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A glossary of genealogical terms.
Waldensians: A Christian church founded by Peter Waldo (or Valdo) of Lyon, France. In 1173 Waldo left his wife and gave his fortune to the church and to charities. He began preaching on the streets of Lyon. Many people were attracted by his voluntary poverty and his message of devotion to the church. The movement soon spread into Germany, Flanders, and Aragon. Waldo's followers became known as the poor men of Lyon. At first the pope and the Archbishop of Lyon approved of Waldo's actions. However, the next pope and archbishop forbade him to preach, citing the facts that Waldo was not a priest and that many of his teachings differed from Catholicism. In 1184 Pope Lucius III excommunicated the Waldensians. Many Waldensians adopted the doctrines and religions of the Protestant Reformation during the 1500s. In 1545 hundreds of French Waldensians were executed in the towns of Cabrières and Merindol. Persecution caused many Waldensians to move as far away as Uruguay and Argentina.
Walker War (1853-1854), Utah: A conflict between Utah settlers and the Ute Native Americans, who were led by a chief named Walker. The war ended in 1854, when Brigham Young convinced Walker to end his attacks.
Walloon: A person from southern Belgium who speaks a French dialect. Many Walloons became Protestants during the Reformation and were exiled to neighboring countries. Many moved to America and were among the earliest settlers of New Netherland, which later became the state of New York.
War archive, Sweden: An archive in Stockholm, Sweden, that houses records having to do with the Swedish military. The Swedish word for this archive is Krigsarkivet.
War between the States (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 American Civil War and the War of Secession.
War of 1812 (1812-1814): A conflict in which the United States protected its independence from the interference of Great Britain and France.
War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748): A war that began when Charles VI, ruler of Austria and the Holy Roman emperor, died without a son. The countries of Europe had agreed to allow his daughter, Maria Theresa, to inherit the throne. However, when Charles died many of the countries broke their word, and Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, seized Silesia, a rich province of Austria. With the support of Great Britain and the Netherlands, Maria Theresa built an army and defended her right to the throne. Her army was successful. As part of the treaty, she lost Silesia but kept the rest of Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary. In America, the War of Austrian Succession was called King George's War.
War of Secession (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, American Civil War, or Civil War.
War of Texas Independence: The war in which Texas won its independence from Mexico. The war began in 1835 when Texans attacked and took San Antonio. The war ended when Sam Houston defeated Santa Ana on 21 April 1836 at San Jacinto.
War of the Pacific (1879-1883): A war that began as a dispute between Chile and Bolivia over rich nitrate deposits in Bolivia. Chile invaded Bolivia in 1879, starting the war. Peru entered because it had agreed to help Bolivia if it went to war against Chile. Chilean troops occupied Lima until 1881. Chile seized Peru's nitrate-rich provinces of Tacna, Arica, and Tarapacá. Chile also took Bolivia's coastal and desert lands. The war ended in 1883 with the signing of the Treaty of Ancón. The war left Peru deeply in debt and left Bolivia without access to the Pacific Ocean.
War of the Roses (1455-1485): A war that occurred when nobles decided to overthrow the weak King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster. Fighting occurred between the forces of York, whose emblem was a white rose, and the forces of Lancaster, whose emblem was a red rose. The forces of Lancaster defeated the forces of York, and Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster became king Henry VII. He ended the war by marrying a York, the daughter of Edward IV.
War with Denmark (1863-1864): A war in which Austria and Prussia took the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein from Denmark. Also called the Danish-Prussian War.
War with Mexico (1846-1848): A conflict between the United States and Mexico over United States expansion. At the end of the war, a treaty gave the United States land extending from Oklahoma to California. Every state in the United States mustered troops to send to this war.
Ward division, Latter-day Saint: The process of dividing a ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into two or more wards.
Ward history, Latter-day Saint: A historical account of a ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ward map: A map that shows the political divisions of large cities.
Ward records, Latter-day Saint: Membership records of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints kept at the ward level.
Ward, Latter-day Saint: The basic ecclesiastical unit of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Several wards form a stake.
Wardroom rank: Commissioned officers in the navy.
Warning out: An official document that ordered an individual to leave a town in New England. These documents were issued to newcomers or to others who were likely to become a burden on the community.
Warrant book: Records of land warrants that have been issued and surrendered.
Warrant officer: An officer who holds rank through a warrant. Warrant officers rank above noncommissioned officers and below commissioned officers. In the Navy and Coast Guard, a warrant officer is a commissioned officer who ranks below an ensign. In the Marine Corps, a warrant officer ranks below a second lieutenant.
Warrant to survey: A document authorizing a person to survey a parcel of land.
Warrant, court records: A court order authorizing the arrest of an individual or a search of private property.
Warrant, land: A certificate authorizing an individual to receive a certain amount of land from the government.
Warranty deed: A deed that declares that an individual selling land has a title free of liens and will defend the title against all claims.
Washington Territory: A territory established in 1853 when the Oregon Territory was split. At its largest extent the territory included all of present-day Washington, Idaho, western Montana, and part of Wyoming. Washington's boundaries were fixed in 1863 when the Idaho Territory was formed.
Watauga purchase: Land purchased by the Watauga Association from the Cherokees. The settlers previously had only leased the land from the Cherokees.
Watauga Valley: An area in northeastern Tennessee that was settled beginning in 1769.
Water rights application: A formal, written request to have the rights to the water, whether it comes from a lake, pond, stream, canal, ditch, or other source, found on a piece of land.
Webster-Ashburton Treaty, USA and Britain: Treaty signed in August 1842 that settled a boundary dispute between the United States and Great Britain over territory between Maine and New Brunswick and allowed for the mutual extradition of criminals. The negotiations also provided the two countries with an opportunity for peaceful discussion about the problems caused by the British government's attempt to suppress the African slave trade.
Welsh: Pertaining to something or someone from Wales; also the Gaelic language of the Welsh people.
Welsh alphabet: The letters used in the Welsh language: a, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, l, ll, m, n, o, p, ph, r, rh, s, t, th, u, w, x, y.
Welsh pronunciation: How the letters and words of the Welsh language are spoken.
Welsh Wesleyan Methodist Church: A religion that formed in North Wales in 1800 and spread rapidly throughout North Wales. Its beliefs are based on the teachings of John Wesley.
West Augusta: An area established by Virginia that included all of West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's state boundary was agreed upon between 1779 and 1780.
West coast province, Canada: Another name for British Columbia.
West Jersey: A separate province formed in 1676 when New Jersey was divided. West Jersey was owned by a group of Quakers, who formed the first Quaker colony in America. The English government united East Jersey and West Jersey in 1702 when the proprietors gave up their claims.
West Virginia University Genealogical Collection: A collection of alphabetized pedigrees and genealogies of West Virginia families.
Western Canada: A portion of Canada consisting of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Western District: An early designation describing the area between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers.
Western District, New York: A division of the state of New York over which a federal circuit or district court has jurisdiction. The Western District has two divisions: the Buffalo District, which covers Erie County and surrounding counties and the Rochester Division, which covers Monroe County and surrounding counties.
Western Isles of Scotland:The islands west of Scotland formally known as the Outer Hebrides Islands. The land on these islands consists mostly of moors.
Western Reserve: A tract of land along Lake Erie in what is now the northeastern part of Ohio. In 1662 King Charles II gave Connecticut the title to land with conflicting boundaries from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. In 1786 Connecticut gave most of its western lands to the United States, but it reserved a strip of land along Lake Erie. This land was known as the Western Reserve because it was west of Connecticut. The western end of the reserve was called the Firelands, which was used to compensate Connecticut citizens for their losses in the Revolutionary War. In 1795 the Connecticut Land Company bought most of the Western Reserve, who in turn sold it to individuals in small lots. The Western Reserve became part of the Ohio Territory in 1800.
Widow: A woman whose husband has died.
Wilderness Road: A road that led into eastern Kentucky. It was built in 1775 by a group of men led by Daniel Boone. The road started in eastern Virginia and passed through the Cumberland Gap into the interior of Kentucky and beyond. Though it was rocky and frequented by attacks from Native Americans, it was the only usable route into Kentucky from the mid-Atlantic states. By 1800 over 20,000 settlers had used the road.
Will: A legal document that describes how an individual’s real and personal property should be distributed after his or her death.
Under early English law, a will described how an individual’s real property (lands and buildings) would be distributed after death. Since the Crown technically owned all land and buildings, a specific set of laws applied to its distribution. A testament distributed the person's personal property, such as furniture, belongings, crops, debts, and so forth.
The term will eventually came to mean both a will and a testament.
Will book: A court record that contains copies of wills. Also called a will register.
Will register: A court record that contains copies of wills. Also called a will book.
William Applebie Daniel Eardely Collection: A collection of information about Long Island and eastern United States families.
William Penn: The founder of the state of Pennsylvania. In 1681 he received a land grant from King Charles II of England. Penn had the authority to dispose of the land with little restriction. He recognized claims to land made by Native Americans and made it a policy to purchase land from them before selling it for settlement. Penn's colony offered religious freedom, a liberal government, and inexpensive land.
Willis Guy Tetrick Collection: A collection of family and other records from Harrison County and central West Virginia.
Wills (see also Probate), PERiodical Source Index: A record type used in the Locality and Research Methodologies sections of the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) to identify articles that contain information about wills. Other types of probate records are covered under the record type "Probate (not including Wills)."
Wisconsin Territory: A territory, created in 1836, that included lands west of the Mississippi River to the Missouri River. Much of the western portion of the territory was transferred to the Iowa Territory in 1838. Wisconsin, with its present boundaries, became a state in 1848.
Witness: An individual who sees an event happen. In some types of church records, the term witness can refer to a godparent.
Work Projects Administration: A government-sponsored work program that was founded in 1935 as the Works Progress Administration. (The name was changed to Work Projects Administration in 1939.) The Works Progress Administration was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Roosevelt established such programs to help pull the United States out of the Great Depression by providing jobs for over 8.5 million people. Jobs included building highways, bridges, and parks. The program also provided jobs for artists, writers, and musicians and allowed for the compiling of many historical documents and record inventories.
Workhouse, Ireland: A government-sponsored place erected within each poor law union, where poor people were sent to receive either indoor (residential) or outdoor (nonresidential) relief. Also called a poorhouse.
Works Progress Administration: A government-sponsored work program, founded in 1935, that was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. Roosevelt established such programs to help pull the United States out of the Great Depression by providing jobs for over 8.5 million people. Jobs included building highways, bridges, and parks. The program also provided jobs for artists, writers, and musicians and allowed for the compiling of many historical documents and record inventories. In 1939 the program was named the Work Projects Administration.
World War I (1917-1918): A war between the Allies (originally France, Great Britain, and Russia) and the Central Powers (originally Austria-Hungary and Germany). The Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, and the United States and several other countries entered on the side of the Allies. Ten million soldiers died in World War I, and 21 million were wounded.
World War II (1939-1945): A war that began on 1 September 1939 when Germany, under the control of Adolf Hitler, invaded Poland. Forces were divided between the Axis (headed by Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allies (headed by Great Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union). A total of 50 nations were involved by the end of the war. The number of deaths in World War II is not known. It is estimated that about 17 million military personnel and more than 17 million civilians died.
WPA Card File: A card file prepared by the Work Projects Administration for many pre-1850 Indiana records at the Archives Division, Commission on Public Records.
Written intention to marry: A written declaration that a couple intended to marry. These intentions were posted in church for three consecutive Sundays. If no objection was raised, the church granted the couple permission to marry. Also called banns.
Wyoming Territory: A territory created in 1868 from the Dakota, Utah, and Idaho Territories.
Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania: An area in northeast Pennsylvania that lies along the northern branch of the Susquehanna River. Both Pennsylvania and Connecticut claimed the Wyoming Valley, and in 1778 Congress settled the land dispute, giving the land to Pennsylvania. The Wyoming Valley was the scene of one of the bloodiest attacks during the Revolutionary War. In the summer of 1778, bands of Loyalists and Iroquois Native Americans attacked the Patriot settlers, killing 360 men and women outright and leaving the valley in ruins. Many more settlers died of starvation and exposure after the attack.