Glossary of Genealogy Terms
by Dan Burrows


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, 1861-65.
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 - 1, 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.
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.