Genealogy is an ongoing learning process. There are so many terms that people acquire as they dive through their family history, including words that were commonly used throughout the past that we seldom hear today! These terms are on top of the already genealogically specific terms given to certain components within searching through the past. These terms become familiar quite quickly to researchers, but even the most seasoned historians will still come across terms that they don’t know and need to google. I thought it would be fun to compile a list of common genealogical terms to help out prospective family researchers on their journeys.
This post is in conjunction with another I made of common illnesses and causes of death listed on census records and death certificates. You can find that post here.
Abandoned Cemetery: This term refers to a cemetery that has been neglected due to no volunteers or next of kin to take care of the land.
Active Cemetery: A cemetery that is currently accepting burials.
Ancestor: a person from whom you descend from.
Antebellum: it means before the Civil War.
Base-born or Bastard: illegitimate child.
Bequeath: to leave property to another person or organization.
Birth record: contains information about someone’s birth. It usually includes information about the parents, location and date of birth and some include addresses, races and occupations of the parents.
Bounty land: promised land for service from an individual in the military.
Census records: information collected about the population in a specific area. The information collected were names, ages, citizenship, ethnic background and members within each family.
Collateral Line: line of descent connecting persons who share a common ancestor.
Consanguinity: the degree to which people are related who share a common ancestor.
Consort: a companion to an individual (wife, husband, spouse etc.)
Deceased: someone who has died.
Declaration of intent: a document filed by an individual who wants to obtain permanent citizenship.
Descendant: anyone who has an ancestor.
Devise: gift of property through a will and testament.
Dissenter: label given to a person who refused to belong to the Church of England.
Dowager: widow who holds property or a title that she received from her deceased husband. It can also be a title given in England to widows of nobleman (princes, dukes etc).
Dowry: Goods or personal property brought by a bride to her husband in marriage.
Emancipated: freed from slavery, or parental control.
Emigrant: person leaving one country to live in another country.
Enumeration: the process of counting people.
Gazetteer: a book that names places in a specific area.
Grantor: a person who sells or transfers properties.
Illegitimate: child born to a woman who was not married to the father of the child.
Immigration: the process of moving into a new country to live.
Inactive Cemetery: A cemetery that is no longer accepting burials.
Indentured Servant: person who is in the service of another person for a specific amount of time to repay for entry into a new country.
Knave: servant boy.
Legacy: something that is bequeathed to someone else through a will.
Litigant: someone who is involved in a lawsuit.
Loyalist: someone who supported the British during the American Revolution.
Manumission: the act of being released from slavery.
Manuscripts: unpublished familiar histories or collections of family papers.
Marker: Refers to a headstone, plaque or any other sort of structure intended for disposal or identification of human remains within a cemetery.
Melungeon: having one white and one Native American parent.
Militia: an army made up of citizens to serve in emergencies.
Mortality Schedule: Mortality schedules are lists comprised of people who died within a 12 month period and were collected alongside population schedules for the Census’ from 1850-1880.
Mulatto: a person with both black and white heritage.
Naturalization Records: these records document the process of how one goes from being an immigrant to being a citizen.
Paleography: the study of handwriting.
Passenger Lists: Lists of people who immigrated from country to country, either through land travel or by boat. These lists are beneficial to pin point when a person officially entered the country of origin or to track a trip.
Plot: An area of land within a cemetery that contains or will contain human remains.
Posthumous: something that occurs after the death of a father, such as a child being born.
Primogeniture: the process that ensures that the eldest son inherited the family estate while excluding the younger sons.
Probate: a legal process that allows for the validation of a will if the person has not left explicit instructions.
Reeve: church warden or an early name for a sheriff in England.
Schedule: the name used to identify specific forms used to gather data for the Census records. Different schedules were used to collect information like military records, agriculture etc.
Sponsor: God parents.
Statute: a law.
Surname: last name.
Transcribe: to copy a written document into another written format.
Valid: something legal and binding.
Vital records: birth records, death records, marriage and divorce records.