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Test Your Genealogy Word Power

Genealogists are apt to encounter a good many unfamiliar words in the course of their research. Here's a chance to test your knowledge.


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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
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Word Count: 860 (approx.)
Labels: Terminology 
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Of these ten words, some you know, some you don't know and some you think you know, but terms change over the centuries. Can you correctly define the following words and phrases? Definitions are from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary except where otherwise noted.


a) A fixture in a house

b) A legal document

c) An incidental right attached to a property

Answer: C) An appurtenance to a property could be an orchard or right of way. The owner of the deed also owns the appurtenances attached to the property. You may come across this term in wills or deeds, among other legal documents.


a) Think of

b) To give real property in a will

c) Heirs

Answer: B) Another word found in wills. The person who gives the real property is the devisor; the recipient is the devisee.


a) A method of dating when dealing with documents from Britain and most of the colonies before 1752

b) Tracking two possible lineages from one ancestor with multiple spouses

c) Applying to two different genealogical societies at once

Answer: A) According to Val Greenwood, the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752 creates "considerable impact on many early American genealogical problems." Under the Julian system, the New Year began March 25, not January 1. In her book The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, Greenwood recommends double dating, that is, recording all dates from Jan. 1 to March 24, when they occur before the year 1752, to reflect both the Julian and Gregorian year.


a) A pioneer meal of French origins

b) A real estate deal that falls through

c) The reversion of property to the government if there are no legal heirs

Answer: C) Under feudal law, the property reverted back to the lord.


a) Latin for "and wife/spouse"

b) Superman's arch-nemesis

c) Latin for "and all property"

Answer: A) Another legal term found on deeds, it is also written as "Et Ux"


a) An early state university in Massachusetts

b) A would-be 18th century state in what is now Tennessee

c) A disputed section of 16th century Louisiana

Answer: B) The State of Franklin began in what was the west end of North Carolina in the 18th century. "There, three county governments and several thriving towns served the needs of perhaps as many as 5,000 inhabitants, and separated from North Carolina by the rugged terrain of the Unaka Mountains, the population had only tenuous ties to the state government," writes the North Carolina History Project.

In 1784, following a questionable land cession by North Carolina political leaders, the three counties united as the State of Franklin; in 1785 they requested Congress to admit Franklin as the 14th state. By 1789, Congress' refusal to admit Franklin as a state, as well as battles between Franklin and the local Cherokees, and skirmishes between Franklin and North Carolina and different Franklin factions with each other, led to the leaders of the almost-State of Franklin taking an oath of allegiance to North Carolina.

In 1796 the counties that had formed the State of Franklin, as well as the ceded North Carolina land surrounding them, became the State of Tennessee.


a) A collective term applying to an extended family with the same surname

b) An archaic name for a community in the United Kingdom

c) Land belonging to or financially benefiting a parish church or the cleric for that parish church

Answer: C) Glebes owned by the Roman Catholic Church or Church of England were frequently rented out to tenants, so many genealogists researching ancestors who lived in the United Kingdom have come across the term.

A glebe terrier is specific to the Church of England. It lists the property available to a specific cleric and often includes the names of tenants. Bishops were required to hold terriers in their archives starting in 1571, but according to the North Yorkshire village of Westow's website, "the actual survey was left largely to the discretion of the vicar and the contents therefore vary widely."


a) A digital video will which can be embedded into websites or played on different media

b) A will completely in the handwriting of its author

c) A will whose handwriting cannot be determined

Answer: B) Val D. Greenwood in The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy writes, "There are some differences in statutes from one state to another, but such wills generally do not require witnesses."


a) The current month

b) Immediately

c) A particular circumstance

Answer: A) "The bride-day, you say, is to be on the thirtieth of the instant month." The Century dictionary gives this line from Sir Walter Scott's 1822 novel The Fortunes of Nigel as an example of the archaic use of "instant". You may come across it in legal documents, as in "fifteenth instant".


a) A highway connecting two states

b) Having made no valid will

c) A disputed will

Answer: B) Some people do die intestate, and probate researchers do search for heirs to the unclaimed estate. The BBC even airs a popular show called "The Heir Hunters" which follows them. Unfortunately, the intestate ancestor of fabulous wealth is behind many an inheritance scam, including the long-running Baker Hoax. Possible descendants of the supposedly intestate Jacob Baker spent many years and money trying to claim a piece of Baker's supposed land holdings, such as the property upon which Independence Hall and the US Mint in Philadelphia stand!

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2010.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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