Check Out Our Genealogy Blog »

Genealogy Dictionary



Adoption – To legally take into your home a child to care and provide for as if they were your own birth child.

Age of Consent – A varied age range for a region in which a person may marry without parental permission.

Ahnentafel – A systematic method to display family lineage using a numbers. Start with yourself as 1 and then your father is 2, your mother is 3 and your father’s father is 4 and your father’s mother is 5, then the mother’s father is 6 and the mother’s mother is 7 and so on. The males are the even numbers and the females odd numbers. A sequential product is produced which allows easier calculation of ancestors.

Ancestors – Those individuals in your family who came before you; such as grandparents, great grandparents, etc. Another similar word to ancestor meaning the same is ‘ascendant.’

Ancestral File – Developed by the Family History Center of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints Church for keeping records of millions of family lines using several different formats.

Ancestry – Traceable lineage from one’s parents back in time.

Apprentice – The placing of children outside the home while in the early teens to live, learn and work for a skill craftsman so the child might learn the trade. It can also be referred to as ‘placing out or putting out.’

Archives – The collection and storage of documents and records.



Baptismal Records – Written records of baptisms performed at a given church; showing the person’s name, their parents, date of birth and date of baptism.

Bastard or Base-born – A child born to an unwed mother, an illegitimate baby.

Bequest – Personal property, money or gifts given to other people as stated in a person’s Will.

Bible Family Records – The two to three pages in the center of the family Bible where names, births, marriages and deaths are written of family members covering many generations.

Birth Record – An official civil registered record of an individual’s birth. Included on the document would be the baby’s full name, date and time of birth, location, race and sex of the baby, the mother and father’s full name, along with the mother’s maiden name, the full address of the parents, the parent’s birth location and possibly how many other children the mother had previous given birth to.



Cemetery – Church and community places for human burials is a cemetery. Each burial lot with one or more burials in a coffin or cremated remains. Many will be marked with a headstone or grave marker which provide information on the deceased person. Cemeteries also may have a complete written listing or record of all those buried in the cemetery; along with their name, dates of birth and death and other family relatives.

Census – An official government counting of a given area’s human population. It can be for a country, a state, province, region, territory, county or city. Besides the count of inhabitants; their names, ages, sex, occupation, home address, education, immigration date, ethnic background, military experience and ownership of property can be included in the census.

Certified Copy – A true and accurate facsimile of an original document authorized by the issuing agency or a notary public.

Circa – Referring to an approximate time period; about a certain point in time, usually for a full date or year.

Christian Name – An individual’s first, second or third given names at birth and confirmed at their baptism.

Church Records – Documents relating to the congregation members of a church over the existence of the church. The written records will have births, baptisms, christenings, marriages and deaths documented along with church ceremonies.

Coat of Arms – Colorful emblems and symbols on a shield to designate an individual and his descendants.

Collateral Relative – The descent of an individual with whom you share a common ancestor. This collateral relative would be an aunt, cousin, nephew, etc.

Common Ancestor – Two or more collateral relatives sharing the same ancestor, that person would be each one’s common ancestor.

Consort – The life partner of an individual, such as wife, husband, companion or spouse; especially as it applies to members of a monarchy.

Cousin – Individual sharing a common relative; usually one set of the same grandparents. Also the child of an aunt or uncle.



Descendant – Those direct relatives born after an individual; such as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, etc.

Direct Line or Blood Line – Descent from grandparents to parents to children and grandchildren.

Document – Vital evidence or information in original written or printed form; usually created by a church, civil or legal agency.

Double Date – When many locations switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar; documented dates of years were written in both forms for periods from the late 16th century into the early 17th century.

Dowry or Dowery – The personal property, money, real estate, livestock and home furnishings brought with a bride when she married.



Emigrant – When an ancestor moved permanently from one country to another country.

Enumeration – The listing of names, addresses, property, homes, etc as is done in a census.

Epitaph – The inscription on a tombstone providing information about the person buried there.

Expatriate – Deployed or sent out of one’s native country.



Family Group Sheet – The genealogical information written on a sheet of paper about a nuclear family; which would included a husband, a wife, and their children. Data listed would be births, marriages, deaths and locations.

Family History Center – Local branches across the world of the Family History Library of the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake, City, Utah, which provide resources for individuals to conduct their own genealogy.

Family Tree – A graphic display or diagram of a person’s family lineage.

Forebear – An ancestor, an individual from whom you are descended.

Freedman – An emancipated individual such as a former slave who had earned or gained their release from slavery.

Free Man of Color – Individuals of the African, negro or black race who were free from birth or earned their freedom later in life.



Genealogist – One who pursues the study of a family lineage.

GEDCOM – A database which represents Genealogy Data Communications, a standardized format for all genealogy databases allowing for easier transfer of information using different computer software programs. A person can upload their family’s lineage files and another person can then download and read the information.

Given Name – A personal selected name bestowed on a baby at birth or at their baptism. An individual can have one or several given names. It is a separate name from the family surname or last name.

Gregorian Calendar – Named for Pope Gregory, a newer and improved method of measuring days, months and years. It replaced the older Julian calendar. It began in 1582, but was not accepted by Great Britain, her colonies and other European counties until 1752.

Guardian – An individual selected by a family or a legal agency to look after the interests and well-being of an underage child, an elderly person, an idiot or one incompetent to take care of their own affairs.



Heraldry – The science of tracing and recording genealogies as well as the proper armorial insignias to determine those with the rights to bear arms.

Homeland – An individual’s native or birth country or region.

Homestead – A partial of land given to an individual by the federal government if they lived and worked the land for a period of time and made improvements; such as grew crops and built buildings.



Immigrant – A person who moves permanent to a new country.

Immigration – The action of permanently moving to a new country to live.

Indentured Servant – During the 17th and 18th century, a formal contract made by an individual to work for seven years (or whichever of years were stated) exclusively for the person who paid the passage of the indentured servant. Can also be known as a ‘bond servant.’

Index – An alphabetical list of places, dates or names that were available from a specific set of records; such as the censuses, occupations or residences.

International Genealogical Index (IGI) – Over 250 million names listed with the Family Search Library of the Latter-Day Saints Church. The indexed listing is from various resources (churches, civil or military) to assist in genealogy research.

Intestate – A refer to when a person dies without leaving a written Will.

Issue – The children born or adopted by a couple. They would be one’s descendants.



Julian Calendar – A calendar named for the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, which was used from 45 BC until 1582 AD. It was replaced by the Gregorian calendar, considered a more accurate calendar.



Kindred Relatives – Blood-related individuals.

Kinship – A family connection through marriage, bloodline, adoption or a shared origin.



Legacy – A bequest or giving of personal property and / or money.

Lineage – The direct descent from great grandparents to grandparents to parents.

Local History – Recorded history of a town, community especially when it was first established. Many family names and individuals will be included in a local history write-up.



Majority Age – The legal age a country or region establishes in which a person is no longer a minor and can enter into legal contracts.

Maiden Name – A woman’s birth surname, one before she married and took her husband’s surname. When writing a maiden name and a married name the term ‘née’ will appear before the maiden name.

Manifest – A written listing of passengers and / or cargo carried on a ship and / or plane.

Marriage Bond – A written document between a bride and groom that there are no illegal or ill- moral barriers for a future wedding. It will include information that the groom is able to support and wife and future children.

Marriage Records – A written document with the bride and groom’s full names, their ages, date of birth and location, their parents’ names, if they were married before, their occupation, along with the names of witnesses to the marriage.

Maternal Line – A person’s lineage through their mother’s side of the family.

Microfilm and Microfiche – Reproduction of documents placed on rolls of film. Smaller segments of the microfilm in reduced size.

Military Records – The full collection of documents from the time an individual enlisted or was drafted into the military service, personal information, places they serviced and duties they performed are included. The records will have when the person was discharged or mustered out of the service and possibly when they died and where they were buried.

Militia – A community or local civilian army used in times of emergencies.

Mortality Schedule – During the U. S. Censuses of 1850 through 1900, the enumerators (those asking households the census questions) were to ask about anyone who had died in the household between June of the previous year to May 31 of the census year. The questions answered included name, sex, age, race, occupation, number of days ill, date of death and cause of death. The 1880 mortality census questions included about where the deceased contracted the disease and how long they had lived in the area where they died. All mortality schedules exist except the 1890 and 1900 which were destroyed.

Mulatto – The child of a mixed couple; one parent white and the other black, Native Indian or Mexican, etc.



Namesake – A person named for another individual, either a relative or non-relative.

National Archives and Records Administration – A governmental agency for the United States which manages all federal documents, records, photos, films and historical collections.

National Archives for the United Kingdom – The official governmental archive and management for over 1,000 years of history of the United Kingdom. They preserve vital records and make it serviceable for the general public.

Nationalization Records – The formal governmental written documents when an immigrant becomes a citizen. Such records can cover several years. Information included can be name, birth date and location, date and ship on which the immigrant arrived, a physical description, occupation and other relatives (wife and children).



Obituary – A published notice of a person’s death which might include biographical information on the individual and their family.

Of Color – Those individuals labeled as non-white; Native American Indians, blacks and people of mix-racial lines.

Oral History – Families stories handed down in the form of verbal tales. They can be written down to be preserved.

Orphan – An individual or child whose mother or father or both parents have died.



Passenger List – Information from ship records of the passengers traveling on a certain ship. Included would be the passenger’s name, place of origin, birth date and location, their sex, occupation and possibly where they were traveling to.

Paternal Line – A person’s lineage through their father’s side of the family.

Pedigree – The lineage or listing of one’s ancestors, a family tree.

Pedigree Chart – A chart illustrating the lineage of ancestors starting with one individual and moving to their parents then grandparents and to great grandparents and continuing on back.

Pension – A benefit paid to an individual for occupational service; such as a military pension for service in one of a country’s military branches.

Periodical Source Index (PERSI) – The largest collection of indexed articles covering genealogical and historical articles. It has over 1.1 million index listings with material going back to the 18th century. It originated with the Allen County Public Library of Indiana.

Posthumous Child – A baby born after the death of their father.

Primary Source or Record – Document created at the time of an event; such as a birth record written and certified within week or so of a child’s birth or a marriage record recorded and signed within weeks of a wedding ceremony.



Quinquennial Census – A census taken every five years; as was done by many states in the United States as well as Canada.



Relative – A person part of a family through birth, marriage or kinship.



SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) – Used when requesting copies of documents or information from a source by mail.

Secondary Source or Record – A document created years or decades after a certain event. It can also be information copied years later from other sources. An example; the full date of birth written on a death certificate.

Sibling – A sister or brother of an individual with the same mother and father. Half-siblings would share one parent.

Social Security Death Index (SSDI) – From the U. S. Social Security Administration, an index of deceased persons who had received Social Security benefits or their surviving relatives related death benefits. The index will include the name, Social Security number, the state where their Social Security number was issued, death date, location they last received benefits and possibility a birth date.

Source – Written material in the form of a vital record, document, manuscript, photo, journal, newspaper, book, magazine, Bible, etc. which can help prove a fact.

Soundex – Begun in the United States during the Works Progress Administration of the 1930s for the federal censuses to arranged surnames by letter and number codes according to the sounds of their consonants. It became a more effective method to locate names, even if they were misspelled.

Spinster – An unmarried woman.

Spouse – A term for a husband or wife.

Steerage – The least expensive section for passengers on a ship.

Surname – The family name or last name for an individual, inherited from their father.



Vital Records – The governmental or civil official documents at the time of a birth, marriage, divorce, and death.



Will – A legal document with a person’s wishes of how they want their personal property disposed of, given or handled after their death.

Widow / Widower – the surviving spouse of an individual. Also referred to as ‘relict.’

Witness – An individual who was present at an event and signs their name that the event actually occurred; such as a wedding ceremony.

< Return To Resources