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A Glossary of Genealogical Terms

~ A ~

ABSTRACT: a brief summary of important points of a given text, especially deeds and wills.
ABSTRACT OF TITLE: a condensed history of the title of a piece of real property, including any liabilities to which it may be subject.
ACRE: a land measurement equaling 43,560 square feet or 160 square rods.
ADMINISTRATION (of estate) - The collection, management and distribution of an estate by proper legal process.
ADMINISTRATOR: a person appointed and legally authorized by the court to manage and settle an estate when the deceased has not left a will and named and executor.
ADMINISTRIX: a female administrator.
AFFIDAVIT - A statement in writing, sworn to before proper authority.
AFFINITY: a relationship by marriage, rather than by blood.
ALIEN - Foreigner.
AMERICAN CIVIL WAR - the War Between the States; the war between North and South during the years 1861 - 1865.
AMERICAN REVOLUTION - U.S. war for independence from Great Britain during the years 1775 - 1783.
ANCESTOR - A person from whom you are descended; a forefather.
ANNO DOMINI: a Latin term meaning "in the year of our Lord".
ANTE - Latin prefix meaning before, such as in ante-bellum South, "The South before the war."
APPRENTICE: a person, often a minor, 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: something that belongs to something else, such as a building, orchard, right of way, etc. In example: the buildings on a piece of property are appurtenances.
ARCHIVES: records of a government, organization, institution; the place where records are stored.
ATTEST: to bear witness to something and affirm formally by signature or oath that it is true
.

~ B ~

BANNS: public announcement, especially in church, of intention to be married.
BENEFICIARY: a person who receives benefit of a trust or property.
BEQUEATH: to give personal property to a person in a will.
BEQUEST: a gift of personal property to a person in a will.
BOND: a written, signed, and witnessed agreement requiring payment of a specified amount of money on or before a given date.
BOUNTY LAND WARRANT: a right to obtain a specific number of acres of unallocated public land, granted for military service.

~ C ~

CENSUS: an official listing or counting of citizens that includes various kinds of statistics.
CERTIFIED COPY: a copy of a document signed and certified as a true copy by the officer to whose custody the original was entrusted.
CHAIN: a land measurement equaling 100 links or 66 feet.
CHATTEL - Personal property that can include animate as well as inanimate properties.
CHILD OF TENDER YEARS: a child under age 14.
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 - see American Civil War.
CODICIL: an addition to a will.
COLLATERAL ANCESTOR: belonging to the same ancestral stock but not in direct line of descent; opposed to lineal such as aunts, uncles & cousins.
COMMON ANCESTOR: an ancestor shared by any two people.
CONFEDERATE: pertaining to the Southern states which seceded from the United States in 1861; their government and their citizens.
CONSANGUINITY: a relationship by blood.
CONSORT: a wife whose husband is living.
CONVEYANCE: the granting of real property to another party.
COUSIN: relative descended from a common ancestor, but not a brother or sister.

~ D ~

DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: the wife of one's son.
DECEASED: dead.
DECEDENT: a dead person.
DEED: a legal document that contains the record of transfer of real property, or some other bargain or contract concerning the property.
DECLARATION OF INTENT: the first paper, sworn to and filed in court, by an alien stating that he wants to be come a citizen and renouncing all allegiance to his/her father country. This is also called a Declaration of Intention.
DEED: a document through which real property is transferred from one party to another by title.
DEPOSITION: a written testimony sworn to under oath in response to questioning given by a competent officer to replace to oral testimony of a witness.
DESCENDANT: offspring to the furthest generation.
DEPONENT: person who gives evidence, especially in writing.
DEVISE: a gift of real property by will.
DEVISEE: a person to whom real property (land) is given by 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 of maps which show the location of the land patentee.
DISTRICT LAND OFFICE TRACT BOOK: books listing individual entries by range and township.
DOUBLE DATING: a system of double dating used in England and America from 1582-1752 when the new year was changed from March 25 to January 1. A narrative of this can be found in the Novice addendum of this section.
DOWER: the legal right or share which a wife acquired by marriage the real estate of her husband, allotted to her after his death for her lifetime.

~ E ~

EMIGRANT: a person leaving a country and moving to another.
ENUMERATION: listing or counting of a population, such as a census.
EPITAPH: an inscription on 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: the total of a person's property, both real and personal.
ET AL: a Latin term meaning "and others."
ET UXOR: a Latin term meaning "and his wife." Sometimes written simply Et Ux.
EXECUTOR: a person appointed by a testator (person writing will) to carry out the directions and bequests in the will.
EXECUTRIX: a female executor.

~ F ~

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 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 from the western part of North Carolina once known but never officially recognized; under consideration for Statehood from 1784 - 1788.
FRATERNITY: a group of men sharing a common purpose or interest.
FREE HOLD: an estate in fee simple, in fee tail, or for life.
FRIEND: a Member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.
FURLONG: a land measurement equaling 1000 links or 660 feet.

~ G ~

GAZETTEER: a geographical dictionary giving names and descriptions of places usually in alphabetical order.
GENEALOGY: a study of family history.
GENTLEMAN: a man well-born.
GIVEN NAME: the name given to a person at birth or baptism; one's first and middle names.
GLEBE: land belonging to a parish church.
GRANT: a legal term applicable to all transfers of real property.
GRANTEE: the person who buys property or receives a grant.
GRANTOR: the person who sells property or makes a grant.
GREAT-AUNT: the sister of one's grandparent.
GREAT-UNCLE: the brother of one's grandparent.
GUARDIAN: a person appointed to care for and manage property of a minor orphan or an adult incompetent of managing his own affairs.

~ H ~

HALF BROTHER/HALF SISTER: the sibling by another marriage of one's mother or father; the relationship of two people who have only one parent in common.
HEIR: the person(s) entitled by law or by the terms of a will, to inherit property from another.
HOLOGRAPHIC WILL: a will written in the testator's own handwriting.
HOMESTEAD ACT: a 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 a Calvinist driven into exile in England, Holland, Germany and America
.

~ I ~

ILLEGITIMATE: born to a mother not married to the child's father.
IMMIGRANT: a person moving into a country from another.
INDENTURE: a deed to which two or more persons enter into reciprocal and corresponding grants or obligations towards each other. Today it signifies a contract in two or more copies. Originally it was made in two 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 who bound himself into the service of another person for a specified number of years, often in return for passage to a new country.
INFANT: a minor, a person not of full legal age. This legal term does not apply only to babies.)
INSTANT: pertaining to the current month. (Abbreviated inst.)
INTESTATE: a person dies without a will.
INVENTORY: an account made by an executor or administrator of all the goods, chattels, and sometimes the real estate of a deceased person.
ISSUE: offspring; children. All lineal descendants of a common ancestor are issue -- not just his own children.

~ L ~

LATE: recently deceased.
LEASE: an agreement between a landlord and tenant.
LEGACY: a bequest or gift of personal property by last will and testament.
LEGISLATURE: lawmaking branch of state or national government; elected group of lawmakers.
LETTERS OF ADMINISTRATION: often known as ADMON. The instrument whereby the probate court appoints someone to administer the estate of a person who died without leaving a will.
LIEN: a claim against property as security for payment of a debt.
LINEAGE: ancestry; direct descent from a specific ancestor.
LINEAL: being in direct line of descent from an ancestor.
LINK: a land measurement equaling 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: a Tory; an American colonist who supported the British side during the American Revolution.

~ M ~

MAIDEN NAME: a woman's last name or surname before she marries.
MANUSCRIPT: an ancient book written by hand; an unprinted 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.
MARRIAGE LICENSE: a license granting permission by a public authority for persons to be married.
MATERNAL: related through one's mother.
MESSUAGE: a dwelling house.
METES & BOUNDS: property described by natural boundaries, such as 3 notches in a white oak tree, etc.
MICROFICHE: sheets of microfilm with greatly reduced images of pages of documents; requires a special machine to read them.
MICROFILM: roll of documents on film at reduced size.
MIGRANT: person who moves from place to place in search of work.
MIGRATE: to move from one country, state or region to another. (Noun: migration)
MILITIA: citizens of a state who are not part of the national military forces but 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 rate in a population.
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 property as security for payment of a debt.
MOTHER-IN-LAW: mother of one's spouse.

~ N ~

NAMESAKE: a person named after another person.
NECROLOGY: a listing or record of persons having recently died.
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 before a sufficient number of witnesses; usually for persons in last sickness, sudden illness, or military.

~ O ~

ORPHAN: a child whose parents are dead; sometimes, a child who has lost one parent by death.
ORPHAN'S COURT: orphans recognized as wards of the state. Provisions were made for them in special courts.

~ P ~

PASSENGER LIST: a ship's list of passengers.
PATENT: grant of land from the government to an individual.
PATERNAL: related to one's father.
PATRIOT: one who loves his country and supports its interests.
PEDIGREE: a family tree; a recorded ancestry or line of descent.
PENSIONER: a person who receives a pension.
PERCH: a land measurement equaling 5-1/2 yards or 16-1/2 feet (also called a pole or rod).
POLL: a list or record of persons, especially for taxing or voting.
POST: a Latin prefix meaning after, as in a post-war economy.
POSTERITY: descendants; those who come after.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: a legal instrument authorizing one person to act on behalf of the person drawing it up; also known as a "letter of attorney." The person appointed becomes "attorney in fact."
PRE: the Latin prefix meaning before, as in a pre-war military build-up.
PRE-EMOTION RIGHTS: a right given by the federal government to citizens to buy a quarter section of land or less.
PRESENTS: means literally "this document or instrument." The phrase "by these presents" is used to refer to the document or instrument in which the phrase occurs.
PROBATE: the act or process of proving a will or administering an estate; also used as an inclusive term referring to all matters under the jurisdiction of the probate court.
PROGENITOR: an ancestor in the direct line.
PROGENY: descendants of a common ancestor; issue.
PROVED: relating to 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.

~ Q ~

QUAKER: a member of the religious Society of Friends.
QUITCLAIM: a deed by which a person releases all title, interest, or claim which he may possess in real property without making a warrants thereto.

~ R ~

RECTOR: a clergyman.
RELICT: a widow.
REPUBLIC: a government in which supreme authority lies with the people or their elected representatives.
REVOLUTIONARY WAR: the U.S. war for independence from Great Britain during the years 1775 - 1783.
ROD: a land measurement equaling 5-1/2 yards or 16-1/2 feet (also called a perch or pole).
ROOD: a land measurement equaling from 5-1/2 yards to 8 yards, depending on the locale.

~ S ~

SHAKER: the member of a religious group formed in 1747 which practiced communal living and celibacy.
SIBLING: a 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: the husband of one's daughter.
SPINSTER: an unmarried woman, usually past the age of 25.
SPONSOR: a bondsman; surety.
SPOUSE: husband or wife.
STATUTE: law.
STEP-BROTHER / STEP-SISTER: the child of one's step-father or step-mother.
STEP-CHILD: the child of one's husband or wife from a previous marriage.
STEP-FATHER: the husband of one's mother by a later marriage.
STEP-MOTHER: the wife of one's father by a later marriage.
SURNAME: a family name or last name.

~ T ~

TENANT: a person who possesses the lands by any right or title.
TERRITORY: an area of land protected by the United States; not a state, but having its own legislature and governor.
TESTABLE: capable of making a will.
TESTAMENTARY: pertaining to a will.
TESTATE: one who dies leaving a valid will.
TESTATOR: one who makes a valid will prior to his death.
TITHABLE: taxable.
TITHE: formerly money due as a tax for support of the clergy or church.
TO WIT: namely.
TORY: a Loyalist; one who supported the British side in the American Revolution.
TOWNSHIP: a division of U.S. public land containing 36 sections, or 36 square miles; also a subdivision of the county in many northeastern and midwestern states of the U.S.
TRACT: a piece of land of any size.
TRADITION: the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, genealogies, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth.
TRANSCRIBE: to make a written copy.
TRUST DEED: a type of mortgage.

~ U ~

ULTIMO: in the month prior to this one.
UNION: the United States; also the North during the American Civil War - the states which did not secede.

~ V ~

VITAL RECORDS: legal instruments relating to birth, death, marriage, divorce.
VITAL STATISTICS: those numbers dealing with birth, death, marriage or divorce.
VERBATIM: word for word; in the same words, verbally.

~ W ~

WAR BETWEEN THE STATES: the American Civil War, 1861 - 1865.
WARD: a demarcated area of a city for election purposes.
WARRANTY DEED: a deed whereby the grantor warrants the title and should the title become faulty for any reason, the grantor (or his heirs) can be sued on the warranty.
WILL: a legal document declaring a person's wishes as to the disposition of his property after his death.
WITNESS: one who is present at an event, such as a sale of land or signing of a will, who can testify or affirm it actually took place.
WPA HISTORICAL RECORDS SURVEY: a U.S. government-funded program during the years 1935 - 1936 in which inventories were compiled of historical material.

~ Y ~

YOUNGER CHILDREN: all children not entitled by rights of the eldest son; this includes daughters even though they may be older than the eldest son.
YEOMAN: a servant, an attendant or subordinate official in a royal household; a subordinate of a sheriff; an independent farmer.

 

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