B genealogical glossary terms
Background information: Information about the land, people, history, government, and other characteristics of an area. Background information helps to focus research in the most appropriate types of records for a given area and time period.
Bankruptcy: The state of being unable to pay one's debts. To formally declare bankruptcy is to seek relief from creditors through a court action. An individual, government, business, or other organization can declare bankruptcy.
Banns: A public announcement made by a couple to their local church congregation that they planned to marry. The couple may also have posted a written notice on the church.
Baptêmes: The French word for baptisms.
Baptism certificate: A certificate stating the date and place an individual was baptized into a church.
Baptism for the dead, Latter-day Saint: A priesthood ordinance performed in temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members are baptized by proxy in behalf of people who have died.
Baptism, general: An initiation into a Christian church, usually performed by sprinkling the individual with water or immersing the individual in water.
Baptism, Latter-day Saint: The introductory ordinance into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church practices baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. The ordinance symbolizes the individual's rebirth as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Baptismal date: The day an individual is baptized.
Baptismal records: Records created when an individual participates in the rite or ordinance of baptism to become a member of a church.
Baptist Church: A group of Protestant churches that was founded by John Smythe during the early 1600s while he was a refugee in Amsterdam. The Baptists oppose infant baptism and baptize only adults who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. Baptist churches are governed by local congregations and often organized into separate conventions or associations, such as the Baptist World Alliance and the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Baptist organization in the world with 37,000 churches in the United States and its territories. It was organized in 1845 and has offices in Nashville, Tennessee.
Barbour Collection: Abstracts of town, church, and other original records from the earliest period of Connecticut's history to the 1850s. The collection is indexed, but the index is incomplete and contains errors.
Barcino: 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.
Barnardo, Thomas John: The founder of a large philanthropic organization in Great Britain during the 1860s. This organization founded 90 homes for destitute children and founded many schools with unlimited admittance policies, which were rare at the time. The organization also helped send children (orphans and others) from Britain to Canada. These children were often called "Barnardo's children." The boys were sent as farm laborers and the girls as "mother's helpers."
Barnocino: 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.
Baron: The lowest title in the British and French peerage. A baron's wife or a woman who inherits or is granted the title is called a baroness. The title of baron was introduced to Great Britain in 1066 after the Normans took power. The king bestowed land and the title of baron to some of his men for their service. These men could give this land and the title to their oldest sons. Eventually the barons became divided into greater and lesser barons, depending on how much land they held. The greater barons eventually became earls and dukes. Lesser barons became the retainers. Currently, the title of baron is given by the British monarch for distinguished service or distinction in arts or letters. Barons may no longer give the title to their heirs. In other European countries, a baron may have various ranks. In Latin America, the baron (barón) was below the viscount (vizconde) and above a lord (señor).
Barón: The Spanish word for baron, a title of nobility ranking below a viscount (vizconde) and above a lord (señor).
Baronet, Britain: The highest title in the British gentry, ranking below a baron and above a knight. The title of baronet was created in 1611 by King James I, who sold this title in return for much-needed money. Now the title of baronet is granted by the British monarch to anyone he or she wishes to honor. The title may be passed on to heirs, but a baronet does not have a seat in the House of Lords.
Barony, Ireland: A land division within a county in Ireland. Baronies were originally held by Irish chieftains, who obtained or leased it from the kings of the provinces. Eventually baronies came to be used only for financial and administrative reasons.
Basic Search Strategies: The section of a research outline that describes a general process for conducting family history research.
Bastardy bond: A document guaranteeing that the father of an illegitimate child would take financial responsibility for the child. This document relieved the parish from that responsibility. Also called a bond of indemnification.
Batch number: A number used in the International Genealogical Index® and Scottish Church Records to find the original source of the information in an entry.
Batch number, Index to the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland: A number given in the Index to the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland that helps identify which microfilm contains the original parish record. The Batch Number Index identifies which batch numbers are tied to which films of original records.
Bates Collection of Genealogical Data: An 88-volume collection of information about Rhode Island families collected by Louise Prosser Bates. It contains abstracts of deeds, land grants, probate records, genealogies, town records, and cemetery records. It is at the Rhode Island Historical Society and on microfilm at the Family History Library™.
Batismos: A Portuguese word for baptisms.
Bauptismos: A Spanish word for baptisms.
Bautismo: A Spanish term for baptism. Also used in the Philippines.
Begräbnisse: The German word for burials.
Begravede: A Norwegian and Danish word for burials.
Begravna: The Swedish word for burials.
Beneficiary, insurance: An individual who receives the proceeds or benefits from an insurance policy.
Beneficiary, probate: An individual who receives property or money from a deceased individual’s estate.
Benjamin Lake Noyes Collection: A collection of genealogies and correspondence concerning many Maine families, especially those who settled at Deer Isle in Hancock County.
Between the Miami Rivers Survey: A land survey that the United States government conducted between the Great and Little Miami Rivers in Ohio. The survey used the same nonstandard method used in the Symmes Purchase.
Bible Records, Family History Library Catalog™: A subject heading used in the Family History Library Catalog to categorize Bible records (birth, marriage, and death information written in family Bibles).
Bible records, general: Birth, marriage, and death information written in family Bibles, usually on pages set aside for such a purpose.
Bibliography, Family History Library Catalog™: A subject heading used in the Family History Library Catalog to categorize lists of books, periodicals, or other resources related to a particular topic.
Bibliography, general: A list of books, periodicals, or other resources that were used to prepare a book or article; also a separate list of books, periodicals, or other resources related to a particular topic.
Bibliothèque Généalogique, France: A library in Paris, France, that has a name index, genealogical books, and genealogical periodicals from all parts of France. Translated as Genealogical Library in English.
Bibliothèque Publique d' Information, France: A library in Paris, France, that has a collection of 300,000 volumes and 2,400 periodicals. It has a good genealogical collection.
Bienes de difuntos: A Spanish term for inheritance records and inventories of personal estates. Also used in the Philippines.
Bill of sale: A written document that transfers personal property from one individual to another. It proves that a sale occurred.
Biografica: A biographical collection of notes, newspaper clippings, and obituaries of Swedish army officers and others.
Biographical dictionary: A compilation of histories of people’s lives. The people selected for a biographical dictionary usually have something in common, such as occupation, place of origin or residence, or experience in a historical event. Also called a biographical encyclopedia or compiled biography.
Biographical Dictionary of Early Virginia, 1607-1660: A biographical dictionary that contains more than 100,000 entries and mentions over 30,000 people who are named in wills, deeds, court orders, histories, and Virginia Company records.
Biographical encyclopedia: A compilation of histories of people’s lives. The people selected for a biographical encyclopedia usually have something in common, such as occupation, place of origin or residence, or experience in a historical event. Also called a biographical dictionary or compiled biography.
Biographical sketch: A brief account of an individual’s life.
Biography and Genealogy Master Index:
An index that lists the subjects in most nationwide American biographical dictionaries. This index is essential for finding biographical sketches. It concentrates heavily on the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Biography File: A 180-drawer card index to newspaper clippings, local histories, and periodicals from Maryland during the 1800s and 1900s. This file is at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland.
Biography, Family History Library Catalog™: A subject heading used in the Family History Library Catalog to categorize biographies (histories of people's lives) and biographical dictionaries and encyclopedias (compilations of histories of people’s lives).
Biography, general: A history of an individual’s life.
Biography, 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 biographical information about a person or group of people.
Birke, Denmark: A Danish civil district, an area covered by a court. Also called herred.
Birth certificate: An official government document stating an individual’s birth date, birthplace, and parentage.
Birth record: An official government document stating an individual’s birth date, birthplace, and parentage.
Birthplace Index, 1881 British Census: An index of the 1881 British Census that is organized alphabetically by surname then by individuals' parish of birth. The Birthplace Index can help you identify possible brothers, sisters, and cousins who were born in the same parish but who may have moved to a different part of Great Britain.
Bishop's court, Church of England: The highest court in a diocese of the Church of England. These courts also had superior jurisdiction over lesser courts in probate matters. Bishop's courts are also called episcopal, commissary, diocesan, exchequer, and consistory courts.
Bishop's transcript, Church of England: A contemporary copy of a parish register of the Church of England that a local priest sends to the bishop of the diocese each year. The transcripts were supposed to be exact, but entries were sometimes abbreviated and may contain additional or variant information. If the original parish register has been lost, the bishop's transcript may be the only source of information.
Bishops’ report, Latter-day Saint: A list of Latter-day Saint heads of households and the wards in which they lived. This report was prepared in 1852 and 1853.
Bjelke Feud (1658-1660), Norway: A military action in which Norway regained Trondheim and Romsdal, which it had lost to Sweden in the Krabbe War.
Black Books: A part of the Maryland State Papers that contains messages, petitions, addresses, accounts, court proceedings, and other legal documents from 1636 to 1785.
Black Hawk War (1832): A war fought between the Sauk and Fox Native Americans and the United States militia and regular troops. The leader of the Native Americans was named Black Hawk.
Black Hawk War (1865-1867): An Indian war that arose when a Ute chief named Black Hawk led an uprising against the settlers in Utah.
Blazon: An official description of a coat of arms. Blazons are found in armorials. The term blazon is also used to mean a coat of arms.
Blessing certificate, Latter-day Saint: A certificate issued when a baby is blessed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Blessing of baby, Latter-day Saint: A priesthood ordinance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in which an infant is given a name and a blessing.
Blue Books: A part of the Maryland State Papers that contains records relating to stock in the Bank of Maryland from 1733 to 1810. The collection contains information about paper money investment schemes, lawsuits against the state of Maryland, and papers concerning property that citizens lost during the Revolutionary War.
Board for Certification of Genealogists: A professional organization for genealogists. The board administers a certification process.
Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles, Hawaii: A commission established in Hawaii in 1845 to settle land disputes between the king of Hawaii, who owned all of the land, and settlers who were not native to Hawaii. The king received a portion of the land, and the rest was divided equally between the government, chiefs, and tenants. To acquire ownership of land, an individual made a claim to the commission. This commission was also known as the Land Commission.
Board of Commissioners, USA 1805: A committee organized by the United States Congress in 1805 to investigate claims made by landowners to lands previously granted by the French and Spanish governments.
Boatswain: The officer on a merchant or navy ship who has charge over the hull, sails, rigging, and so forth.
Boer Wars (1877-1901): A term referring to two wars between the British and the Boers (now called Afrikaners) in South Africa. The first Boer War occurred in 1880 and 1881, when the Boers gained independence from Britain. The second Boer War, which occurred between 1899 and 1902, happened when the Boers tried to deny British citizens and other non-Afrikaners full political rights. The Boers won the opening battles of the second war, but the British eventually won the war. The Boer troops surrendered in 1900, but guerilla fighting lasted until 1902.
Bond of curation: A written guarantee posted by the guardian of a minor child who is old enough to marry but still younger than 21 to guarantee that the guardian will faithfully perform the tasks assigned by the probate court.
Bond of indemnification: A document guaranteeing that the father of an illegitimate child would take financial responsibility for the child. This document relieved the parish from that responsibility. Also called a bastardy bond.
Bond of tuition: A written guarantee posted by the guardian of a minor child who is not old enough to marry to guarantee that the guardian will faithfully perform the tasks assigned by the probate court.
Bond with a will annexed: A probate record posted by estate administrators or executors that ensures they will properly carry out their duties. This document has a will attached to it.
Bond, financial: A legal act by which people obligate themselves or their heirs, executors, or administrators to pay a certain amount of money to another individual under certain conditions.
Bond, general: A binding agreement or a certificate or evidence of debt.
Bond, investment: A certificate or other type of evidence showing that a company, government, or institution promises to pay the purchaser of the bond (the lender) the amount of money loaned plus interest.
Bond, jail: The amount of money needed to get out of jail while awaiting trial. Also called bail.
Bond, probate: A probate record posted by estate administrators or executors that ensures they will properly carry out their duties.
Bondsman: An individual or institution that signs a bond to guarantee that if the bond holder does not meet the obligations, that individual or institution will. Also called a surety.
Bonus application papers: An application for a financial bonus promised by the United States government to men who enlisted in the United States military during World War I.
Book indexes by vessel line: Indexes to passenger lists. The indexes are arranged by the shipping line and the date of arrival in the United States.
Book of remembrance, Latter-day Saint: A record in which members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints record important Church-related events (such as baptism, confirmation, priesthood ordination, marriage, and so forth) and family history information.
Book review: An article that summarizes a book and evaluates the quality of the book’s information and writing.
Bordeaux Emigration Index, France: A card index to about 16,000 people who emigrated from Bordeaux, France, between 1713 and 1787.
Border Crossing Indexes, Canada: A card index to the Canadian border crossing manifests. Sometimes officials recorded information only on the index card for the crossing instead of in both the index and the border crossing manifest.
Border crossing lists, USA: Lists beginning in 1895 that document people who have crossed the border between the United States and Canada or Mexico.
Border crossing manifests, Canada: Lists of passengers being transported from Canada into the United States. Canadian shipping companies began keeping these records in 1895. There are two type of manifests: lists of people traveling by train and lists of people traveling by boat. The manifests may include the person's name, port or station of entry, date of entry, age, literacy, last residence, previous visits to the United States, and birthplace. Sometimes officials only recorded the information on the index card rather than on the manifest. Beginning in 1908 the companies began keeping similar records of people arriving in Canada from the United States. These records are not indexed and are not available through the Family History Library™. Also called Canadian border crossing lists, passenger lists, and manifests.
Border crossing records, USA: Lists beginning in 1895 that document people who have crossed the border between the United States and Canada or Mexico.
Borgerskabprotokoller, Denmark: A Danish word for citizenship book. It lists the people who received the rights to citizenship extended by a city. Citizenship rights included the right to engage in business in the city, protection under the law, and permission to live in the city without being expelled. The book includes the names of the people granted citizenship and their age, social and economic status, occupation and training, and sometimes birthplace and names of relatives. Until the twentieth century, only males of the middle or upper class, usually merchants and tradesmen, were granted citizenship.
Borough court, Connecticut: A court in Connecticut with townwide jurisdiction over civil matters. Borough courts were succeeded by the circuit courts.
Borough, Great Britain: A self-governing town or city that sends a representative to Parliament.
Borough, Scotland: A city or town in Scotland. In current usage, the term borough refers only to towns with a charter. Also spelled burgh.
Boundary: A separation, whether natural or manmade, between properties or jurisdictions.
Bounty land: Federal land given to people for their service in the military.
Bounty land warrant application: A formal, written request for a piece of federal land in return for past military service.
Bowman Collection: A card index to Connecticut vital records in Massachusetts from 1800 to 1900.
Box Type, Latter-day Saint: A printed book used to record membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints between 1920 and 1941. Each page of the book had four to six boxes, and each box contained the complete membership information for an individual. The records are available at the Family History Library™ and Family History Centers™.
Branch history, Latter-day Saint: An historical account of a branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Branch records, Latter-day Saint: Membership records that each branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints keeps of members who live within the branch boundaries.
Branch, Latter-day Saint: A local division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is similar to a ward but usually does not have enough membership or enough priesthood leadership to support all the programs of the Church.
Brief description, Family History Library Catalog™ on compact disc: A screen on the compact disc version of the Family History Library Catalog™ that shows the title of the source.
Brieve, Scotland: A document created by a chancery court in Scotland that summoned the local sheriff's court to hold a jury trial. Brieves were issued when a landowner died and the heir wished to take ownership of the land.
Brigadier, British: An officer in the British army who ranks below a major general. A brigadier commands a brigade.
Briggs Collection: A large collection of typed transcripts of wills, cemetery records, vital records, and other family records for families from the towns of West Greenwich, Exeter, and Coventry in Rhode Island. It was created by Anthony Tarbox Briggs and is at the Rhode Island Historical Society and on microfilm at the Family History Library™.
British: Pertaining to something or someone from Great Britain. Many British people emigrated to the Americas, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
British census: A census taken by the British government in Britain, including England, Wales, Scotland, Isle of Man, and Channel Islands.
British Genealogical Record Users Committee: A group of organizations that are dedicated to preserving and providing access to genealogical and historical records.
British Library: The national repository for all materials published in England. It also has a large collection of manuscript materials. The British Library is one of the five copyright libraries in Great Britain.
British North America: The name used for colonies that remained in British hands after the Revolutionary War between 1783 (when Britain acknowledged the independence of the United States) and 1867 (when the Dominion of Canada was created).
Bromwell Index: A five-volume alphabetical list of prominent people from Colorado. The index covers up to the year 1933 and is held by the Colorado Historical Society.
Brown Books: A part of the Maryland State Papers that contains military and civilian communications dating from 1775 to 1803. The books also contain Revolutionary War correspondence, including lists of rebels, payments, seizures, arrests, and military engagements.
Buddhism: A major world religion founded in India in 500 B.C. by a teacher named Buddha. It has influenced religious, social, and cultural effects in much of Asia. In each area it has often combined with teachings from other religions such as Hinduism and Shinto. Zen Buddhism, practiced chiefly in Japan, has some distinctive differences. Buddha taught that each person's position in life was determined by actions in past lives. He sought to conquer attachments to worldly things.
Bureau de l'état civil, France: The French term for a civil registration office.
Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, USA: Former name of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Bureau of Indian Affairs: An agency of the United States government that manages and keeps the records of the government’s interaction with American Indian tribes.
Bureau of Land Management: An agency of the United States government that manages and maintains the government's survey and land records. The bureau also manages national lands and their resources, including mineral resources. The bureau was created in 1946 when the Government Land Office (GLO) and the Grazing Service were combined. It is under the Department of the Interior.
Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Freedmen's Bureau: An agency created by the United States Congress in 1865 to help former slaves make the transition to freedom. The bureau provided food, clothing, and shelter and created schools, hospitals, and universities. It distributed abandoned lands to former slaves. Although President Andrew Johnson twice vetoed bills to renew the agency, Congress repassed them and expanded the bureau's powers in 1866. The bureau was dissolved in 1872.
Bureau of the Census: The agency of the United States government charged with taking a national census every 10 years.
Bürgerbücher, Germany: A German term for citizenship books. In Germany, these books were used to record the names of people who had received the rights to citizenship. Also called Bürgerlisten.
Bürgerlisten, Germany: A German term for a citizenship book. In Germany, these books were used to record the names of people who had received the rights to citizenship. Also called Bürgerbücher.
Burgess: A resident of a city who has full rights of citizenship within the city. Tradesmen and craftsmen were burgesses. The term burgess can also refer to a freeman who lived in a rural area. In Scotland, a burgess is a craftsman or tradesman who lives and works within a burgh.
Burgh: A city or town in Scotland. In current usage, the term burgh refers only to towns with a charter. Also spelled borough.
Burgh court, Scotland: A Scottish court with jurisdiction over a royal burgh. These courts handled minor civil offences.
Burgher: A citizen of a town.
Burghers Church, Scotland: A church that formed out of the Secession Church in 1745. This group believed that communion should not be withheld from people who took the Burgess Oath. In 1820 the Burghers and Anti-Burghers reunited.
Burial plot: A specific piece of ground within a cemetery where an individual is or can be buried.
Burial record: A record detailing where a person is buried.
Burial register: A list of the people buried in a cemetery.
Business directory: A list of the names and addresses of businesses or business people.
Business Records and Commerce, Family History Library Catalog™: A subject heading used in the Family History Library Catalog to categorize information about businesses, trades, and other types of commerce.
Buyer: An individual purchasing something, such as a piece of land.
Byfogden, Denmark: The judge of a Danish city court. In the 1700s this court handled matters of commerce, such as citizenship records.
Bygdbøker, Norway: A Norwegian term meaning "rural chronicles" or "community books." The bygdbøker are Norwegian town histories that contain extensive genealogical information about the people living in the community.
Byting, Denmark: A Danish city court. In the 1700s this was the court of first instance (the court where a case begins) in general cases.