Search billions of records on Ancestry.com

THIS AND THAT GENEALOGY TIPS ON DEFINITIONS & ABBREVIATIONS



DEFINITIONS:
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 antebellum 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 1860-1861, 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.
ILLEGITIMATE - Born to a mother who was not married to the child's father.
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. "Infant of Tender Years" would refer to a minor under the age of 14. Guardians were appointed for them by the Court. Children 14-21 had the legal right to choose their own guardian. So if you find a court record showing an orphan "came to court and chose as (his/her) guardian" as the legal phrasing read, you know the child was a minor over 14 and under 21 (if male) or 18 (if female and unmarried); girls reached legal majority when they turned 18 or married, as when they married their rights passed automatically to their husband.
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.
MADSTONE - A stone taken from the stomach of a deer (aided in digestion), preferably a white deer, which was applied to the body of a person who was bitten by a rabid animal. If the stone stuck to the wound, it was supposedly drawing out the poison and the person would hopefully live. If the stone fell off, the bite was not rabid. These stones were much cherished, bragged out, hidden from people who would want to steal them, and passed from generation to generation.
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.
NUNCUPATIVE 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 postwar 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 prewar military buildup.
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.
QUIT CLAIM - 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.
STEPBROTHER / STEPSISTER - Child of one's stepfather or stepmother.
STEPCHILD - Child of one's husband or wife from a previous marriage.
STEPFATHER - Husband of one's mother by a later marriage.
STEPMOTHER - 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.


CONFUSING DEFINITIONS:
Mistress - Not necessarily a married woman. A term of respect for any married woman.
Gentleman - Might be used to describe a retired man of wealth or education.
Housekeeper - Once meant property owner and could be used for male or female.
Domestic - Once meant a housewife and not necessarily a servant.
Inmate - As used in the Pennsylvania Archives, refers to a man living in the home of another person - not necessarily a person in an institution. It may also mean someone who did not own the real estate on which he resided.
Freeman - As used in Pennsylvania Archives, meant a young man not yet married.
Alias - Usually meant illegitimacy. The surname of the father and mother were jointed. It did not have a criminal meaning.
Senior or Junior - These terms did not necessarily refer to father and son. If two men in the same town had the same name, the older was "Senior" and the younger "Junior" even if they weren't related. In earlier times, a Father might have done the same in naming his sons.
Niece - This could refer to any female relative but usually a granddaughter.
Nephew - This could refer to an illegitimate son but usually a grandson.
Cousin - A cousin might be a nephew or uncle.
Brother - This term could refer to an adopted brother but could also mean an in-law or lodge or Church brother.
Domestic - A wife could be called a domestic because she was "at home".
Crazy - Usually meant a person who was ill or in generally poor health, not necessarily mentally ill.


ABBREVIATIONS:
1C - first cousin (2c, second cousin, etc.)
1R - once removed (2r, twice removed, etc.)
ACW - American Civil War
AFRA - American Family Records Association
AGLL- American Genealogical Lending Library
AGRA - Association of Genealogists and Record Agents (Professional)
APG - Association of Professional Genealogists, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
ASCII - American Standard Code for Information Interchange - type of file on a computer that is usually readable / writable by most word processors
AIS - Accelerated Indexing System
b - born
bap or bapt - baptized
BBS - Bulletin Board System Phone dial up connection for PC's.
BK - Brother's Keeper, a genealogy program
BMD - Births, Marriages and Deaths
BMP - Bit Mapped Picture - file format of a computer disk file
Bp - Bishop
bur - buried
C18 - Eighteenth century (etc.)
ca - circa, about, (as in ca. 1840.)
CANINDEX - Index of emigrants from British Isles to Canada and Newfoundland
CC - County Court (USA)
CD - Compact Disk - An optical disk used with some PC's to store lots of data.
CFI - Computer File Index (precursor of IGI)
chr - Christened.
CW - Civil War
d - died.
DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution
DC - District Court
DOCS - Documents / Documentations
div - divorced.
d.s.p. - died without issue (from Latin: decessit sine prole)
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
FFV - First Families of Virginia
FGRA - Family Group Record Archives
FGS - ancestral charts or "Family Group Sheets"
FHC - Family History Center (LDS satellite centers)
FHL - Family History Library (LDS main library in Utah)
FHLC - Family History Library Catalog
FOIA - Freedom of Information Act
FTM - Family Tree Maker, a genealogy program from Banner Blue Software
FTP - File Transfer Protocol (networking, technical)
GEDCOM - GEnealogical Data COMmunications
GIF - A format to hold images on a computer disk file
GIM - Genealogical Information Manager
GOONS - Guild Of One Name Studies
IGI - International Genealogical Index
IOOF - Independent Order of Odd Fellows
ISO - In Search Of
LDS - Latter Day Saints (Mormons)
LOCIS - Library of Congress Information System
NARA - National Archives and Records Administration
NATF - National Archives Trust Fund
NEHGS - New England Historical Genealogy Society
NGC - National Genealogical Conference
NGS - National Geographical Society
PAF - Personal Ancestry File, genealogy program of the Mormon Church (LDS)
ROOTS-L - a mailing list of subscribers who are interested in genealogy
RW - Revolutionary War
SAR - Sons of the American Revolution
SASE - Self Addressed, Stamped Envelope
SOUNDEX - A method of translating a name to a one letter code followed by three numerical digits. The aim of the translation is to render all names which sound alike (or sufficiently similar) to the same code.
TMS - Tiny Tafels Software genealogy program also Tafel Matching System
WW1 - World War One
WW2 - World War Two


SOME MILITARY DEFINITIONS:
"Associators" were volunteers who had sworn to protect their homes by any means.

"Rangers" were scouts who guarded the frontier and were usually formed from the militia who were the "home guard", along with the "State Line," these were similar to the National Guard.


Go back to the index page