OLD TIME DEFINITIONS
Some old-time definitions that you might
have run into during reading old documents, diaries, etc.
Some are rather obscure -
Fabrick lands - land given for the maintenance, building,
repairing of churches, or earlier, cathedrals.
Factor - one appointed by law and who is charged for caring for
Fancy man - a male lover.
Fancy woman - a prostitute or mistress
Fanning mill - a machine used to separate dust & chaff from grain
by using a stream of air.
Fardinagle - 1/4th of an acre
Farmer - not only one who farmed, but could also apply to a tax
Farren - 1/2 an acre
Fashion baby - a doll used like a mannequin today to show the
latest clothing styles. It was used not only by stores but by
Fashioner - tailor
Faverer - the Norman name for February
F C P - free person of color
Feather merchant - a loafer or idler who does not have an
Federalist - member of a political party which endorsed the
adoption of the Federal Constitution/
Filler: one who chopped down trees. They used a felling axe.
Fellmonger: one who removes hair from animal hides to prepare for
Feman: outlaw, fugitive
Feme-covert: married woman - wife
Feme sole trader: An unmarried woman who was allowed by law to
hold, buy, sell, trade or dispose of property in her own name.
Fence viewer: one who supervised boundary lines & construction
fences/walls along these boundaries.
Festing penny: earnest money
Field bed: Either a small canopy bed or one used for sleeping
Field officer: an officer who was out in the field with other
troops unlike the commanding officer who stayed in his quarters
Filia fratris: niece -brother's daughter
Filial portions: a child's inheritance
Filia Vsororis: niece - sister's daughter
Filia vitrici: step-sister
Fillus popula: a bastard child, also known as "a son of the
Fingerboards: a sign with a pointing finger on it showing the
direction to the next town.
Five civilized tribes: Used to designate the Cherokee, Chickasaw,
Choctaw, Cree and Seminole Indiants - considered to be more civilized.
Flat milk: skimmed milk. Also called fleet milk.
Flirt-gill: a woman with low moral standards
Flirting and removing:: moving to another house
Flock bed: mattress is stuffed with cotton or wool pieces
discarded from sewing and cut into small pieces.
F. L. T. - found on tombstones of those belong to the IOOF -
"Friendship. Love, Truth"
Fluttergrub: one who labored in the fields
Fly-land: a small amount of land.
F. M. - free mulatto
F/O: father of
F. O. E.; Fraternal Order of Eagles
Folio: both sides of the page is used - sometimes the reverse
side was not numbered but considered part of the first.
Foot pad: A thief that is on foot
Form: In Quaker records, meant formerly
Forsary: one who worked in the kitchen as a slave
Foss: a pit full of water used to drown criminals
Garrison House - a house, usually
log, which was fortified against invasion. Every village had one - well
constructed, with a low door and small slits in order to fire through.
Gate Room - a yard or a horse's paddock.
Gatling gun - about 1862 - a light gun mounted on a pair of
wheels & mobile - able to be fired rapidly.
Gauky - one who was a clown or awkward and clumsy.
Gazette - newspaper.
Gemman - gentleman.
Geneat - tenant farmer.
Gentleman of fortune - pirate
Genus - ancestry
German - one's brother
German Baptists - also called Brethren or Dunkers
Gib door - a dutch style door where one could let out the family
cat or dog.
Ginner - cotton gin operator
Glass tax - a tax once imposed on glass windows
GLD - General Land Office
Glove money - tips given to slaves.
Goat house - brothel
Gold finder - a privy cleaner!
Good brother - brother-in-law
Goodfather - father-in-law or step-father
Goodman - a male head of the house in colonial days.
Goodsire - grandfather.
Goodsister - sister-in-law
Goodson - son-in-law
Goodwife - housewife
Goodwoman - wife
Goose Fest - Christmas
Goosehouse - a temporary prison - note - wonder if this became
G O P - Grand Old Party
Gospeller - evangelist
Gossone - godson
Grace wife - midwife
Graduate - physician
Gramfer/grammer - grandfather and grandmother
Grange: A social & cultural society for and by farmers.
Granny: an old woman, grandmother or midwife.
Grant: a land grant was issued for military duty by a special Act of
Grantee: Buyer of property
Grantor: Seller of property
Grass widow: An unmarried woman who has had a child.
Grave deed: Document issued by a church or cemetery company to the
purchaser of a plot.
Grayback: Confederate soldier - also called a gray coat or gray jacket.
Sometimes used to refer to paper money issued by the
Confederacy. Great guns: Canons.
Greenback: Member of a political party after the end of the Civil War
who opposed the reduction in the amount of paper money in circulation at
that time. Also refers to actual money.
Green sickness: Anemia.
Grenadier: soldier who threw grenades.
Groop: Cattle pen.
Groove: A mine or mine shaft.
Ground rent: Fee charged for farm land when it was rented to a tenant.
Guardian: One appointed by the court to oversee the affairs of a minor.
Those over age 14 or above were sometimes allowed to pick their own
guardian. Mothers were not always considered fit to be the child's
guardian but a father was.
Guardian ad litem: "for the term of" - appointed by court to handle one
particular court action.
1/h, 2/h, etc: First husband, 2nd husband, etc.
Habeas Corpus: "That you have the body". Legal document ordering jailers
to produce a prisoner in their custody.
Habere Facias Prossessionem: Writ of ejectment from land, restoring the
land to the rightful owner. Also shown as het fa.
Hack: a pick axe or hoe.
Hackle: Used to comb flax or hemp before spinning.
Hackle board: Tool used by a rope maker.
Half-baptized: Death bed baptism.
Half-blood: only one parent in common.
Half-dime: First coin minted in the USA in 1792.
Half mourning: The period of time after the full mourning period of one
year is over. The black attire was replaced by lighter pastels and
Half-named: Privately baptized.
Half orphan: Only one parent is dead.
Handbarrow: Wheelbarrow - no wheel, pulled by two people.
Hand cannon: musket
Hand woman: Midwife
Hanging month: November
Hard Shell: Member of either a political
party or a strict church.
Hard tack: Cracker eaten by troops.
Hardware: Liquor, weapons or tools
Harman-beck: A local constable.
Harrow: heavy beams fastened together in rectangular or triangular shape
with 20-40 iron teeth or tines. Pulled over the ground to break up the
Harvest lady: 2nd reaper in a row; first reaper was called the harvest
Hashmark: Number of stripes on a slave's back or the number of stripes
on an enlisted man's sleeve.
Hawk: to sell goods as a peddler or to spread rumors.
Hay house: hayloft.
Head money: poll tax.
Headright: public land which was given to the head of the family.
Headsman: Executioner, leader or commander.
Hedare: one who beheads others.
Hedgepriest: an uneducated minister.
Heir apparent: Individual most likely to receive an estate.
Heir-at-law: Normally the eldest son.
Heirs & Assigns: absolute ownership of land or property granted.
Hematemesis: vomiting blood.
Hepatitis: liver inflammation.
Hereditaments: all property that can be inherited.
Heres esse alicul: naming of a person to make him one's heir.
Hic lacet: "here lies ____ (name)
Hic sepulture: "here is buried ___ (name).
Hicksite Quakers: a branch of Quakers who believed women cannot
participate in any church service.
High Church: Normally an Anglican (Church of England) church whose
services are very formal.
High Court: Superior court, Supreme Court.
Highwayman: a robber, usually mounted.
High Yellow: a black person whose skin is light.
Hip gout: osteomyelitis
Hireling Minister: Paid minister
H L S: Hic Loco Situs - laid in this place.
Hoc mense: This month
Hogshead: Barrel containing 60-140 gallons of liquid or 750-1200
pounds of tobacco.
Holographic will: One thought to be written in the handwriting of
the one who wrote it.
Home lot: The piece or plot of land where a home is situated.
Homestead: Where the family lives - can include house, barns &
Homestead Act of 1862: Law passed by Congress which gave a
settler 160 acres of land after he
had planted and cultivated it for 5 years. He was then made exempt from
Horse & foot: Calvary and infantry.
Horse Artillery: Part of the artillery which serves in
cooperation with calvary units - has cannoners on horseback.
Horse leech: Vet for horses.
Hot evil: Fever
Hougher: One who publicly whipped criminals or executed them.
Household: All people living in one house whether they were
related or not.
HRIP: Hic Requiescit in Pace - here rests in peace.
Huckster: A peddler who traveled the streets. Also called badgers
Hunk: A mean older man of miser.
Hydrothorax: Excess fluid in the chest cavity.
Ignoramus: When less than 12 members of a jury agree; case was
dismissed & party freed.
Ileus: An intestinal obstruction - colic.
Imparl: To settle a case in peace or get a delay.
Impedigo: Inflammation of the skin, normally found in children.
Impressment: Forced service in a battle.
Imprimis: "In the first place" - found mainly in wills
Improved: Where a home had been built or crops planted.
In articula mortis: Near the point of death.
In chancery, upon petition: A case in chancery court has received
a petition relating to the case.
Incompetent: One who is unable to handle his own affairs.
Indentured servant: One who was unable to pay his own fare to
America and worked out the cost
of the trip to someone. The Captain "sold" him to another monied
passenger, the individual had to serve this individual for a given
amount of years.
Independent Planter: One who farmed his own land with only help
from the family.
Indian Wars: 1838-1891 when Indians were pushed to the western
part of the US.
Indictment: Written notice to the court stating a grand jury has
found reason to bring a criminal matter to court.
Ind. W. C.: Indian Wars Widow's Certificate
In esse: Alive. Indicated sometimes when a child is not named or
a child conceived but not born.
In extremis: "In hs last moments".
Infair: Days following a wedding where the party continued.
Madstone: a poultice composed of natural or man-made materials
which has been soaked in warm sweet milk or water. Very well know; it
was believed to cure rabies when applied to the site of the wound. In
this area of the state, a madstone was taken from the body of a deer; if
the bite was not poisonous, the stone would fall off. If the wound
was poisonous, the stone would adhere. Madstones were passed from
generation to generation.
Magistrate: government official, non-military, allowed to issue
Mail coach: a special wagon used by the post office, built for
speed; carried 3 passengers.
Maisterman: husband, governor or ruler.
Mala fide: in bad faith; a person attempting to deceive.
Mandamus: special order which demanded an individual who had
signed a contact to do what he had been ordered to do.
Mango: a child who was 7/8ths black.
Mania puerperium: postpartum blues.
Manumission: freeing of a slave
Marasmus: wasting away of the body - also called emaciation
March stone: a stone used to mark a boundary.
Mariti: marriage - also shown maritus.
Marker: surveyor's assistant who marked the lines.
Marriage bond: money which was promised, normally by the parent
or close relative. Showed there was no legal or moral reason why the
couple couldn't marry. If the marriage was not conducted, the money was
Marriage certificate: document completed by the minister showing
the marriage took place.
Marriage contract: Normally found when one or both of the parties
had been married previously,they sought to protect their holdings from
the previous marriage.
Marriage contrary to discipline: A Quaker term implying the
individuals had been married in a civil ceremony
Marriage license: issued by the county who gave consent for the
marriage to take place.
Marriage register: Book listing all the marriages issued, kept in
county clerk's office.
Marriage return: Completed by the minister showing the names &
dates of the marriage.
Marriage settlement: document completed by the couple if
necessary before marriage which could handle things such as
inheritances, raising of children from a previous marriage - a
Mason: one who shaped or laid bricks, stones, etc.
Masonic lodge: fraternal organization.
Master-in-Chancery: assistant judge who heard various cases &
made recommendation to the judge.
Matron: married or mature woman.
Mattock: a digging tool similar to a pick axe.
Maw bound: constipated
McClellan saddle: standard issue saddle in the US Cavalry units.
Next friend/next best friend: An individual who was not the legal
guardian, but one who filed suit for an infant or one incapable of doing
it themselves. Usually a relative but could be a lawyer or other
Night riders: Men on horseback who rode together after dark to
subdue the recently freed Blacks but who also attacked tobacco growers
in KY re forming an association. Also known as the Ku Klux Klan or
NMI: No middle initial.
NMN: No middle name
Nolle prosequi: No further prosecution
Nola contendere: I will not contest it.
Non assumpsit: He did not promise.
Non compos mentis: Not of sound mind.
Non culpabilis: Not guilty
Non ficet: He did not make it.
Non-resident: Lived outside the area cited.
Non vivus: Still born or not alive.
Note of hand: an IOU.
Old Lights: Orthodox Colonial clergymen.
Old milk: Skimmed milk.
Old Style Calendar: Before 1752
Onset: a house or out building.
Opiate: Sedative or narcotic to induse sleep.
Opine: State your opinion.
Opium: Drug made from the dried juice of poppies.
Oral will: Spoken - normally a death-bed will.
Ordinary: tavern or inn
Orphan: Minor child who has lost one or both parents. Sometimes
called this when only the father has died.
O. S. Old style calendar.
Outlot: Land outside the city limits
Outriders: Baliff hired by the sheriff to issue summons
Outsettler: One who lives in a distant area.
Over live: Outlive.
Oyer: to hear
Oyer & Terminal Court: Occurred when a circuit rider judge
appeared in the county.
Pace: approximately 2 1/2 feet
Pack Monday: First Monday after the 10th of October
Pantalets: Long bloomers for a lady which showed under the dress
Pantaloons: Close-fitting trousers with straps down to under the
soles of the feet
Parcel: Land with a specific boundary.
Passing Bell: A bell (normally a church bell) rung announcing a
Patent entry books: Kept by county clerks, recorded original land
patents for county.
Patent land: The 1st deed to land from the government.
Pennyroyal: Plant of the mint family found in parts of KY. - rare
Per diem: Per day or by the day.
Piet court: Small claims court.
Photograph type- positive: Daguerreotype (1839-1860) "
Ambrotyes - 1850s and 1860s " Tintypes - 1850-1930s " Salted
paper prints - 1839 - 1860s " Albumen prints - 1850s-1860s
"Silver gelatin prints - 1880s to present "Gelatin dry plates -
Phrennitis: Inflammation of the brain, causes deliriums
Phtiriasis: Lice infested
Phthsis: TB of the lungs, coal mainer's black lung
Pigeon pair: Twins, one of each gender.
P. J. P. : Probate Judge of the Peace
Plaintiff: One who starts a lawsuit against another.
Plank road: Made of wood which didn't last but a few years.
Normally found only on the right side of the road into a town with the
left side left dirt for the farmers.
Plantation: Large house or homestead.
Plantation house: Main dwelling on a farm.
Planter: Farmer with normally more than 100 acres
Plot: Small piece of land similar to a garden sized plot.
Ploughman: Farmer or laborer.
Plow tree: Handle of a plow to be pushed or pulled by man and
Pointing horse: A farmer's tool.
Poke day: An appointed day when a farmer paid an allowance in
cord to his laborers.
Pole: 16 1/2 feet.
Poleman: Assistant to the surveyor
Poll: Person was free to vote if he had paid his taxes and was 21
years of age or older. At age 50, many were exempted from paying the
Poor accounts: Records of the distribution of money to the poor.
Poor school: Public school *
Postage currency: When money was short after the end of the Civil
War, postage stamps were used as legal tender. This failed because the
stamps sold out - got wet, stuck to the men's purses, etc.
Posthumous child: Born after the death of the father.
Post Rider: Mail person who rode a horse to deliver the mail.
Post road: The mail route taken by the post rider.
Post town: The town with the main post office.
Potter's field: Cemetery for paupers, those who had committed
suicide and those who had been executed. It could be an area set aside
in a main cemetery.
Prairie breaker: One who received free land from the government
and lived there while improving it.
Pre-exemption: The legal right to obtain land when the government
requirements had been fulfilled.
Presents: The statement of the grand jury in a court case.
Pretermitted child: Child was born after the father's will had
been executed - thus the child was not mentioned in the will.
Prima facie: at first view
Probate: The process of settling an estate
Processioner: A surveyor who determined property boundaries.
Public domain land: Belonging to the government, reserved for
special purposes such as parks, reservations, etc.
Pueperal: refers to childbirth.
Putative father: Alleged father of an illegitimate child.
Putrid fever: diptheria
Subsister - a prisoner who had no money
Substitute soldier - one who served in the service for another,
paid by the man who should have served.
Sunday Saint - One who was always in church for services but was
also known as a cheat or reviler the rest of the week.
Surety - one who volunteered to be liable for the debts of
another if the other person defaulted.
Surrogate wife - mistress
Survey - locating land accurately by metes and bounds
Sustre - sister
Sutor/Sutter - a cobbler or shoe maker
Sutton's Law - named for Dr. William Sutton, 1st president of the
KY State Medical Assn regarding the collection of vital statistics for
KY of births and deaths & marriages. Law was in effect Jan 1852 through
29 Aug 1862.
Swamp sickness - milk sickness
Sward - a sodded acre of land
Sweating sickness - caused profuse sweating & also known as day
Swele - tumor or swelling
Swinacle - quisy
Swizzle - mixture of ale and beer
Tabellarius - record keeper
Tabler - one who kept boarders
Taedium vitdae - weakness of life
Talesman - the last man chosen to complete a jury when other had
been excused for various reasons.
Tall cock - Grandfather clock
Tansy - a herb used in cooking
Ta house - inn or tavern
tapster - bartender
tattoo - nighttime bugle call that preceded taps - also known as
the evening gun.
taxables - Those liable for paying takes - 16 & older males; some
paupers, disabled individuals and some ministers excluded. If a man was
over 53 and didn't have any males in his household of military age, they
were sometimes double taxed for their real & personal property.
Tax list - the list of those due to pay tax for themselves, white
males over 16, cattle, horses, carriages, etc. If a woman's name is
found, she was normally a widow. If a young man is shown with very
little and there is a man nearby and that man suddenly has one less
horse, cow &c, it is possible that this is the father.
Teamer - a team of 5 horses
Temulence - drunk
Tenancy at will - a rental agreement continuing as long as the
parties desire and ended by a written notice.
Terce - a widow's life rent allowed as part of her husband's
estate. She must have been married for at least a year and a day and
have a child.
Test/teste - attest
Testamentary guardian - one named by the father in his will or in
Testament testamentor - executor was named by the deceased in his
Testate - died without leaving a will
Testator - one making the will
Testatrix - female who makes a will.
Tetter - skin eruption
The Late Hostility - Civil War
The Lost Cause - Civil War
The Recent Unpleasantness - Civil War
The Southern Uprising - Civil War
Third father - great-grandfather
Thorowstone - flat gravestone
Throw-out land - land that has become worthless because the land
wasn't rested or the same crop was planted year after year.
Thundering minister/preacher - a visiting or itinerant preacher
known for his "hell & brimstone" preaching.
Tintype - a positive style photograph on a thin iron plant which
has been coated with a thin layer of tin to keep it from rusting. Also
known as ferrotype.
Tippling house - tavern
Tirewoman - milliner
* Note that in
older times, it was considered that the "subscription schools" were far
superior to the "public schools" that we have now. It was felt that if
the parents were willing to pay for their child's attendance at a
subscription school, that they would receive a better education. Many
subscription schools, though taught sometimes by an individual with
limited education themselves, taught Latin, Greek, Astronomy, higher
literature, higher math etc. than the public schools. Many times, but
not always, when one reads in a biography that an individual attended
the "common schools" of the county - it was referring to a government
run, public school.
to be continued - Sandi