Mayflower Plymouth Village North Bridge at Concord

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor

Plymouth Village

North Bridge at Concord

Terms and Acronyms

Glossary of Genealogy Terms


Compiled by Daniel H. Burrows Reprinted coutesy of Genealogy Records Service
  • 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 an allocated 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, 1861-1865.
  • 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 and cousins.
  • COMMON ANCESTOR
    Ancestor shared by any two people.
  • CONFEDERATE
    Pertaining to the Southern states which seceded from the U.S. in 1860 - 1, government and 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.
  • INSTANT
    Of or pertaining to the current month. (Abbreviated inst.)
  • INTESTATE
    One who dies 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 and 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 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.
  • 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.