Glossary of Legal Terms

From Jefferson County NY Wiki

Glossary of Legal Terms (specifically for Deeds and Wills)[edit | edit source]

ABSTRACT - Summary of important points of a given text, especially

deeds and wills.

ACRE - See measurements.

ADMINISTRATION (of estate) - The collection, management and

distribution of an estate by proper legal process.

ADMINISTRATOR (of estate) - Person appointed to manage or divide

the estate of a deceased person.

ADMINISTRATRIX - A female administrator.

AFFIDAVIT - A statement in writing, sworn to before proper authority.

ALIEN - Foreigner.

AMERICAN REVOLUTION - U.S. war for independence from Great

Britain 1775-1783.

ANCESTOR - A person from whom you are descended; a forefather.

ANTE - Latin prefix meaning before, such as in ante-bellum

South, "The South before the war"

APPRENTICE - One who is bound by indentures or by legal agreement

or by any means to serve another person for a certain time,

with a view of learning an art or trade.

APPURTENANCE - That which belongs to something else such as a

building, orchard, right of way, etc.

ARCHIVES - Records of a government, organization, institution; the

place where records are stored.

ATTEST - To affirm; to certify by signature or oath.

BANNS - Public announcement of intended marriage.

BENEFICIARY - One who receives benefit of trust or property.

BEQUEATH - To give personal property to a person in a

will. Noun --bequest.

BOND - Written, signed, witnessed agreement requiring payment of a

specified amount of money on or before a given date.

BOUNTY LAND WARRANT - A right to obtain land, specific number of

acres of unallocated public land, granted for military service.

CENSUS - Official enumeration, listing or counting of citizens.

CERTIFIED COPY - A copy made and attested to by officers having

charge of the original and authorized to give copies.

CHAIN - See measurements.

CHATTEL - Personal property which can include animate as well as

inanimate properties.

CHRISTEN - To receive or initiate into the visible church by baptism;

to name at baptism; to give a name to.

CIRCA - About, near, or approximate -- usually referring to a date.

CIVIL WAR - War between the States; war between North and South,


CODICIL - Addition to a will.

COLLATERAL ANCESTOR - Belong to the same ancestral stock but not in

direct line of descent; opposed to lineal such as aunts,

uncles & cousins.

COMMON ANCESTOR - Ancestor shared by any two people.

CONFEDERATE - Pertaining to the Southern states which seceded from

the U.S. in 1860 - 1, their government and their citizens.

CONSANGUINITY - Blood relationship.

CONSORT - Usually, a wife whose husband is living

CONVEYANCE - See deed.

COUSIN - Relative descended from a common ancestor, but not a brother

or sister.

DAUGHTER-IN-LAW - Wife of one's son.


DECEDENT - A deceased person.

DECLARATION OF INTENTION - First paper, sworn to and filed in court,

by an alien stating that he wants to be come a citizen.

DEED - A document by which title in real property is transferred

from one party to another.

DEPOSITION - A testifying or testimony taken down in writing under

oath of affirmation in reply to interrogatories, before a

competent officer to replace to oral testimony of a witness.

DEVISE - Gift of real property by will.

DEVISEE - One to whom real property (land) is given in a will.

DEVISOR - One who gives real property in a will.

DISSENTER - One who did not belong to the established church,

especially the Church of England in the American colonies.

DISTRICT LAND OFFICE PLAT BOOK - Books or rather maps which show

the location of the land patentee.

DISTRICT LAND OFFICE TRACT BOOK - Books which list individual

entries by range and township.

DOUBLE DATING - A system of double dating used in England and

America from 1582-1752 because it was not clear as to

whether the year commenced January 1 or March 25

DOWER - Legal right or share which a wife acquired by marriage

in the real estate of her husband, allotted to her after

his death for her lifetime.

EMIGRANT - One leaving a country and moving to another.

ENUMERATION - Listing or counting , such as a census.

EPITAPH - An inscription on or at a tomb or grave in memory of the

one buried there.

ESCHEAT - The reversion of property to the state when there are no

qualified heirs.

ESTATE - All property and debts belonging to a person.

ET AL - Latin for "and others".

ET UX - Latin for "and wife".

ET UXOR - And his wife. Sometimes written simply Et Ux.

EXECUTOR - One appointed in a will to carry out its provisions.

Female = Executrix

FATHER-IN-LAW - Father of one's spouse.

FEE - An estate of inheritance in land, being either fee simple or

fee tail.

An estate in land held of a feudal lord on condition of the performing of

certain services.

FEE SIMPLE - An absolute ownership without restriction.

FEE TAIL - An estate of inheritance limited to lineal descendant

heirs of a person to whom it was granted.

FRANKLIN, STATE OF - An area once known but never officially

recognized and was under consideration from 1784 - 1788

from the western part of North Carolina.

FRATERNITY - Group of men (or women) sharing a common purpose or


FREE HOLD - An estate in fee simple, in fee tail, or for life.

FRIEND - Member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.

FURLONG - See measurements.

GAZETTEER - A geographical dictionary; a book giving names and

descriptions of places usually in alphabetical order.

GENEALOGY - Study of family history and descent.

GENTLEMAN - A man well born.

GIVEN NAME - Name given to a person at birth or baptism, one's

first and middle names.

GLEBE - Land belonging to a parish church.

GRANTEE - One who buys property or receives a grant.

GRANTOR - One who sells property or makes a grant.

GREAT-AUNT - Sister of one's grandparent.

GREAT-UNCLE - Brother of one's grandparent.

GUARDIAN - Person appointed to care for and manage property of a

minor orphan or an adult incompetent of managing his own affairs.

HALF BROTHER/HALF SISTER - Child by another marriage of one's

mother or father; the relationship of two people who have

only one parent in common.

HEIRS - Those entitled by law or by the terms of a will to

inherit property from another.

HOLOGRAPHIC WILL - One written entirely in the testator's own


HOMESTEAD ACT - Law passed by Congress in 1862 allowing a head of a

family to obtain title to 160 acres of public land after

clearing and improving it for 5 years.

HUGUENOT - A French Protestant in the 16th and 17th centuries. One

of the reformed or calvinistic communion who were driven by

the thousands into exile in England, Holland, Germany and America.

ILLEGITIMATE - Born to a mother who was not married to the child's father.

IMMIGRANT - One moving into a country from another.

INDENTURE - Today it means a contract in 2 or more copies.

Originally made in 2 parts by cutting or tearing a single

sheet across the middle in a jagged line so the two parts

may later be matched.

INDENTURED SERVANT - One who bound himself into service of another

person for a specified number of years, often in return for

transportation to this country.

INFANT - Any person not of full age; a minor.

INSTANT - Of or pertaining to the current month. (Abbreviated inst.)

INTESTATE - One who dies without a will or dying without a will.

INVENTORY - An account, catalog or schedule, made by an executor or

administrator of all the goods and chattels and sometimes of

the real estate of a deceased person.

ISSUE - Offspring; children; lineal descendants of a common ancestor.

LATE - Recently deceased.

LEASE - An agreement which creates a landlord - tenant situation.

LEGACY - Property or money left to someone in a will

LEGISLATURE - Lawmaking branch of state or national government;

elected group of lawmakers.

LIEN - A claim against property as security for payment of a debt.

LINEAGE - Ancestry; direct descent from a specific ancestor.

LINEAL - Consisting of or being in as direct line of ancestry or

descendants; descended in a direct line.

LINK - See measurements.

LIS PENDENS - Pending court action; usually applies to land title claims.

LODGE - A chapter or meeting hall of a fraternal organization.

LOYALIST - Tory, an American colonist who supported the British side

during the American Revolution.

MAIDEN NAME - A girl's last name or surname before she marries.

MANUSCRIPT - A composition written with the hand as an ancient book

or an un-printed modern book or music.

MARRIAGE BOND - A financial guarantee that no impediment to the

marriage existed, furnished by the intended bridegroom or by

his friends.

MATERNAL - Related through one's mother, such as a Maternal

grandmother being the mother's mother.

MEASUREMENTS - Link - 7.92 inches; Chain - 100 Links or

66 feet; Furlong - 1000 Links or 660 feet; Rod - 5 1/2 yds

or 16 1/2 ft (also called a perch or pole); Rood - From 5 1/2

yards to 8 yards, depending on locality; Acre - 43,560 square

ft or 160 square rods.

MESSUAGE - A dwelling house.

METES & BOUNDS - Property described by natural boundaries, such as

3 notches in a white oak tree, etc.

MICROFICHE - Sheet of microfilm with greatly reduced images of pages

of documents.

MICROFILM - Reproduction of documents on film at reduced size.

MIGRANT - Person who moves from place to place, usually in search

of work

MIGRATE - To move from one country or state or region to another.

(Noun migration)

MILITIA - Citizens of a state who are not part of the national

military forces but who can be called into military service in

an emergency; a citizen army, apart from the regular military


MINOR - One who is under legal age; not yet a legal adult.

MISTER - In early times, a title of respect given only to those who

held important civil officer or who were of gentle blood.

MOIETY - A half; an indefinite portion

MORTALITY - Death; death rate.

MORTALITY SCHEDULES - Enumeration of persons who died during the

year prior to June 1 of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 in each

state of the United States, conducted by the bureau of census.

MORTGAGE - A conditional transfer of title to real property as

security for payment of a debt.

MOTHER-IN-LAW - Mother of one's spouse.

NAMESAKE - Person named after another person.

NECROLOGY - Listing or record of persons who have died recently.

NEE - Used to identify a woman's maiden name; born with the surname of.

NEPHEW - Son of one's brother or sister.

NIECE - Daughter of one's brother or sister.

NONCUPATIVE WILL - One declared or dictated by the testator, usually

for persons in last sickness, sudden illness, or military.

ORPHAN - Child whose parents are dead; sometimes, a child who has

lost one parent by death.

ORPHAN'S COURT - Orphans being recognized as wards of the states,

provisions were made for them in special courts.

PASSENGER LIST - A ships list of passengers, usually referring to

those ships arriving in the US from Europe.

PATENT - Grant of land from a government to an individual.

PATERNAL - Related to one's father. Paternal grandmother is the

father's mother.

PATRIOT - One who loves his country and supports its interests.

PEDIGREE - Family tree; ancestry.

PENSION - Money paid regularly to an individual, especially by a

government as reward for military service during wartime or

upon retirement from government service.

PENSIONER - One who receives a pension.

PERCH - See measurements.

POLE - See measurements.

POLL - List or record of persons, especially for taxing or voting.

POST - Latin prefix meaning after, as in post-war economy.

POSTERITY - Descendants; those who come after.

POWER OF ATTORNEY - When a person in unable to act for himself,

he appoints another to act in his behalf.

PRE - Latin prefix meaning before, as in pre-war military build-up.

PRE-EMOTION RIGHTS - Right given by the federal government to

citizens to buy a quarter section of land or less.

PROBATE - Having to do with wills and the administration of estates.

PROGENITOR - A direct ancestor.

PROGENY - Descendants of a common ancestor; issue.

PROVEDb WILL - A will established as genuine by probate court.

PROVOST - A person appointed to superintend, or preside over something.

PROXIMO - In the following month, in the month after the present one.

PUBLIC DOMAIN - Land owned by the government.

QUAKER - Member of the Religious Society of Friends.

QUITCLAIM - A deed conveying the interest of the party at that time.

RECTOR - A clergyman; the ruler or governor of a country.

RELICT - Widow; surviving spouse when one has died, husband or wife.

REPUBLIC - Government in which supreme authority lies with the people

or their elected representatives.

REVOLUTIONARY WAR - U.S. War for Independence from Great Britain

1775 - 1783.

ROD - See measurements.

ROOD - See measurements.

SHAKER - Member of a religious group formed in 1747 which practiced

communal living and celibacy.

SIBLING - Person having one or both parents in common with another;

a brother or sister.

SIC - Latin meaning thus; copied exactly as the original reads.

Often suggests a mistake or surprise in the original.

SON-IN-LAW - Husband of one's daughter.

SPINSTER - A woman still unmarried; or one who spins.

SPONSOR - A bondsman; surety.

SPOUSE - Husband or wife.


STEP-BROTHER / STEP-SISTER - Child of one's step-father or step-mother.

STEP-CHILD - Child of one's husband or wife from a previous marriage.

STEP-FATHER - Husband of one's mother by a later marriage.

STEP-MOTHER - Wife of one's father by a later marriage.

SURNAME - Family name or last name.

TERRITORY - Area of land owned by the United States, not a state, but

having its own legislature and governor.

TESTAMENTARY - Pertaining to a will.

TESTATE - A person who dies leaving a valid will.

TESTATOR - A person who makes a valid will before his death.

TITHABLE - Taxable.

TITHE - Formerly, money due as a tax for support of the clergy or church.

TORY - Loyalist; one who supported the British side in the American Revolution.

TOWNSHIP - A division of U.S. public land that contained 36 sections,

or 36 square miles. Also a subdivision of the county in many

Northeastern and Midwestern states of the U.S.

TRADITION - The handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs,

genealogies, etc. from generation to generation, especially by

word of mouth.

TRANSCRIBE - To make a copy in writing.

ULTIMO - In the month before this one.

UNION - The United States; also the North during the Civil War, the

states which did not secede.

VERBATIM - Word for word; in the same words, verbally.

VITAL RECORDS - Records of birth, death, marriage or divorce.

VITAL STATISTICS - Data dealing with birth, death, marriage or divorce.

WAR BETWEEN THE STATES - U.S. Civil War, 1861 - 1865.

WARD - Chiefly the division of a city for election purposes.

WILL - Document declaring how a person wants his property divided

after his death.

WITNESS - One who is present at a transaction, such as a sale of

land or signing of a will, who can testify or affirm that it

actually took place.

WPA HISTORICAL RECORDS SURVEY - A program undertaken by the US

Government 1935 - 1936 in which inventories were compiled of

historical material.

YEOMAN - A servant, an attendant or subordinate official in a royal

household; a subordinate of a sheriff; an independent farmer.

See Also[edit | edit source]

Historical Glossaries and References