Genealogy Terms A - E

If you're just starting out, or have been researching for a while and have come across a word you're not familiar with, check our list below. If it's not listed, please feel free to send it on to us at and we'll research it's meaning and add it to our glossary.
Words starting the letters A through E:
Ante (before).
Also known as; alias.
Abbreviated transcription of a document or record that includes the date of the record, every name appearing therein, the relationship (if stated) of each person named and their description (i.e., witness, executor, bondsman, son, widow, etc.), and if they signed with their signature or mark.
ad litem
Legal term meaning in this case only. For example, "George Thomas, duly appointed by the court, may administer ad litem the settlement of the estate of Joseph Thomas, deceased."
A court action used to settle the estate of a person who died without leaving a will, or a person who left a will that the court disallowed, or where the executor appointed by the deceased refuses to serve in that capacity.
Administrator CTA
(cum testamento annexo) person who serves when the named executor or executrix is unable to do so.
Administrator or Administratrix
Person who settles an estate where there is not a will. Usually a next of kin or largest creditor. Follows laws of various states.
Administrator de bonis non
Administrator of any goods of a deceased person not already distributed by the original administrator or executor.
Administration de bonis non cum testament annexo (with will attached)
Administration granted by the court when the executor of a will has died, leaving a portion of the estate not administered.
Ad valorem tax
A tax imposed on the value of the property; contrasted to per capita tax.
A written or oral statement made under oath.
Related by marriage.
ag lab
A shortened form of agricultural labourer. Most common occupation recorded on census records.
The name is German for a table of ancestors and is one of the standard reports found in many genealogy software programs.
An ancestor table is one that tabulates the ancestry of one individual by generation in text rather than in pedigree chart format. A comprehensive Ahnentafel gives more than the individual's name, date, and place of birth, christening, marriage, death, and burial. It should give biographical and historical commentary for each person listed, as well as footnotes citing the source documents used to prove what is stated.
Ahnentafel Number
The unique number assigned to each position in an ancestor table is called an Ahnentafel number. Number one designates the person in the first generation. Numbers two and three designate the parents of number one and the second generation. Numbers four through seven designate the grandparents of person number one and the third generation. As the Ahnentafel extends by generation, the number of person doubles.
A citizen of another country.
Alien Registration Number An Alien Registration Number is found on an alien registration card. If your ancestor was not naturalized, he/she may have obtained such a card. The Alien Registration Program began on July 1, 1940. Every alien resident over age 14, regardless of nationality, had to register at a post office, and those entering the United States had to register when they applied for admission.
A person from whom you descend; grandparents, great-grandparents, 2nd great-grandparents (also called great great-grandparents), 3rd great-grandparents, etc. A direct-line ancestor; forefather; forebear.
Ancestor Chart
This shows the ancestors of the selected person, parents grandparents, etc. It is normally in the form of an inverted pyramid. They can also take a circular form.
Includes all of your ancestors from your parents as far back as they are traceable. 
Ancillary Administration
Probate filed in a state other than the state of residence but, where the decedent owned property.
Many types of genealogical presentations contain statements, record sources, documents, conclusions, or other historical information that require an annotation. Generally, annotations appear in footnotes, end-notes, or in the text itself. Genealogists use annotations to explain discrepancies between two or more documents, to add information from another source to support a statement or conclusion made in a different record, and other difficult to interpret situations.
The term annuitant could describe someone on an annual allowance as well as someone receiving annual income from an investment. Often, however, it was also used for institutionalized pensioners.
A person bound by a legal agreement to be instructed in a trade, art, or business for a specified period of time.
Grant of property or a legal right, benefit, or privilege to another person.
The act or process of taking, apprehending, or seizing persons or property usually for the purpose of securing satisfaction of a debt or to guarantee appearance in court.
Augmented family
An extension of the nuclear family that includes people bound together by law and marriage, rather than by blood. Examples include half-siblings, adopted children, stepchildren, stepparents, and step-siblings.
In American society, it can refer to a woman in four different relative positions: father’s sister, mother’s sister, father’s brother’s wife, mother’s brother’s wife.
Autosomal DNA
(also called atDNA 
or admixture DNA)
Genetic material inherited equally from mother and father. It's genealogically useful for ancestry back through about five to seven generations. Beyond that, you may not have inherited enough DNA from anyone ancestor for that person to be represented in your autosomal DNA.
Abbreviation for born.
Ban / Disownment / Excommunication
Church members who due to an act forbidden by the creed or covenant of a given denomination or church congregation are forbidden to attend services or worship.
Public announcement of an intended marriage, generally made in a church.
bap. / bapt.
Abbreviation for baptized.
Baptism / Christening
A church ceremony performed in order to welcome a person, usually a baby, into the body of the church. The ceremonial application of water to a person by sprinkling, immersion, or affusion, as a sign of the washing away of sin, rebirth, or new life.
An illegitimate child.
An illegitimate child.
Being of sound mind, but crazy
meant being sane, but sick of body.
Conveys Personal Property.
Birth records
It contains information about the birth of an individual. You can usually find the mother's full maiden name and the father's full name, the name of the baby, the date of the birth, and the county where the birth took place. 
Birth, Marriage, and Death. This abbreviation refers to three different sets of records compiled in the British Isles since the 19th Century. The registration of BMD events was/is a legal obligation and those failing to comply can be fined. BMD records in England and Wales first appeared starting in 1837; in Scotland in 1855 and Ireland in 1864.
A person who shares the dinner table with the family.
It is a written, binding agreement to perform as specified. Many types of bonds have existed for centuries and appear in marriage, land, and court records. 
Born Again Experience of a second birth in the spirit. Some churches offer the opportunity for a "second baptism" ceremony. 
Pertaining to measuring natural or man-made features on the land.
Bounty Land
The land promised as an inducement for enlistment or payment for military services. Those authorized to bounty land received a Bounty Land Warrant from the newly formed government after the war.
Bounty Land Warrants
In 1776, the Continental Congress incentivized men to serve in the Revolutionary War with promises of 50 to 1,000 acres of land, depending on their rank. This offer extended to conflicts through 1856. Many recipients sold their land to speculators without ever seeing it.
In addition to the obvious meaning, it can include the husband of one’s sister, the brother of one’s wife, the husband of one’s sister-in-law, a half-brother, or a stepbrother. Genealogists must also be aware that ‘‘brother’’ may refer to a member of one’s church.
Circa (about).
C of E
Church of England.
Cemetery records
Cemetery caretakers usually keep records of the names and death dates of those buried, as well as maps of the gravesites. More detailed records may have also been kept which might include names of the deceased's relatives.
Census records
An official enumeration of the population in a particular area. In addition to counting the inhabitants of an area, the census generally collects other vital information, such as names, ages, citizenship status, and ethnic background. The United States government began collecting census data in 1790 and has done so every 10 years since that date. Selected states have also conducted their own censuses over the years.
Centimorgan (cM)
This is a measurement of the distance between genetic markers on DNA based on the expected frequency of recombination with each generation. On average, one cM equals one million base pairs. In general, the more centimorgans you share with a genetic match, the closer your relationship (although individuals related through multiple ancestors also may share a high number of centimorgans). 
Chain of titles
The record of successive conveyances affecting a particular parcel of land arranged consecutively from the government or previous owner down to the present owner.
Chattel mortgage
A mortgage that involves personal, rather than real, estate.
A threadlike strand of DNA that carries genes and transmits hereditary information.
Church records
Formal documents that churches have kept about their congregations through the years. Churches normally record information about christenings, baptisms, marriages, and burials. 
Civil law
Laws concerned with civil or private rights and remedies, as contrasted with criminal law.
Clandestine marriages
Secret marriage ceremonies for couples wishing to be married legally without banns or a marriage license. The Church of England required parental consent for couples under 21 wish to marry but English Law did not. For some English couples, it was convenient and cheaper to see this type of marriage which was a popular alternative to a Church marriage. Clandestine marriages were outlawed in England and Wales in 1754.
A supplement or addition to a will and not intended to replace an entire will.
Collateral line
A line of descent connecting persons who share a common ancestor, but are related through an aunt, uncle, cousin, nephew, etc.
An ancestor who arrived in America before 1775.
Common ancestor
The person through whom two or more persons claim descent or lineage.
A religious denomination originally formed from within the Church of England that demanded the right for each congregation to govern itself.
Related by blood. The degree of relationship between persons who descend from a common ancestor. A father and son are related by lineal consanguinity, uncle and nephew by collateral sanguinity.
A wife, husband, spouse, mate, companion.
Court of Common Pleas
The court where civil and criminal cases are begun. Most of these have been abolished, with jurisdiction transferred to district or circuit courts.
Court of Orphans
The court in Pennsylvania or Maryland—known else whereas Surrogate or Probate court—with general jurisdiction over matters of probate.
Court of the Ordinary
In Georgia, the court that formerly had exclusive and general jurisdiction over the probate of wills, management of the estate, and appointment of guardians.
A legal document by which the title to a property is transferred; warrant; patent; a deed.
A very general term in American society referring to someone with whom you share a common ancestor. It can refer to a relative occupying a position on either the mother’s or father’s side, and may also refer to someone related only by affinity. If this person is in a different generation, the term removed is used to designate the number of generations separating individuals: i.e., if you are two generations apart from a cousin, that person would be your first cousin, twice removed.
County Record Office.
The estate to which a man was entitled by the death of his wife that she had seized in either fee simple or entail, provided they have children born alive and capable of inheriting, i.e., not mentally incapable of managing financial affairs. It is a freehold estate for the term of his natural life. (In some states there was no requirement that issue is born of the union.)
A daughter-in-law is the wife of an individual's son. Daughter-in-law also used to mean "step-daughter."
Declaration of Intention
A declaration of intention is a document filed in a court by an alien who intended to become a United States citizen. It could also be a declaration filed by a couple in a local court, indicating their intention to marry.
Document transferring ownership and title of a property.  Deeds may contain information from land descriptions to family relationships. If a property was sold very cheaply, it might have been to a relative.
Descendant Chart
This starts with a selected person and shows their descendants generation-by-generation, children, grandchildren, and so on.
Conveys Real Property.
The process of converting an image regardless of format (fiche, film, paper) to a digital format such as PDF or jpeg image.
The area administered by a bishop or the area of his ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
Once meant housewife, but not always the servant.
A country where deceased resided.
Doomsday Book
The earliest systematic survey of land ownership in England.
A provision by law that entitles the widow to a life-estate in the lands and tenements of her husband at his death if he dies intestate, or if she dissents from his will. Dower has been abolished in the majority of states. Although it was traditionally one-third of the estate, there was wide variation among colonies and states.
Dower Claims
Although men generally owned property, you can find your female relatives by their right of dower. This right, intended to prevent women from becoming dependent on the county or state, entitled a widow one-third interest in her husband's property. A wife had to consent to the sale or disposition of land, and when a husband died, his widow was allowed to stay on the land for the remainder of her life before it was transferred to her husband's heirs.
The property that a woman brings to her husband at their marriage; sometimes referred to as “her portion.”
In English Census records, the occupation of 'dressmaker' was commonly given by prostitutes.
DYS - (DNA Y-chromosome Segment)
DYS followed by a number identifies a short segment of Y-chromosome DNA. It is also called a Short Tandem Repeat (STR) or a marker. A Y-DNA test reveals how many repeats of a particular nucleotide sequence are found at that DYS marker. For example, DYS390 is one of the most commonly tested Y-DNA markers, and values for the marker typically range from 19 to 28 repeats.
Ellis Island
An island port in New York harbor through which more than 12 million immigrants entered the United States between 1892 and 1854.
Moving from one country to another.
Entail, estate
An estate of inheritance that, instead of descending to the heirs in general, goes to the heirs of the owner’s body (meaning his lawful issue), and through them to his grandchildren in a direct line. There are several variations of estate entail.
The process of counting people in a census.
Enumeration district
A division of area used when recording and collecting census data.
A census taker.
The process whereby property goes to the state when a person dies without a will and has no heirs.
Executor or Executrix
A person named in the will to execute its terms.
Extended Family
A term used to describe families of more than two generations within a household or relationship.
Updated: 16 May 2020
Have other genealogy terms to add? Please send them to