Genealogy Terms

Genealogy Term



the difference between the amount of the estate of an heir is to receive as specified in a will and the amount actually received, due to property devaluation between the time the will was made and when the death occurred; the entry of a stranger into the estate after the death of the possessor but before the heir or devisee can take control


the condition of an estate which either has been claimed but not taken possession of, or which is liable to be claimed by someone

Ab Initio

[Latin] "from the beginning"; used in reference to situations regarding the validity of a deed, marriage, estate, etc.

Ab Intestate

[Latin] the condition of inheriting from one who died without making a will


A summary of a particular record or document; usually contains only the most important information from the original document; may be used instead of original documents in genealogical research


to adjoing or border such as in land, estates, or farms


a boundary where one's land joins or meets another's land


the right of inheritance by survival


land alloted to families in a town or settlement

Accomodation Note

a statement, draft, or paper drawn for the purpose of obtaining credit with no consideration


to give each heir or claimant his or her rightful share of an estate, dower, or property


the adjustment or apportionment of the shares of an estate, dower, pasture held in common, inheritance, etc.

Admeasurement of Dower

the readjustment of a dower when an heir becomes of age because a parent or guardian was receiving an unfair share to support the child


the management or settling of the estate of a person who died without a will, of a person whose estate is being handled by an executor under a will, or of a minor or mentally incompetent person

Administration Bond

a specified amount of money, usually twie the estimated value of the estate, posted by the person chosen by the court to act as administrator of an estate which insures that the administrator will fulfill his obligations satisfactorily according to law

Administration Cum Testamento Annexo

see Administration with will annexed

Administration De Bonis Non

administration of a deceased person's property that was not completely distributed by the first administrator

Administration De Bonis Non Cum Testamento Annexo

administration granted by the court when part of the estate is still unadministered because of the death of the executor

Administration Pendite Lite

administration of an estate carried out while a suit is pending concerning the validity of the will

Administration with will annexed

[also administration cum testamento annexo] administration granted by the court in instances where the person who makes a will has neglected to name an executor, or where the executor is unable or refuses to act


a person appointed by the court to administer the estate of an incompetent person or an intestate who differs from an executor in that he is court appointed whereas the executor is appointed by the deceased


Female Administrator

Admitted Freeman

See Indentured Servant


To take into one's family through legal means and raise as one's own child

Adoption by Baptism

a spiritual affinity contracted between godfathers and godchildren in the baptism ceremony, and entitled the godchild to a share of the godfather's estate

Adoption by Matrimony

the act of taking the children of a spouse's former marriage as one's own upon marriage

Adoption by Testament

to appoint a perion heir if he follows the stipulations in the will to take the name, arms, etc. of the adopter


a gift given to a child by a living parent in anticipation of an inheritance


one who purchased shares in the Virginia Land Company at 12 pounds, 10 shillings each, and received 100 acres in Virginia

Adverse Possession

actual possession of real property obtained by aggressive or "notorious" actions, and gaining title to the property by keeping it for a statutory period of time


[Latin] lifetime; age; generation

Aetatis Suae

[Latin] the condition of being in a specified year of one's life - aetatis suae 25 means in the twenty-fifth year of one's age, after a person's twenty-fourth birthday

After-Aquired Property

property that was acquired after the date of a will


a document stating there was no impediment to the marriage (a) not close relatives, (b) not minors, (c) did not have a wife or husband living to whom they were already married.


1. One bound by indenture to serve another for a prescribed period with a view to learning an art or trade.
2. One who is learning by practical experience under skilled workers a trade, art, or calling


the rights, duties, and perquisites of one who held manorial land - usually, grazing rights, payment of fines, submission to the manorial court, and a pew in church




the person whose responsibility is to decide on the value of property and the rate of tax to be paid, sometimes being the local sheriff or constable


publication or posting of intended marriages, published for three consecutive Sundays prior to the event


The ceremony or sacrament of admitting a person into Christianity or a specific Christian church by dipping the person in water or pouring or sprinkling water on them

Baptismal Certificate

A formal document normally kept by a church of baptisms that occurred in their congregation. It typically contains the names of the individuals baptized, the date of baptism, where it took place, the clergyman's name, and possibly the names of sponsors and place of residence


an illegitimate child; born out of wedlock


an illegitimate child; born out of wedlock


Legacy; usually a gift of real estate by will


A contract to carry out specific duties, which if not performed satisfactorily, a penalty may be paid

Bonded Passenger

passengers convicted of various crimes


a female slave; a bound servant not due wages


a male slave; one bound to service without wages

Bond Servant

See Indentured Servant


a person who will vouch for or be liable for a sum of money if a person fails to appear in court

Bound Out

[also Putting Out] the condition of apprenticed or indentured children

Bounty Land

Land given to military servicemen as payment for their services

Bounty Land Warrant

a right to free land in the public domain; the certificate, to satisfy the law, showing time served, unit (regiment or corps), and where served

Burial Record

A formal account normally kept by a church of burials that occurred in their congregation. Besides the names of the deceased, it may contain the age of the person at death, their birth date, cause of death, the clergyman's name, and possibly the place of residence at the time of death.


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

Canon Law

Church law

Cause me hereinto moving

person is dying, not moving away


personal property, both animate and inanimate


Christian ceremony of baptizing and giving a name to an infant. See also baptism


A Celtic group esp. in the Scottish Highlands comprising a number of households whose heads claim descent from a common ancestor


An addition to a will to change, explain, revoke or add provisions which overrule the provisions in the original will

Collateral Ancestor

An ancestor not in the direct line of ascent, but of the same ancestral family

Collateral Families

The families with whom your ancestors intermarried and moved

Common Law Marriage

a marriage without ceremony, civil or ecclesiastical, which may or may not be recognized as a legal marriage

Compos Mentis

of sound mind


Of or relating to the married state; conjugal


blood relationship


transfer property or the title to property


An instrument by which title to property is conveyed

Coroners Inquest

A legal inquiry, or inquest by a coroner, to determine the cause of a sudden or violent death.


a tax levied annually to maintain forces to oppose the Danes or to buy them off

De Bonis Non

[Latin] "of the goods not administered"; the distribution of property not completed by the first administrator



Declaration of Intention

a declaration filed by a couple in a local court, indicating their intention to marry; also a document filed in a court by an alien who intended to become a United States citizen.


A signed and usually sealed instrument containing some legal transfer, bargain, or contract.

Deed of Acquittance

a deed by which additional acreage is transferred or sold to the original patent owner when and if it was found that, by survey, the patented land had more acreage than was originally thought

Deed of Agreement

a deed concerned with the sale of personal property, deeds land to persons who agree to take care of the grantor for the remainder of his life

Deed of Conveyance

document showing the transfer of ownership of property and perhaps the ownership of a land warrant

Deed of Decree

document showing property transferred usually as a result of a petition or court action

Deed of Gift

deed showing a transfer of property made without a monetary payment as consideration

Deed of Separation

an instrument through the medium of a third party acting as trustee, in which provision is made by a husband for separation from his wife, and for her separate maintenance

Deed of Trust

a mortage arrangement which allows a third party to hold the deed until the buyer has paid his debt

Deed Poll

a deed made by one person, and ony one person is obligated to fulfill the terms of the deed


A person who is an offspring, however remote, of a certain ancestor or family

Domesday Book

[also Doomesday Book] ancient record of the Grand or Great Inquest or Survey of lands in England by the order of William the Conqueror, giving a census-like description of the realm, with the names of the proprietors and the nature, extent, value, liabilities, etc. of their properties

Double Date

A double date appears on some documents as a result of two changes introduced by the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to resolve the error caused by the Julian calendar in use up to that time. Scientists resolved that a year was slightly longer than the 365 ¼ specified by the Julian calendar, which resulted in the loss of 10 days. The new calendar also changed the first day of the year from March 25th on the Julian calendar to January 1st. Different countries adopted the new calendar at different times and the practice of providing a double date was common. The British Commonwealth and the United States adopted the new calendar in 1752. By this time, the calendar was behind by 11 days. So, the day following September 2, 1752 was decreed to be September 14, 1752..


a widow with a title or rank - the queen dowager; a jointure, or property from her husband


The portion of an estate that a widow is entitled to upon the death of her husband.

Dower Right

the right of a wife to one-third of the land which her husband had at the time of their marriage or aquired during the marriage, after his death


[also Dowry] any land, money, goods, or personal property brought by a bride to her husband in marriage


a right to use another's land because of necessity or convenience

Easement Appurtenant

an easement proper or one which passes with the dominant estate to all subsequent grantees and is inheritable

Easement in Gross

a personal privilege to use another's land, which is not assignable and cannot be inherited

Easement of Necessity

an easement necessary for the continued use of land when a large tract has been subdivided


The process of leaving one's home country to live in another country


Process by which persons are counted for purposes of a census


census taker


The individual who carries out the instructions and provisions of a will


Latin] disinherited


a person who did not own land and as a professional, and thus was taxed on income - faculty included lawyers, physicians, dentists, carpenters, merchants, bankers, etc.

Failure of Issue

in a will or deed, indicates that in the event of there being no children born to or surviving the deceased person, the property will go to a third party; in common law, the condition continues with the chidlren of the first taker

Fee Simple

an inheritance having no conditions or limitations in its use; a direct and complete inheritance

Feet of Fines

documents, first kept during the reign of Richard I, that had the same function as deeds in transferring land; the bottom part of an indenture or deed kept by the recording office


one who holds land of an overlord on condition of homage

Forbid the Banss

public or formal objection to a marriage


two weeks


a person who owns property rather than rents it; one in possession of a freehold


in general, a white male over 21 years of age holding full rights of citizenship who is free to ply a trade, own land, and to vote


An alphabetically organized book describing the names and places of a particular region.


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


a woman of good family or breeding; a woman who has the occupation of waiting on or caring for a person of high rank


a man ranking below a gentleman but above a freeman

Goods and Chattels

personal property - goods meant inanimate objects; chattels were livestock


the wife or mistress of a household


a woman or housewife, especially an old woman


A person who buys or receives land


A person who sells or gives the land

Grass Widow

an unmarried woman with a child; a divorced or separated woman; a discarded mistress


a person appointed by the court to take care of someone unable to care for himself, such as a minor, an incompetent, an invalid, an idiot, etc.


a medieval association of merchants and craftsmen which regulated price, quality, and decided who could make and sell the merchandise under its supervision

Habendum Et Tenendum

[Latin] "to have and to hold to the grantee (buyer or donee) his heirs and assigns"; a clause in a deed that specifies the type of property or estate that the buyer will receive

Holographic Will

a will written entirely by hand and bearing the date and having the signature of the testator


the house and adjoining land where the head of the family lives, which passes to the widow when her husband dies and is exempt from the claims of his creditors; this is similiar to a widow's dower, the difference being that the homestead includes the dwelling

Homestead Act

any of several legislative acts authorizing the sale of public land


the act of seizing people and forcing them into labor


A contract binding one person to work for another for a given period of time

Indentured Servant

a servant who sold himself to a master for a period of time (usually 4 to 7 years) in order to pay for passage to another country; the contract was transferrable, saleable, and was passed on to heirs if the master died


1. Having made no valid will. 2. Not disposed of by will. 3. When an owner of real property has died intestate, title to the property is said to pass by descent to the heirs. See also testate


Born of parents not married to each other

Letters Testamentary

a document from the court allowing the executor named in the will to carry out his duties; he has no authority until this document is issued


a book of public records


children; grandchildren

Liberum Animum Testandi

free will in bequeathing

Life Estate

an interest in property that lasts as long as a person lives


property which the owner can hold for a lifetime but cannot be passed on


Direct descent from an ancestor


Formal act to free slaves

Marriage Banns

A religious tradition by which engaged couples had to announce their intention to marry. This announcement allowed anyone in the congregation to voice their protest. The marriage banns normally took place a few weeks before the actual marriage date. In many churches, they banns were read aloud on three successive Sundays.

Marriage Record

A formal document normally kept by a church of marriages conducted within their congregation. Besides the names of the individuals being married, it may also contain their ages, occupation and residence, the clergyman's name, and possibly the names of sponsors.

Metes and Bounds

(also Courses and Distances) a method of surveying property which made use of the natural physical and topographical features in conjunction with measurements and artificially designated objects or places - metes refers to the measuring of direction and distance while bounds refers to natural or man-made features on the land


the offspring of one white and one black parent - sometimes used, especially on census schedules, for Indians


documents showing that a person has legal rights to land, possessions, or other privileges

Muniment of Title

all written evidence of title which can show proof of ownership


Born, usually refers to a woman's maiden name

Non Compos Mentis

incompetent, or not mentally capable of handling one's affairs

Nuncupative Will

oral will which, to be valid, must be given by a person in their last hours, witnessed by two or more witnesses, and written within a period of six to twelve days

Now Wife

exclusively found in wills, this term implied that there was a former wife

Per Stirpes

distribution of an inheritance by giving equal shares to family groups rather than an equal percentage to each descendant


a measure of length that is exactly 16.5 feet. 'Rod' and 'perch' are also used to indicate a length of 16.5 feet. The 16.5 feet measure was standardized in 1607 by the English mathematician Edmund Gunter.


1. Born after the death of the father
2. Published after the death of the author
3. Following or occurring after death

Primary Record

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


Earliest ancestor or forefather


an old common-law system of inheritance whereby the oldest son inherited the father's property


1. The action or process of proving in a court of law that a document offered for official recognition and registration as the last will and testament of a deceased person is genuine.
2. The officially authenticated copy of a probated will


Descendants, children


An ancestor in the direct line, forefather


a child of a mulatto and a white; a child with one black grandparent

Quit-Claim Deed

a deed releasing claim to an estate or property by an individual to another person

Quit Rent Fee

in early Virginia, an annual fee (1 shilling for 50 acres of land) paid to the king in exchange for the right to live on and farm the property


An immigrant to the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries who obtained passage by becoming an indentured servant



Secondary Record

A record created some time after the event

Sepulchre (Sepulcher)

A place of burial, tomb

Sine Prole

without offspring, sometimes seen as D.S.P. - died sine prole


A person who presents a candidate for baptism or confirmation and undertakes responsibility for the person's religious education or spiritual welfare


The act by which a person determines the disposition of his or her property after death


Adjective, having left a valid will. When he has died testate, or leaving a will that has been probated, the property passes by devise to the person or persons so designated in the will.


A person who dies leaving a will or testament in force


A tenth part of something paid as a voluntary contribution or as a tax especially for the support of a religious establishment


A natural or legal person to whom property is legally committed to be administered for the benefit of a beneficiary.


A legal statement of a person's wishes concerning the disposal of his or her property after death


An individual present at an event such as a marriage or the signing of a document who can vouch that the event took place

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