Dictionary of Genealogical Terms

Ancestor – your relatives who lived before you

Census – a listing of (supposedly) every person living in a country. The first US Census was in 1790. Until 1850 only the head of household was listed. The 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire. Most states also have census records.

Characteristics – actions and attitudes of a particular family

Christian Name – the “first” and “ middle” names given a child at birth

Coat of Arms – A symbol showing the traits of a specific family, usually given to royalty

Collateral – family members who are not in your direct lines, i.e. cousins, aunts and in-laws

Country of Origin – the country from which your earliest emigrant ancestor came

Direct Line – the ancestor to whom you are most closely related, as a father, mother, grandfather, grandmother etc

Documentation – written proof of any genealogical fact

Family Group Sheet – a paper which contains information on one specific family; a mother, father and children

Family History Center – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints records kept at a local or regional church

Genealogy – the study of a person’s family, its origins, and the progression from one generation to the next

Genetic Traits – similar health patterns that flow through a family

Heritage – the characteristics, traits and monetary gains of a family passed from one generation to the next

Homestead – property given to early settlers after they had lived on the land for a specified amount of time

Immigration – the movement of people from one foreign country to another. A person involved in this is called and “emigrant”

Indirect Line – a family to whom you are related, but which branches off your direct line

Lineage – the connection between a common family

Link – the joining of two separate family lines, as though marriage

Migration – the movement of a family or group of people from one part of the country to another

National Archives – the largest repository of government genealogical materials in the US, located in Washington DC

Naturalization – the act of becoming a citizen of a new country after immigration

Oral History – facts and stories spoken from one person to another

Passenger Lists – a roster of people who traveled from a foreign country on ships to another country

Pedigree – a genealogical form which shows (usually) five generations of a family

Pensions – money paid to someone after they reach retirement age

Primary Line – the decadency through a person’s father or mother

Primary Source – a resource which can be documented an proven, as a birth or death certificate or marriage license

Private (Closed) Records – records such as adoption and juvenile files which are not open to the public

Probate – the passage thorough the court of the material wealth of an individual to their heirs

Public Records – records which are available to the general public, such as birth marriage, death, tax and land records

Secondary Line – the family which follows a grandmother or great-grandmothers lines

Secondary Source – a written records such as newspapers, census or books; which may or may not be accurate

Surname – the “family” or “last” name of a group of related individuals

Vital Records – a collection of critical information (primarily birth and death) in one central location in a state