancestry; bloodline; Family tree; lineage.
Pedigree Chart - A chart which includes the direct ancestors (parents, grand-parents, etc.) of an individual. Does not include brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or other relatives.
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 - 5 1/2 yards; a pole; a rod.
Pole - 5 1/2 yards; a perch; a rod.
Poll - Head or taxable person; 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.
Post nominal - initials after name indicating rank, honors, or academic achievement.
Power of Attorney - When a person is 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-emption Rights - Right given by the federal government to citizens to buy a quarter section of land or less.
Prenuptial Agreement - Legal document (usually involving property) made by a couple before marriage.
Primogeniture - The right of the eldest child (usually the son) to inherit the entire estate of the parents.
Probate - Legal process 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; creative works whose copyright has expired.
Quadroon - A person with three caucasian and one negro grandparents; 1/4 black.
Quaker - Member of the Religious Society of Friends.
Quitclaim - A deed conveying the claim or title (usually to land) without guarantee of valid title.
Rector - A clergyman; the ruler or governor of a country.
Relict - Widow; surviving spouse when one has died, husband or wife.
Repository - The place where a source can be found. (i.e.: Library, FHC etc.)
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 - 5 1/2 yards; 16 1/2 feet; a perch or square perch; a pole.
Rood - 5 1/2 to 8 yards depending upon location; 1/4 of an acre.
Section - 640 acres; one of the 36 divisions of a township.
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.
Social Security Death Index (SSDI) - Index of Social Security Death Benefit records which document how much the government has paid to an individual (spouse, child, etc.) as a result of a relative's death. An individual may appear in the Social Security Death Benefits Index if he or she died after 1967, had applied for Social Security during their lifetime, and if someone applied for their Social Security death benefits at the time of death. It is not a complete listing of deaths.
Son-in-Law - Husband of one's daughter.
Soundex - A method of giving names sound codes. This was created in the 1930's due to the fact that names can be spelled in many different ways. By grouping together surnames that sound alike, individuals can search for ancestors even when the surname had several different spellings.
Source - A book, document, or other record that supplies primary information.
Spinster - Unmarried woman; woman acting in her own right.
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.
Succession - (1) Legal term in the transfer of property to legal heirs of an intestate estate, (2) probate; process of determining a will's validity, identifying heirs, etc.
Surname - Last name; family name.
Territory - Area of land owned by the united States, not a state, but having its own legislature.
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; a person who owes tax to a specified jurisdiction.
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 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.
Tutor - (in Louisiana) A guardian of minor children.
Tutrix - Feminine form of Tutor.
Ultimo - In the month before this one.
umquhillo - (Scot.) late, deceased.
Union - The United States; also the North during the Civil War, the states which did not secede.
Vendue - Public auction.
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.
Warranty Deed - Deed in which the seller guarantees a clear title to the buyer.
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; a naval rating.
Zambo - A person with one native american and one negro parent.
More genealogy terms can be found in the books:
Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware District of Columbia Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming
Genealogy Quest is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazonsupply.com, or myhabit.com.