Family History Terms

AbeyanceA state where the right to property, titles, or office has not yet been determined.
AbstractA document that contains information extracted from an original document. It contains information on the date of the record, names, relationships, and etc.
Ad litemAn appointment to act in behalf of someone who is incapable of representing themselves, such as a child or someone that is deceased.
AdministrationAn action used by a court to settle the estate of a person who has no executor, or no will to administer the estate.
AffidavitA statement made under oath, either written or oral.
AhnentafelA genealogical numbering system which numbers the person of interest as number 1 and ancestors of that person in increasing order. Each generation back in time doubles the number of ancestors identified.
AlienThe citizen of a country other than the one under consideration.
Ancestral FileA repository of genealogical records created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that preceded and was replaced by the current FamilySearch repository.
AncestorA person in the family tree preceding the person under consideration in time. For example, Grandparent, Great Grandparent, etc.
AnnotationAnnotations are used in genealogical research to provide proofs of research performed and support of statements and conclusions made. They are normally in the form of footnotes, but may also be included in the main text of the document.
AntebellumReferring to occurrences previous to the Civil War.
Archive (Arch) A repository where records are kept.
ArtifactAn object containing information, normally on paper media, but not necessarily.
AssignmentThe act of legally turning over property, rights or privileges to another person.
AuthenticateTo prove the truth or authenticity of a document.
Autobiography The story of a person’s life as told by the person themselves.
BannsAn announcement of the intention to marry.
BaptismA religious ceremony where a person becomes a member of a Church.
Base-bornAn illegitimate birth.
BastardThe child of parents who were not married.
BequeathThe act of giving property to others after one’s death.
Biography (Bio) The story of a person’s life as told by someone else.
Birth Having a child. The point at which the child is no longer in the mother.
Birth Certificate A document recording a birth event.
BondA binding agreement to fulfill the requirements set forth in the document or suffer the penalties involved. Used with marriage, land, and court records by estate executors, grooms and guardians.
BoundsThe physical boundaries or limits of a piece of land, wither natural or man-made.
Bounty landProperty used as an inducement for military service.
BurialWhere the deceased is laid to rest.
CemeteryGraveyard or burial ground.
Census A periodic count or recording of information on citizens of a particular nation.
Chart A visual means of representing data. See Pie charts, Line charts, Bar charts, etc.
Child Once single offspring.
Christen NameFirst or Middle name, but not Last Name.
Christening (Chr) A baptism into a church.
ChurchA building in which people meet for religious purposes. Also refers to a group of people with specific defined religious beliefs.
Civil lawLaws of private or civil rights as versus Criminal law established by governmental organizations.
CodicilAn amendment to an existing will.
Collateral LineA family line connecting into a common ancestor, but not associated with the person of interest until reaching the common ancestor.
Common ancestorA person who is the ancestor of more than one person.
ConfederacyThe states that seceded from the United States of America during the Civil War.
ConsanguinityThe determination of relatedness between people. Collateral lines are Collateral consanguinity and direct lines are lineal consanguinity.
ConsortA companion, whether by marriage or not.
ConveyanceA document transferring title to property from one owner to another.
County A governmental unit larger than a city and smaller than a nation. See also Shire, Province, etc.
CousinThe child of an aunt or uncle.
Court proceedings A recording of the events that take place in a court.
Criminal lawLaws established by governmental organizations instead of private or civil rights.
Date When an event took place.
DaughterFemale child or offspring of a person.
Daughter-in-lawFemale wife of a person’s son. See also step-daughter.
Death The separation of the spirit from the body. Passing beyond the veil.
Death Certificate A document containing information on the death of a person, usually by someone certified to do so.
Deceased A person that died.
Declaration of intentionThe document showing intention to become a United States citizen.
DeedA document that record the possession of property, normally land.
DNADeoxyribonucleic acid. A self-replicating material and carrier of genetic information used in living entities.
DescendantA person which descended from a particular ancestor. The child, child of a child, etc. to all generations after the ancestor.
DeviseThe act of giving a gift of real property in a will.
DirectoryAn index containing brief and organized information about a subject matter. Normally points to other artifacts.
DissenterSomeone rejecting membership in the Church of England.
Double datingWriting a date in both Julian and Gregorian formats. Not all countries converted to Gregorian at the same time and double dating translated Julian to Gregorian in explanation.
DowagerA widow having title or property given to her when her husband died.
DowerThe lifetime support given to a widow from the deceased husband’s estate.
DowryThe property given by a bride to her husband at marriage.
EmancipatedFreed from control, whether parental or enslavement.
EmigrantPerson leaving a country to go to another, with the emphasis on the country being exited.
EmigrationLeaving a home country to live in another. (See also Immigration.)
Encumbrance A liability placed on a property as a claim against it.
EnumerationA count of the population, such as in a census.
EstateThe assets and liabilities of someone that died.
Event A happening. Something that took place at a specific time and location.
ExecutorThe person appointed to carry out the will of the deceased in disposing of the estate. Executrix is the female version of the word executor.
Family The basic unit in society, traditionally consisting of a man and a wife with their children, if any.
Family Group Sheet (FGS) A document containing information on one particular family, showing Parents and Children.
Family historiesPublished works detailing the genealogical facts of a family.
Family Organization An organization for the purpose of remembering, finding, and recording information about extended families.
Fan ChartA diagram showing parental relationships of a family for multiple generations as well as the first generation of children. Similar to a Pedigree Chart, but formatted in a fan shape.
FatherA male parent.
Fee simpleProperty without conditions or claims against it.
FortnightTwo weeks.
GazetteerA book containing a geographical index of the descriptions of places in a specific area.
GEDCOMGEnealogy Data COMmunications format for transferring data between computers.
GranteePerson receiving or being granted property.
GrantorPerson giving or granting property.
GraveThe location where a person is buried.
GuardianThe person appointed to care for a person of interest.
HeirThe person inheriting property from an estate after the death of an ancestor.
Heir apparentThe person establishing the right to inherit property if they outlive the ancestor.
HuntTo seek for something.
IGIInternational Genealogical Index
IllegitimateThe child of unmarried parents.
ImmigrantPerson moving to a country from an old country, with the emphasis on the new country instead of the old.
ImmigrationMoving into a country. (See also Emigration.)
IncarcerationThe act of putting someone in jail.
Index To enter data into a computer in order to allow the computer to build an Index on that data for the purpose of searching it for information.
Indentured servantPerson bound to serve a sentence for a specific period of time. Many white people caught stealing in England had to serve 7 year sentences in America.
IndividualOne single person, as opposed to a group of people.
InfantPerson under age of accountability.
InstantOf this month.
IntestateSomeone who died without a will.
InventoryList of property in an estate.
KnaveMale servant child.
LesseeSomeone that leases property from others.
LessorSomeone that leases out property to others.
Letter A communication of a message to someone at a distance, either by paper or electronic means.
Library A building or electronic repository which stores books and other media as a means of sharing knowledge.
Lien A claim or encumbrance on property for money owed.
LitigantA person involved in a lawsuit.
LoyalistA person that lived in America, but supported the British in the American revolution.
Maiden nameThe last name of a woman at birth.
MajorSomeone having reached legal age.
Marriage A covenant between spouses. A way for the community to recognize the the formation of a family.
Marriage BondDocument prior to marriage showing here was no legal or moral reason the couple could not be married.
Marriage CertificateA document containing information on the marriage between two spouses.
Memory Knowledge of an event.
Metes and boundsA means of surveying property using applicable measuring methods and topographical features.
Microfilm Durable film on which images of documents where captured.
Military Record Records showing events in the military career of a person.
MilitiaMilitary organization of local citizens.
MinorA person under legal age.
Mortality scheduleCensus schedule of people who died during the census year.
Mother A female parent.
MulattoSomeone with both white and black ancestors.
Name An identifier given at birth.
Naturalization recordsDocumentation showing proof that a person was able to gain citizenship.
NeeDenotes birth, as in a woman’s maiden name.
Newspaper A set of papers folded together containing information of interest for a particular period of time.
Nuncupative willAn Oral will attested to by a sufficient number of witnesses.
Obituary A newspaper article discussing the death and/or burial of a person.
Old DominionVirginia.
Oral historyFamily stories passed down orally within the family.
PaleographyThe study of handwriting.
Parent A person having offspring.
Parish A religious or governmental unit smaller than a city.
Parish Church Many parishes have a church building as its central location and repository of records.
Passenger listA list of names of passengers that took passage on the ship.
Patent (Pat) A document showing proprietary control of specific possessions. Can be intellectual property or land.
Pedigree Chart (PC) A diagram showing parental relationships of a family for multiple generations.
PensionBenefit paid for service in the military.
PensionerPerson receiving pension benefits.
Personal History A story of a person’s life written by the person themselves.
Picture An image taken by a camera or painted by a painter
Poll taxA tax levied on families by head of household as a substitute for land ownership and required for voting.
PosthumousEvents happening after a person’s death.
Power of attorneyDocument appointing a person as another person’s agent and authorizing them to act in their behalf.
Primary sourceRecords created when an event occurs, not afterward.
Probate The action or process of proving that a will is genuine.
Quit rent rollList of those paying an annual fee to the King to live on and farm property in Virginia.
Quitclaim deedDocument giving up all claims to property without needing to guarantee clear title.
Quod videSee this as well, as in, also look at a reference in another part of the document.
Real propertyLand and anything attached to it, whether naturally or human made.
ReceiverPerson holding property until a suit is settled.
ReconveyanceTransferring property to the original owner after being sold to another.
Record A formal way to remember something. A document, text, or mage, manual or electronic.
ReeveEnglish sheriff.
ScheduleA US census form.
Search To seek for something. The act of seeking.
Secondary sourceDocument created some time after the event, instead of at the time it occurred.
Seekers Those that search for that which was lost or that’s location is unknown.
Ship Passenger Lists A list of passengers on a particular voyage normally having minimal information.
SiblingBrother or sister.
Sic“Thus”. Indicates that although the info is copied exactly as the original stated, there may be a mistake.
Social Security Death IndexIndex of people either having social security numbers upon death, or relatives having applied for benefits upon their death in the United States.
SoundexA methodology that relates like sounding names together. This helps catch misspellings or spellings that have changed over time, especially with last names.
SourceAn artifact used to prove a fact. The source of the information.
SponsorSomeone other than a parent that takes responsibility for a child.
StatuteA law.
StepchildA child of a spouse from a prior marriage.
Story A recording of an event or events either fictional or real.
TestateA person who died with a valid will.
TestatorA man who has a valid will. Testatrix is the female form of the word.
TitheableSomeone that is taxable by the law.
Title Record A record showing evidence of a legal right or possession.
TownshipA populated area of land with six miles on each side.
TranscribeTo make a full copy of a written work.
Trust A legal document showing ownership of property on behalf of others.
UltimoLast month.
Unprobated willA will that has not gone through the probate process.
Unsolemn willA will where an executor has not been named.
ValidLegal and binding.
VestryThe ruling body of a church.
Video A recording showing movement over time.
VirgoUnmarried woman.
Vital Statistics Facts about something of interest such as births, deaths, and marriages.
Warranty deedA guarantee that a seller has clear title of the land being sold.
White rentRent paid in silver.
Will A document that shows the person’s wishes for property distribution and the care for minor children after death.
WitnessA person that was present at an event and can attest to it.
Writ of attachmentCourt order seizing property to cover court costs for not appearing in court.
Writ of summonsDocument starting a civil proceeding for damages resulting from a breach in contractual terms. It orders a person to appear in court.

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