Family history research is full of terms that you may never have encountered before you began constructing your tree. Every genealogist, no matter how experienced, will find themselves pulling out the dictionary as they dig deeper into history.
One of our favorite resources to draw from when encountering a word or phrase that we have not heard before is the Glossary of Genealogical Terms, an incredibly helpful wiki on FamilySearch. The glossary does an excellent job of providing a wide variety of definitions for common and unusual terms that you may come across in your research–including those related to historical documents and events, places, resources and foreign languages.
Here are 10 genealogical terms that can be confusing when you first encounter them. They represent only a tiny sample of those found in the wiki mentioned above. You can take full advantage of the Glossary of Genealogical Terms here.
A table that lists the name and date and place of birth, marriage, and death for an individual and specified number of his or her ancestors. The first individual on the list is number one, the father is number two, the mother is number three, the paternal grandfather is number four, the paternal grandmother is number five, and so forth. Ahnentafel is a German word meaning ancestor chart or ancestor table. This chart is also called a continental pedigree.
Census enumeration district
The geographic area assigned to one census taker, who was known as an enumerator. The size of the enumeration district depended on the number of people living in the area. The enumerator was responsible to collect information about every person in the district on a specific night. Several enumeration districts make up a section of the census known as a census piece or bundle.
Family group record
A printed form that lists a family—parents and children—and gives information about dates and places of birth, marriage, and death. Also called a family group sheet.
An organization in which membership is based on descent from an individual who served during a particular military conflict; participated in a certain patriotic cause; immigrated from a particular country; was a founder or pioneer of a state; had royal, noble, or baronial lineage; had a particular occupation; or lived during a particular time period. Also called a lineage society.
A piece of land given or sold to an individual or institution by the government.
A written guarantee or promise of payment made by the groom or another individual to ensure that a forthcoming marriage would be legal.
PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)
A bibliography of articles appearing in genealogical periodicals and an index to the people and topics covered in the articles.
The process of dividing an individual’s belongings among the heirs and paying expenses and debts.
An individual who is subject to a tax.
Financial support provided from a husband’s estate for the care of his widow and her children. Also called 12-months support.
Image: “In this picture V. Valta Parma, Curator of the Rare Book Division at Congressional Library, is showing Ethel Hearn the first and present Webster dictionaries,” March 21st, 1938, Library of Congress