Genealogy Trails

Terms Encountered while Family Researching

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Parts of this genealogy dictionary were originally compiled by Dorothy E. Stanley
and we've added to it as we've come across new terminology.

Ab Nepos
a great-great-grandson

Ab Neptis
a great-great-granddaughter

Abcpsia
blindness

Abeyance
a condition of undetermined ownership, as of an estate that has not yet been assigned

Abstract
a statement summarizing the essential facts contained in a document or record

Abstract Book
record books containing abstracts of the information contained on deeds or land entries, usually listed in alphabetical order by surname of the purchasers

Accelerated
an index prepared by computer, such as a census index

Accomptant
accountant

Accretion
Right of inheritance

Action
a proceeding in a court of law

Administration
management and settlement of an estate

Administrator
an appointee of the court who settles the estate of a deceased who died without leaving a will

Administrator's Bond
a bond posted by an administrator to guarantee the proper performance of his duties

Administratrix
a female administrator

AE
These letters are attached together, mostly found on tombstones, meaning: at the age of

Aegrotantem
illness, sickness

Affidavit
a written and signed statement sworn in front of a court officer

After-acquired property
A property that was acquired after the date of a will

Ague
recurring fever and chills of malaria

Ahnentafel
An ancestor table that shows ancestry by generation rather than pedigree

Amanuensis
secretary or stenographer

Annus
year

Apoplexy
stroke

Archives
reference to the storage of older records

Artificer
soldier mechanic who does repairs

Ascendant
ancestor

Ashman
shipman or sailor

Assignee
the person to whom a privilege or some property is signed over to by the court

Assignor
the person who signs over a right or property to another

Assistant Marshall
the census taker prior to 1880

Bad Blood
syphilis

Banns
publication or posting of the announcement of a coming marriage, a period of time before the actual marriage to allow advance notice to those that might have reason to protest. In most churches the banns were read aloud on three successive Sundays.

Baptizavi
I baptized

Barrister
lawyer

Bequest
legacy; usually a gift of real estate by will

Bilious fever
fever caused by liver disorder

Black Death
typhus

Black Lung
disease from breathing coal dust

Bloody Flux
dysentery

Boluter
a sieve

Bond
a written promise by a borrower to pay a lender a fixed dollar sum of interest for a prescribed period of time and to repay the principal on a stated date

Boniface
innkeeper

Borough
a self-governing incorporated town, larger than a village

Bounty Land
public land given by the government to induce young men to join the military

Bounty Land Warrant
a gift of bounty land due to a person entitled by military service, or to his heirs or assignees

Brand Iron
the cob irons or fire dogs which confine the brands on an open hearth

Brazier
works with brass

Bright's Disease
kidney disease

Brightsmith
metal worker

Brother
a male sibling, can also be used to show close friendship

Brownsmith
copper or brass smith

Bundling
to sleep in the same bed while fully clothed, a practiced commonly by engaged couples in early New England

Burnisher
polishes or shines metal

Cadastral
a public record, survey or map for tax purposes showing ownership and value of land

Cals
Certified American Lineage Specialist - a certification of competence in genealogy

Canon Law
a law of the church

Capitation Tax
tax on people, also called a head tax or poll tax

Carner
granary keeper

Carter
maker or driver of carts

Catarrh
Inflammation of mucous membrane or cerebral hemmorage

Cenotaph
An empty grave honoring a deceased person (often used for military personnel who are MIA or for a person lost at sea)

Census
periodic official tally of the population with details as to ages, sexes, occupations, etc., U.S. Federal censuses have been taken every 10 years since 1790.

Census Index
alphabetical listing of names enumerated in a census

CG
Certified Genealogist

Chaffer
a chaffing dish

Chandler
makes or sells candles; retailer of groceries

Chattels
personal property, both animate and inanimate

Chiffonier
wigmaker

Chilblain
swelling of the extremities caused by exposure to cold

Chin Cough
Whooping Cough

Chorea
disease characterized by convulsions and contortions

Circiter
about

Civitate
the city of

Clan
a social unit in the Scottish Highlands, consisting of a number of families claiming a common ancestor and following the same hereditary leader

Clarke
cleric or scribe

Coat of Arms
shield with certain distinctive symbols or emblems painted on it in definite fixed colors identifying one person and his direct descendants

Codicil
a supplement to a will; not intended to replace an entire will.

Collateral Ancestor (or "Collateral Line")
Descendant line of connecting persons who share a common ancestor, but are not directly related (aunt, cousin, etc.)

Collier
a coal miner or a coal ship

Colporteur
peddler of books

Common Law
a man and woman living together in a marital status without legal action. In some states living together for a specified period of time constitutes a legal marriage, even without benefit of legal action.

Complications of Confinement
Died giving birth

Congestive Fever
Malaria

Conjugi
a husband, wife, or spouse

Connubium
marriage

Consanguinity
blood relationship

Consort
wife, husband, spouse, mate, companion.

Consumption
Tuberculosis

Convey
transfer property or the title to property

Conveyance
a written instrument that transfers title to property from one party to another

Conveyor
grantor or seller

Cooper
makes and repairs barrels and casks

Coppice Keeper
one who takes care of small wood

Cordwainer
shoemaker

Cousin
In colonial usage, it most often meant nephew or niece. In the broadest sense, it could also mean any familial relationship, blood or otherwise (except mother, father, sister, or brother), or the modern-day meaning of a child of one's aunt or uncle. Modern usage includes qualifiers such as first, second, third, once removed, twice removed, etc.

Cramp Colic
appendicitis

Crayman
driver of a cart carrying heavy loads

Cretinism
congenital hypothyroidism

Crop Sickness
overextended stomach

Croup
laryngitis, diphtheria, or strep throat

Crowner
coroner

Cui
of whom, of whose, of whatever person, of what place/country

Culler
gelder of male animals

Currier
tans leather; uses curry comb on horses

Curtesy
the life tenure which by common law is held by a man over the property of his deceased wife and has by her issue born alive who is capable of inheriting her estate; in this case, on the death of his wife, he holds the lands for his life, as tenant by courtesy

Cutler
one who makes or sells knives, etc.

Dareman
dairyman

Decedent
the deceased individual

Decem
ten

Declaration of Intention
document filed by an alien in a court of record declaring his intention to apply for citizenship after fulfillment of the residency requirement. It may also be used to refer to an intent to marry, usually filed with the town clerk.

Deed
document signed, sealed, and delivered according to the law conveying title to real estate

De Jure
legal term for "by law" or "lawfully"

Delirium Tremens
hallucinations due to alcoholism

Demography
the study of the characteristics of human populations, such as size, growth, density, distribution and vital statistics

Denizen
a foreigner permitted certain rights of citizenship

Deposition
a written testimony by a witness for use in court in his or her absence

Descendant
an immediate or remote offspring

Devise
to transmit property by will

Devisee
one to whom a devise is made

Die
day

Diptheria
contagious disease of the throat

Direct Heir
one who is in an individual's direct line of ascent or descent

Distributee
one entitled to a share in the estate of a person who died intestate (without a will)

Diviner
one who finds water under the ground

Domo
to master or subdue a home, residence, or family

Dornix
linsey wolsey; also a heavy damask linen having a diaper figure (flowered or figured) formerly much used for church vestments, altar hangings, etc.

Dowager
a widow who holds title or property derived from her dead husband

Dower
the part of interest of a deceased man's real estate alloted by law to his widow

Dowry
property a bride brings to her husband for the duration of a marriage

Dowser
finds water under the ground

Draper
dealer in cloth and dry goods

Drayman
drives a cart carrying heavy loads

Dresser
surgeon's assistant in a hospital

Dropsy
edema, congestive heart failure

Dropsy of the Brain
encephalitis

Drover
drives animals to market; dealer in cattle

Drummer
traveling salesman

Duffer
peddler

Dysentery
Inflammation of intestinal membrane

Dyspepsia
Acid indigestion

D.S.P.
died sine prole - died without offspring

Eadem
same

Eam
she

Ecclescia
church

Ego
I

Ejus
he

Ejusdem
of the same

Encephalitis
swelling of the brain, aka sleeping sickness

Enteritis
inflammation of the bowels

Enumeration
process by which persons are counted for purposes of a census

Enumerator
census taker

Eodem
to the same place/person/day

Episcopus
bishop

Escheat
property reverted to the state when no legal heirs or claimants exist

Est
is

Estate
the whole of one's possessions; especially all the property left by a deceased person

Et
and - both

Et al
And others, but when found in indexes of Registry of Deeds it usually means a document containing a deed of distribution to heirs

Etiam
also, besides, again

Et Ux, Et Uxor
and wife

Ex
from

Executor
the person named in a will to carry out the provisions of the will

Executrix
a female executor

Farrier
horse doctor, blacksmith who shoes horses

Fatty Liver
cirrhosis

Fee Simple
estate of land which the inheritor has unqualified ownership and power of disposition

Filiam
daughter

Filium
son

Final Papers
petition for citizenship with supporting documentation filed by an alien in a court of law

Firelands
a tract of land in northeastern Ohio reserved by Connecticut for its own settlers when it ceded its western lands in 1786. The State of Connecticut deeded land there to its citizens whose homes were burned during the Revolutionary War, therefore, the terrirory became known as "fire land."

First Papers
declaration of intention filed by an alien in a court of law

Fletcher
makes bows and arrows

Flux
discharge of fluid from the body

Forebear
an ancestor, a forefather

Fortnight
14 days

Framar
farmer

Freeborn
born as a free person

Freedman/woman
a man or woman who has been freed from bondage or slavery

Freeholder
one who holds land by fee simple. In colonial times, a freeholder had the right to vote and hold public office.

Freeman
one who held the full rights of citizenship, such as voting and engaging in business (as opposed to an indentured servant)

Friends
correctly called "The Society of Friends", the correct term for the Quakers

Fuere
were

Fuller
cleans and thickens cloth

Gaoler
jailer

Galloping Consumption
Pulmonary Tuberculosis

Gentile
a person who is not Jewish

Gentleman
a member of the gentry, a descendant from an aristocratic family whose income came from the rental of his land

Ginerr
joiner

Glandular Fever
mononucleosis

Glover
dealer or maker of gloves

Godfather
a man or woman who sponsors a child at baptism, also called a Godparent

Goodman
a solid member of the community who ranked above a freeman but below a gentleman on the social scale

Goods and Chattels
personal property, as distinguished from real property

Goodwife
a woman married to a "gentlman." Often the title was shortened to "Goody." If you come across names such as Goody Cook or Goody Loomis, they are not first names but the abbreviation of a title

Grant
to transfer property by a deed

Grantee
one to whom a grant is made

Grantee Index
index to grantees of deeds recorded in a deed book

Grecher
grocer

Green Sickness
Anemia

Gregorian Calendar
the calendar in use today. Pope Gregory XIII ordered the replacement of the previous Julian Calendar in 1582, although it was not adopted by England and the American Colonies until 1752.

Gripe
Influenza

Guardian
an appointee of the court who cares for the property and rights of a minor or someone incapable of handling his or her own affairs

Guilder
makes gold or silver coins

Gutte
gutter or drain pipe

Haeretica
heretical

Hansard
weapon maker of seller

Hawker
peddler

Headborough
constable

Headright
right to a certain number of acres (usually 50) of land guaranteed in advance for each settler in a new territory

Head Tax
tax on people, also called a poll tax or capitation tax

Heir
a person who inherits, or is entitled by law to inherit, the estate of another

Hereditaments
property that can be inherited

Heraldry
the practice of devising, blazoning, and granting armoral insignia (coats of arms)

Hibernia
Ireland

High Sheriff
the highest ranking sheriff, as opposed to deputy sheriffs. This term was popular in England and Colonial America.

Hillard/Hiller
one who covers houses with slate

Hind
farm laborer

Holographic Will
a document written entirely by the hand of the person whose signature it bears

Hostler
takes care of horses at an inn

Huc
here, to this place

Huckster
sells small articles

Hujus
of this

Hujusidem
of this month and year

Husbandman
a person whose occupation is in husbandry; a farmer

Hutch
a chest, box coffer, or bin

Immens
to be near

Imminens
eminent, immediate

Impositum
the name bestowed

Impressment
the act of seizing people or property for public service or use

Indenture
a deed, contract, or sealed agreement executed between two or more parties; A contract binding one person to work for another for a given period of time

Indentured Servant
one who was voluntarily or involuntarily committed to working for someone for a fixed number of years (usually 4 to 7) in exchange for passage to America or some other financial advantage (i.e., learning a trade). An indentured servant had few, if any, rights, but people without skills or money accepted this position in order to emigrate. After the period of work was over, the servant usually became a freeman. It was also common practice for parents to indenture their children with the intent of having their child learn a trade or craft.

Infant
a minor

Infantem
child

Infantile Paralysis
polio

Infra
down, below

In-Law
colonists used this term for any familial relationship that occurred from a marriage. Thus, a woman's father-in-law could be her husband's father or her stepfather. Her son-in-law could be her daughter's husband or her own stepson.

Inprimis
in the first place

Inqus
repeat, maintain

Ipsius
in person, of own accord

Instrument
a formal document such as a deed or a will

Intestate
having no legal will; not disposed of by legal will

Inventory
a list of goods in the estate of a deceased person

Ironmonger
dealer in iron goods

Issue
offspring or children

Jail Fever
typhus

Jaundice
condition caused by blockage of the intestines

Journeyman
craftsman hired day by day

Julian Calendar
the calendar in use prior to 1752 (see Gregorian Calendar), created by Julius Caesar

Junior, Senior
these terms were used in early times to differentiate between men (and sometimes women) with the same name whether they were related or not. These titles were not permanent, but rather conveniences in colonial families and communities.

Keeler
a cooler, a broad shallow wooden vessel, where milk was set to cream or wait to cool

Keller
salt keeper

Kellogg
slaughter man

Kilderkin
a small vessel, the eighth part of a tun or vat

Kindred
a group of blood-related persons

Kith and Kin
friends and neighbors

Lands and Tenements
real property, as opposed to personal property

Lardner
official in charge of pig food

Legacy
money or property bequeathed to someone by will

Lineal Descendant
being in the direct line of descent from an ancestor

Lock Jaw
tetanus

Loco
to place, establish, give in marriage

Locus
place

Loyalist
a Tory (person who remained loyal to England during the Revolutionary War) who later moved to Canada or to another British possession

Lung Fever
pneumonia

Lung Sickness
tuberculosis

Malster
brewer of malted beverages (beer)

Mania
insanity

Manumission
a formal written act to free slaves

Marriage Bond
a document executed to guarantee that no legal or moral impediments existed to an intended marriage

Master
today would be known as The Captain

Mayer
physician

Mensis
month

Miasma
poisonous vapors thought to infect the air

Milk Sickness
disease from the milk from cattle which had eaten poisonous weeds

Millwright
one who designs or builds mills

Mockadow
moccado - stuff made of wood and silk and apparently a mixture of either with flax, a substitute for more expensive velvet

Morsal
Gangrene

Mortaility Schedule
the enumeration of deaths during the 12 months preceding census day, Mortality Schedules were included in the U.S. Census from 1850 - 1900 (1890 and 1900 schedules have been destroyed)

Mortis
death

Mr.
a title that could only precede the names of gentlemen, clergymen, or government officials

Mrs.
a feminine equivalent of Mr., it did not denote marital status, but social position (women of the aristocracy)

Mulierem
woman

Myelitis
inflammation of the spine

Myocarditits
inflammation of the heart muscles

Natum
born

Naturalize
to grant full citizenship to one of foreign birth

Necrology
register book of deaths

Necrosis
mortification of bones or tissue

Nee
Normally refers to a woman's maiden name

NEHGS
New England Historic Genealogy Society; the oldest genealogical society in the United States

Nepritis
inflammation of the kidneys

NGS
National Genealogical Society

Nuncupative Will
an oral will declared by the deceased before dying, in the presence of witnesses

Notary
a person officially authorized to draw up or attest to contracts, wills, deeds, or similar documents

Novem
nine

Now Wife
exclusively found in wills, this term implied that there was a former (or ex-) wife

Nupr -A -AE
bride, wife

Nuber Huc Adventis
recently arrived here

Oath of Abjuration
sworn statement renouncing a former allegiance

Ob
before, in front of, because of, on account of

Obit
died

Octo
eight

Oppido
town

Ordinary
public house or tavern

Osler
bird catcher

Outrider
mounted attendant riding before or behind a carriage

Packman
itinerant peddler

Paleography
the study of ancient forms of writing

Palatinate
the area west of the Rhine River in West Germany

Palsy
paralysis or loss of muscle control

Parochus
rector, pastor

Paroxysm
convulsion

Patritius
paternal

Patronymic
a name derived from a paternal ancestor, such as "Johnson, the son of John"

Paucis Hebdomadibus
a few weeks

Pedigree
recorded ancestry or line of descent

Pedigree Chart
a standard genealogical form for recording several generations of ancestry

Peel
a long handled broad shovel used for putting bread into an oven

Peever
pepper seller

Per
for

Personal Property
property other than land

Per Stirpes
a method of dividing an estate so that children act as a group, rather than individually, taking what their deceased ancestor was entitled to

Pleurisy
Inflammation of the lung

Podagra
gout

Population Schedule
a completed population census questionnaire

Posthumous
After death

Porcher
pig keeper

Porter
gate-keeper or door-keeper

Pott's Disease
tuberculosis of the spinal vertebrae

Pox
Syphilis

Praecende
previous, preceeding

Prae
in front, before, through

Pridie/Priede
the previous day

Primary Record
a record created at the time of the event (birth, marriage, death, etc.) as opposed to records written years later

Primogenitor
the earlies known ancestor or forefather

Primogeniture
the right of the eldest child (especially the son) to inherit the estate of both parents

Probate
legal establishment of the validity of a will

Procurant
stand instead of, proxy

Procuratorem
in behalf of

Progeny
children

Progenitor
an originator of a line of descent, frequently used in reference to the immigrant ancestor

Purrell
made of a lace called purl

Putrid Fever
diptheria or typhus

Quaker
a member of the Society of Friends

Quarryman
stonecutter

Quarta
four

Quearne
a handmill for grinding grain or seed

Qui
who, whereby

Quinque
five

Redemptioner
a colonial emigrant from Europe to North America who paid for his voyage by serving as a bondservant for a specified period of time after arrival

Relict
widow at time of her death, [sometimes a widower]

Revenuer
federal officer enforcing the law against illegal manufacturing of whiskey

Rickets
disease of the skeletal system

Rower
builder of small wagon wheels

Sawyer
sawer of wood

Scarlet Fever
disease characterized by a red rash and sore

Screws
Rheumatism

Scrivener
scribe or clerk

Scrofula
tuberculosis of the neck lymph nodes

Secondary Record
or secondary source; a record created some time after the event

Septem
seven

Sepulchered
buried

Servus/A Servarum
servant/servants

Sewer
tailor or shoemaker

Sex
six

Ship's Fever
Typhus

Sibling
a brother or sister

Softening of the Brain
apoplexy

Soundex
a filing system, usually for recording surnames, using one letter followed by three numbers. The Soundex system keeps together names of the same and/or similar sounds, but of variant spellings.

Spotted Fever
typhus, cerebrospinal meningitis fever

Spouse
a husband or wife

St. Vitus Dance
Nervous twitches, chorea

Standard
a chest; the upright stem or support of a lamp or candlestick

Stupuet
a stew pan or skillet

Sutler
accompanies troops in the field or garrison and sells food, drink, and supplies

Sweating Sickness
infectious & fatal disease common to the UK in the 15th century

Taper
candlewick maker or seller

Tarletan
a thin, stiff, transparent muslin

Testament
the disposition of one's personal property by will

Testate
having made or left a valid will

Testator
a man who died leaving a valid will

Testatrix
a female who died leaving a valid will

Thirdborough
tithing man or deputy constable

Thoro
marriage, union

Tinker
itinerant mender of kettles and pans

Tithable
person subject to a tax

Tolvet
a measure, holding half a bushel

Tory
a resident of the American Colonies who remained loyal to England during the Revolutionary War (see Loyalist)

Toxemia of Pregnancy
eclampsia (high blood pressure & seizures)

Transientibus
in transit form, traveling

Tres
three

Tribus Mensibus
three months

Tripper
dancer

Truckle Bed
trundle bed with casters to run under a higher bed

Trug
a basket with fixed handle like an old american woven wooden grape basker

Trustee
a person or agent holding the legal title to property

Tunnel
a funnel

Turnout
an equippage, a carriage with horses, attendants, and equipment

Ultimo
last

Unus
one

Uxor
wife, the married state

Venesection
Bleeding

Vero
certainly, to be sure

Vincinitate
neighboring area

Viper's Dance
St. Vitus' Dance, chorea

Visitation
a visit for the purpose of making an official inspection or examination. This term was used to describe census activities.

Vitner
wine merchant

Wheelwright
a person who builds wagon wheels

Whitcher
maker of chests

Whitlow
Boil

Will
the legal document containing the statement of a person's wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property after death

Winter Fever
pneumonia

Yellow Jacket
Yellow Fever

 


 


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