A Glossary of Genealogical TermsEdit This Page

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A glossary of genealogical terms.

Contents

A

Abstract Index of Deeds, Canada
  • A type of land record that documents the chronological history of land transfers in Ontario, Canada, from one person to another. Each township or village in southern Ontario had a book with a page reserved for each individual parcel of land. Parcels were usually described by concession and lot numbers within the township or by lot numbers on subdivision plans of the village. The page listed the document number for each land transaction applying to that parcel of land and the date the document was registered. The document numbers in the Abstract Index of Deeds refer to original deeds and wills which were copied into separate county, township, or village deed books. The Abstract Index of Deeds is particularly important in Ontario research since few indexes to grantors (sellers) and grantees (buyers) exist. Also called Abstract Index of Title.
Abstract Index of Title, Canada:
  • A type of land record that documents the chronological history of land transfers in Ontario, Canada, from one person to another. Each township or village in southern Ontario had a book with a page reserved for each individual parcel of land. Parcels were usually described by concession and lot numbers within the township or by lot numbers on subdivision plans of the village. The page listed the document number for each land transaction applying to that parcel of land and the date the document was registered. The document numbers in the Abstract Index of Title refer to original deeds and wills which were copied into separate county, township, or village deed books. The Abstract Index of Title is particularly important in Ontario research since few indexes to grantors (sellers) and grantees (buyers) exist. Also called Abstract Index of Deeds.
Abstract, census
  • The summary of census results sent to the United States government by the census taker.
Abstract, general
  • A summary that contains only the pertinent points of a longer text. Abstracts are commonly created for articles (such as obituaries) in periodicals and newspapers and for documents or collections of records.
Acadia, Canada
  • A region in what is now Eastern Canada that comprises the present-day provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The area remained under French control until the end of Queen Anne's War (1702–1713). The Treaty of Utrecht (1713), which ended this war, gave Acadia to Great Britain. A dispute arose, however, because some parts of Acadia had remained neutral during the war, so only peninsular Nova Scotia ended up in British control at that time. In 1755, during the French and Indian Wars, the British tried to force the Acadians to swear an oath of allegiance to the British king. The Acadians who refused were forced to move south. After suffering many hardships, most returned to southern New Brunswick. About 4,000 went to Louisiana, then a French colony, where they became the Cajuns.
Acadian
  • A person from Acadia; also a descendant of French settlers who came from the Acadia region of Canada, or present-day New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In 1755 during the French and Indian Wars, the British tried to force the Acadians to swear an oath of allegiance to the British king. When they refused, many were forced to move south. After suffering many hardships, some returned to northern New Brunswick and to coastal areas of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. About 4,000 went to Louisiana, then a French colony, where their descendants became known as the Cajuns.
Accelerated Indexing Systems
  • A private company that published indexes to various United States censuses and other records.
Account, financial
  • The records containing information regarding an individual’s or institution’s financial dealings.
Account, guardianship
  • A record that contains the details of a guardian’s services in support of a minor child.
Accounts, probate
  • Records that show all transactions pertaining to the settlement of a deceased person's estate.
Act book
  • A day-by-day account of probate court actions. Also called grant book.
Act of the Parliament of Canada
  • A decision, law, or determination made by the Parliament of Canada. Divorce in Canada used to require an act of Parliament.
Act of Union, Canada
  • A law passed by the British Parliament in 1840 that established a united government for Lower Canada (to be called Canada East and later Québec) and Upper Canada (to be called Canada West and later Ontario). In 1791 the British government had established two colonies in central Canada: one to please the English-speaking United Empire Loyalists and another to please the French-speaking settlers. These two colonies had separate governments until the Act of Union took effect in 1841. The act provided for one governor to oversee both colonies. It established two legislative bodies. The legislative council was made up of 20 people appointed by the governor. The legislative assembly was made up of 42 members elected by the people in the colonies. The act established English as the only official language for councils and assemblies. French was made the second official language in 1848.
Actes de tutelle
  • A French term for guardianship agreement.
Actes notaries
  • The French term for notarial records, which are records prepared by a notary. In France, Québec, and other areas of the world, notaries prepare acts and contracts and certify authentic copies of them. Some important notarial records in France include marriage contracts (contrats de mariage), wills (testaments), divisions of property among heirs (partages and successions), household inventories taken after someone's death (inventaires des biens or inventaires après décès), and guardianship agreements (actes de tutelle).
Action against Sweden, in Bohuslän (1788)
  • A failed attempt by Norway to capture the fortress at Bohus.
Acuerdos
  • The Spanish term for an agreement or settlement.
Addendum
  • A portion of the International Genealogical Index® that contains the names acquired since the main file was published.
Addendum, Index to the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland on Microfiche, Scotland
  • One of the two parts of the index to the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland. It contains all entries that were missed in the Main index. The index is organized alphabetically by surname.
Additional Information, Scotland Church Records
  • A field on the Scottish Church Records that contains notes written by the person who indexed the original record. This field may contain frame numbers, additional relatives, or other information.
Addressbücher, Germany
  • The German word for a city directory, which lists the names, addresses, and possibly telephone numbers of people living in the same city.
Adjutant
  • An officer in the army, air force, or marines who helps other higher-ranking officers with tasks such as correspondence.
Administration
  • A legal document appointing a person to supervise the distribution of an estate belonging to a person who died intestate (without a will). An administration may also be called a letter of administration or admon.
Administration bond
  • A written statement posted by the administrator of an estate guaranteeing that he or she will faithfully perform the tasks assigned by the probate court.
Administrator
  • An individual appointed by a court to settle a deceased individual’s estate if that individual did not leave a will.
Admiral
  • A high-ranking officer in the navy or coast guard. There are four grades of admiral: admiral of the fleet, vice-admiral, admiral, and rear-admiral. The admiral of the fleet is the highest-ranking officer in the British navy.
Admiral of the fleet
  • The highest-ranking officer in the British navy.
Admiralty court
  • A court with jurisdiction over ships and seamen. Admiralty courts were originally British courts. After the Revolutionary War, federal district courts began handling admiralty cases in the United States.
Admiralty court, Pennsylvania
  • A court established in 1697 in Maryland to deal with issues of navigation and trade. This court had jurisdiction in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Jersey. In 1789, this court was dissolved and the authority transferred to federal jurisdiction.
Admission record
  • A record created when an individual became a member of a church or a particular congregation.
Admon
  • A legal document appointing a person to supervise the distribution of an estate belonging to a person who died intestate (without a will). An admon may also be called a letter of administration or administration bond.
Admon with will
  • A record granting the right to administer an estate when the executor named in the will is deceased or unwilling or unable to act as executor.
Adoption
  • A legal process in which the rights, privileges, and duties of caring for a child are transferred from the natural parent(s) to another individual or couple.
Adoption record
  • A record of the legal proceedings in which the rights, privileges, and duties of caring for a child are transferred from the natural parent(s) to another individual or couple.
Adoptive parents
  • Parents who legally assume responsibility for the rights and privileges of a child not born to them. The duty of caring for the child is transferred from the natural parents to the adoptive parents.
Affidavit
  • A voluntarily written declaration of facts that is confirmed by the oath of the individual making the declaration and witnessed by an individual having authority to administer such an oath.
African-American
  • A term generally used in the United States to describe residents of African descent.
Agency records
  • Records kept by an agency of the United States government, such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) or the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Agreement and crew list, Britain
  • A list of crew members serving on a ship that includes written agreements stating each crew member's wages, the capacity in which he was serving, and the nature of the voyage. Masters or owners of merchant ships were required to keep these lists and agreements starting in 1747 when Parliament passed the Act for the Relief of Disabled Seamen. Lists for a few ports survive for the period 1747 to 1834.
Agricultural schedule
  • A list in the 1850 to 1880 censuses that contains information on farms and the names of farmers.
Ahnenpaß, Germany
  • A type of record kept by many Germans during the Nazi era, starting in about 1937. It documents four generations of a person's family. The information was usually verified from civil registration records and parish registers. The English term for this type of record is ancestor passport.
Ahnentafel chart
  • A table that lists the name and date and place of birth, marriage, and death for an individual and specified number of his or her ancestors. The first individual on the list is number one, the father is number two, the mother is number three, the paternal grandfather is number four, the paternal grandmother is number five, and so forth. Ahnentafel is a German word meaning ancestor chart or ancestor table. This chart is also called a continental pedigree.
Alabama Territory, USA
  • A territory established in 1817 that covered all of present-day Alabama.
Albarazado
  • A term used in Catholic church registers to describe a person from Spanish-speaking Latin America whose ancestry is a mix of Indian and Caucasian. Racial classifications were often based on physical appearance or social status; therefore, they were not always accurate.
Albino
  • A term used in Catholic Church registers to describe a person from Spanish-speaking Latin America whose ancestry is African and Caucasian. Racial classifications were often based on physical appearance or social status; therefore, they were not always accurate.
Alcalde Ordinario, New Mexico
  • A Spanish term referring to a mayor's court that handled civil and criminal cases in what is now the state of New Mexico between 1598 and 1847.
Alderman's court
  • A court created in 1851 by the Provisional State of Deseret. No records for this court appear to exist.
Alias surname
  • A second surname that a person adopts. This was a common practice in Germany. In German records, aliases may be preceded by the word genannt, vulgo, modo, sive, or alias. A few people in France, mostly sailors or soldiers, also took alias surnames. These were preceded by the word dit, meaning so-called.
Alien crew list, USA
  • A list of aliens employed on United States vessels as members of the crew.
Alien's declaration, Canada
  • A type of Canadian naturalization record in which aliens declare their intent to become Canadian citizens.
Alien's intention
  • The first legal document an alien files when he or she wishes to become a citizen of the United States. Filing this form signifies that the alien intends to become a citizen and will renounce all allegiance to other governments. The alien's intention is sometimes called a declaration of intention or first papers.
Aliens’ register
  • A document created during the Report and Registry process that listed all immigrants who reported to a local court to register their arrival in the United States.
Allen County Public Library
  • A public library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. This library has an excellent collection of materials about the Midwest, Indiana, and the United States. The Allen County Public Library also publishes the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI), an index to genealogical periodicals.
Allí te estás
  • A term used in Catholic Church registers to describe a person from Spanish-speaking Latin America whose ancestry is a mix of Indian, African, and Caucasian. Racial classifications were often based on physical appearance or social status; therefore, they were not always accurate.
Allowance docket
  • A list of court-ordered payments.
Alsace Emigration Index
  • An index of people who emigrated from or through Elsaß-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) between 1817 and 1866. About half of the people mentioned in this index are French. The others are mostly Swiss and German.
Alsace-Lorraine
  • Two regions in modern-day France that are located along the German border. Germany won these two regions in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war. (The German term for the region is Elsaß-Lothringen.) France regained these two regions in 1919 with the Peace of Versailles.
Alsatian
  • A person from the Alsace region of France. Since many Alsatians spoke more German than French, they were often called Germans when they emigrated to other countries. Many Alsatians emigrated to Russia between 1763 and World War I. Beginning in 1874 many of these Russian Alsatians moved to the United States, Canada, and South America. In 1722 the Holy Roman emperors and Austro-Hungarian monarchs encouraged Alsatians and Germans to settle in their lands, especially on the border devastated by the Turks. Colonies developed in what became Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia. After World War II, many people of Alsatian descent moved to the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, and other nations.
Alumni directory
  • A list of the names and addresses of people who graduated from a school, university, or other educational facility.
American
  • A person from the Western Hemisphere (North and South America). It can also refer to a person from the United States.
American Civil War (1861-1865)
  • The war with the highest casualty rate in the history of the United States. It divided the United States into two factions. The Union was composed of northern states who supported maintaining the power of the federal government and abolishing slavery. The Confederacy was composed of southern states who believed in maintaining more power at the state level and preserving slavery. Also called the War between the States and the War of Secession.
American Genealogical Biographical Index
  • A source containing over 12 million brief citations of individuals and families, mainly from New England, who are mentioned in manuscripts, periodicals, family histories, town and county histories, and published military records.
American Indians
  • The original inhabitants of North and South America. Also called Native Americans. In Canada the original inhabitants, Native Americans and Inuit (Eskimos), are often referred to as First Peoples or First Nations.
American Loyalist
  • An American colonist who remained loyal to the King of England during the Revolutionary War. Many Loyalists moved to Florida, the Caribbean Islands (including Cuba), Canada, or back to England after the Revolutionary War.
American Lutheran Church Archives
  • The central archives of the American Lutheran Church.
American State Papers, Land Grants and Claims
  • A published collection of about 80,000 diverse land claims, such as claims for state, Indian, and militia bounty lands. It does not contain information about land granted to war veterans.
Amish
  • Members of the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church who followed the strict teachings of Jakob Ammann and broke from the Swiss Mennonites in the late 1600s. Many began migrating to America in 1720 and settled in eastern Pennsylvania. The "old order" followed strict practices that included severely plain dress and the shunning of electricity and telephones. After 1850 many "new-order" groups broke off to follow more modern practices. Today the largest old-order settlements are in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Kansas.
Amt, Denmark
  • The Danish word for county.
Amtsgericht, Germany
  • A local court in Germany.
Anabaptist
  • A religious movement that developed in Zurich, Switzerland, during the 16th century under the influence of Huldrych Zwingli. The Anabaptists, whose name means "rebaptizer," believed that infant baptism was blasphemous because people could not be punished for sin until they had developed an awareness of good and evil. Hence, though it was illegal, many Anabaptists were baptized a second time as adults. Anabaptists also believed in a separation of church and state, opposed war, and refused to swear oaths. The Mennonite and Amish faiths developed from the Anabaptist movement.
Ancestor
  • An individual from whom one is descended.
Ancestor passport, Germany
  • A type of record kept by many Germans during the Nazi era, starting in about 1937. It documents four generations of a person's family. The information was usually verified in civil registration records. The German word for this type of record is Ahnenpaß.
Ancestral File™
  • A computer file containing names and often other vital information (such as date and place of birth, marriage, or death) of millions of individuals who have lived throughout the world. Names are organized into family groups and pedigrees. To allow for coordination of research, the file also lists names and addresses of those who contributed to the file. Ancestral File™ is part of FamilySearch®.
Ancestral File™ number
  • A number used to identify each record in Ancestral File.
Andrea Leonardo Collection
  • A collection of research files about South Carolina families.
Anglican Church
  • A group of churches that are part of the Anglican Communion, which developed from the Church of England. The Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States are also members of the Anglican Communion. Anglican beliefs are based on the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds and follow the Book of Common Prayer, which outlines doctrine, discipline, and worship. National churches can revise the Book of Common Prayer to suit the needs of members in the country.
Anglican Communion
  • An international group of loosely organized, self-governing churches whose doctrines and practices are based on the Church of England. The major churches in the communion are the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Anglo-American
  • An English-speaking person of European descent who is living in the United States.
Angola
  • A term used in Brazilian Catholic Church registers to describe an African from Angola. Racial classifications were often based on physical appearance or social status; therefore, they were not always accurate.
Anne Lea Nicholson Collection
  • A collection of documented family group records prepared by Anne Lea Nicholson. It is one of the first sources that should be checked for families from Gloucester, Salem, Burlington, Camden, and Cumberland counties in New Jersey and Philadelphia County in Pennsylvania.
Annual report
  • A report completed by stake, ward, branch, or mission clerks in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (The annual report from a branch may have been completed separately or as part of a mission report.) It lists the blessings, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, deaths, ordinations, missionary service, and divorces that occur in a stake, ward, branch, or mission during a given year. These reports were used from 1907 into the 1970s. In the United States and Canada, they were used until 1976. Also called Form E or Form 42FP.
Annual return
  • A yearly report made by the administrator or executor of an estate to a probate court.
Annuals Index
  • One of two indexes that comprise the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI). The Annuals Index is a subject index to articles that appeared in genealogical periodicals published in 1986 or later. This index is also on microfiche at the Family History Library™ (FHL fiche 6016864).
Anti-Burghers Church, Scotland
  • A church that formed out of the Secession Church in 1745. The Anti-Burghers believed that communion should be withheld from people who took the Burgess Oath, which contained a clause that the Anti-Burghers believed gave approval to the Established Church. In 1820 the Burghers and Anti-Burghers reunited.
Antirent movement, New York
  • A movement that began in 1839 when tenant farmers in New York revolted against the manorial (leasehold) system and the wealthy landowners who had inherited their land from ancestors who lived in the 1600s and 1700s. The tenant farmers had lived on the land for generations and felt that they rightfully owned it. Many farmers had not paid their rent for years, and in 1839 landowners tried to collect back rent. However, angry farmers, disguised as Native Americans, began terrorizing the landowners and county officials in Columbia and Delaware Counties. The farmers formed secret societies that became powerful enough to defeat any political party that opposed them. In 1846 the antirenters had the New York constitution amended in their favor, and the farms were handed over to the tenants in 1847, marking the end of the patroonship system in New York.
Appearance docket
  • A book containing minutes or abstracts of court appearances.
Appellate jurisdiction
  • The authority of a court to review and revise decisions made by lower courts.
Application, land
  • A formal, written request submitted by an individual seeking a land grant.
Application, organization
  • A formal, written request to become a member of an organization.
Applications for Passage Warrants (Series L), Canada
  • A list of the names of immigrants in Ontario, Canada, whose passage was paid by sponsors.
Appointment to public office
  • The act of assigning, as opposed to electing, an individual to serve in a government position.
Appraisal
  • The process of determining the value of property, such as a deceased individual’s estate or a document stating the value of property.
Appraisement
  • The estimated value of property.
Appraiser
  • An individual who determines the value of property. When determining the value of a deceased individual's estate, appraisers use an inventory to estimate the estate's value.
Apprentice
  • An individual, usually a child, who was legally bound to the master of a trade to work for the master and learn the trade. The master provided training, food, and lodging for the apprentice.
Apprenticeship tax, Britain
  • A tax assessed on the money a master received for an apprenticeship indenture. This tax was assessed from 1710 to 1811. Apprentices put out by a parish or charity were exempt from the tax.
Archaic word
  • A word that is no longer used or that has a meaning that has changed substantially over time.
Archdeacon's court, Church of England
  • An English ecclesiastical court with jurisdiction over an archdeaconry. These courts frequently handled probates.
Archdeaconry
  • An ecclesiastical division within a diocese that is headed by an archdeacon. It may consist of one or more rural deaneries.
Archive
  • A place where institutions such as governments, businesses, and churches keep their records and official documents. Also used in the plural.
Archive Section of the Family Group Records Collection
  • A portion of the Family Group Records Collection that contains five million family group records submitted by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1942 and 1969. Information from these records has been added to the International Genealogical Index®.
Archives and Libraries, Family History Library Catalog™
  • A subject heading used in the Family History Library Catalog to categorize information about other archives (places where institutions such as governments, businesses, and churches keep their records and official documents) and libraries (places that contains books, manuscripts, music, art, and other reference materials).
Archives départementales, France
  • The French term for departmental archive. These archives collect records for a department of the French government. Departmental archives have most of the French records of genealogical value, including civil registration records, pre-1792 church records, census records, some notarial records, and military conscription records.
Arizona Territory, USA
  • A territory organized in 1863 that comprised the present-day state of Arizona and part of Nevada. Many of the settlers in the area were from Confederate states, so in 1862 they applied to become a Confederate territory. The Confederate government sent troops to occupy New Mexico and Arizona and granted the request of the settlers. This action had little effect because Union forces defeated Confederate forces in New Mexico and Arizona. The United States Congress created the Arizona Territory in 1863 to retain control over the area.
Ark
  • One of the two ships that brought Catholic and Protestant English settlers to the western shore of Chesapeake Bay in 1634. The other ship was named the Dove. The settlers founded St. Mary's City. King Charles I had originally granted the Maryland region to George Calvert, who died before the king could sign the charter, so the king granted the charter to Calvert's son Cecelius. Cecelius, himself a Roman Catholic, believed in religious freedom and saw to it that law and policies were established to guarantee that right in Maryland.
Armiger
  • A person entitled to use a coat of arms.
Armorial
  • An alphabetical list of people entitled to use a coat of arms. The armorial also describes the coat of arms. The term armorial can also refer to anything having to do with heraldry.
Army
  • The branch of a nation's armed forces that is trained to fight on land.
Article, periodicals
  • A written work in a magazine or newspaper.
Artifact
  • An object. In terms of family history research, an artifact is an item that provides information about an ancestor’s life, such as tools, books, or jewelry.
Artificer
  • A mechanic in the British military who makes and repairs machinery.
As Enumerated, 1881 British Census
  • An index of the 1881 British census that is organized in the same order as the original census. It can help identify households and neighbors living on the same street.
ASCII
  • A type of data format for computers. ASCII contains a specified set of letters, numbers, characters, and spaces.
Assembly of God
  • The largest Pentecostal religion in the world. Its official name is the General Council of the Assemblies of God. Pentecostalism grew out of the religious revival of the early 1900s. Its doctrines include the infallibility of the Bible, the fall and redemption of man, divine healing through prayer, baptism by immersion, eternal punishment for the unsaved, and the return of Christ to rule on earth. Pentecostals believe that every Christian should be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Assessment roll
  • A list of property owners, the value of their property, and the amount in taxes each owner owes.
Assistant surgeon, British
  • An officer in the British army who helps the surgeon (doctor).
Assisted emigrant
  • Between 1815 and 1900, qualified emigrants received passage money or land grants in their destination country as an alternative to receiving poor relief. After 1840, New Zealand and Australia offered money or land grants to skilled workers to encourage immigration.
Assisted emigrants register
  • A record of people who applied for assistance to emigrate to a new country.
Assize court, England
  • A court in England that deals with more serious criminal cases. It existed from the 1200s to 1971 and consisted of twelve judges appointed by the Crown.
Association
  • An organization of people who have common interests or goals.
Association of Professional Genealogists
  • An organization for professional genealogists.
Atlantic provinces, Canada
  • A grouping of Canadian provinces consisting of Newfoundland and the Maritime provinces of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.
Atlas
  • A book or computerized collection of geographical maps and charts.
Audencia, New Mexico
  • A Spanish term referring to a Mexican court of appeal that handled civil and criminal court cases in what is not the state of New Mexico between 1598 and 1847.
Audiencia
  • A regional court that functioned under a Spanish viceroyalty. These courts had legal, financial, and administrative powers. They supervised local courts, applied Spanish law, and served to establish a legal tradition that has persisted in Hispanic America.
Auditor's books
  • Books containing information about personal payments for provisions, sewing, nursing, and wagon use during the Revolutionary War. The records cover from 1784 to 1800.
Aufgebote, Germany
  • A German word for marriage banns or proclamations.
Author/Title Search
  • A type of search available in the microfiche version of the Family History Library Catalog™. Records are listed alphabetically by author and title. This search is not available in the computer version of the catalog.
Authority
  • The right and power to make decisions, take action, enforce law, or influence others.
Aveux et dénombrements, Canada
  • A type of land record used in the mid-1700s in Québec, Canada, roughly translated as "land descriptions" or "censuses of land and inhabitants." The aveux et dénombrements list the name of the principal habitant (occupant) of each farm in each seigneurie (manor) but not family members or farm workers. The information required in this record was very precise and included the exact location of the land, its size, the streams that flowed through it, the number and condition of buildings and mills on the lands, the number of tenants and the rents they paid, and the acres of cultivable land.
Aveux, Canada
  • A French word for oaths. The term aveux et dénombrements refers to a specific type of land record used in Québec.
Avocat
  • A French term for lawyer.
Award books
  • Records of land grants given to settlers in Hawaii between 1836 and 1855. 

 

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