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Researcher Tips: Terminology in Old Records


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Definitions of Some Words Used in Early Documents (1700s and 1800s)
Information Provided by Von Stachon for Use By the USGenWeb


Some words have many meanings; listed here are the definitions that pertain to wills, deeds, land patents & inventories. All words listed here were found in these documents.

abettor, abetter One who abets, or incites, aids, or encourages another to commit a crime. The legal form of the word is abettor.
adz, adze An ax-like tool with an arching blade at right angles to the handle ground from a base on its inside to an outer edge, used for dressing wood, etc.
alien To make over (as property). Alienee: one to whom property is transferred.
ancient In law: having twenty, thirty or more years continuous existence; used specifically in cases of defective proof; as, an ancient boundary.
Anne, Lady Queen of Great Britain 1702-1714, daughter of James II
Anno Domini A. D.
approbation To approve; sanction
archangel An angel of high rank
batting Cotton sheets prepared for use in making quilts
bbl An abbreviation used for barrel (1 barrel equals 31-1/2 gal)
behoof Advantage, profit
behoove To be necessary, proper, or advantageous; to be necessary, fit or proper
bolster A long pillow or cushion extending the full width of a bed
capite Tenant in capite or tenant in chief; formerly in England, one who held land immediately of the king. According to the feudal system, all lands in England were considered as held immediately or mediately of the king, but the tenants, however, were considered as having the fee of the lands and permanent possession.
capitation A direct uniform tax imposed on each head
card To comb or open as wool, flax, cotton, etc. with a card for purposes of cleansing it of extraneous matter; separating the coarse parts and making it fine and soft for spinning.
caske Casks of large sizes called tierces, pipes, butts, tuns, etc. do not hold any fixed quantity - quantity usually marked on them.
chain In general, a measuring instrument of 100 links used in surveying; a unit equal to 66 feet
clerk, Cl. A man who can read & write; a man of letters; a scholar (archaic) This would apply to the court person whose name appears at the end of Wills and other court documents.
cock The style or gnomon of a sundial (one inventory list showed 1 brass cock and sun dial)
consort Wife of the deceased
cooper One whose occupation is to make and repair barrels and casks of various kinds
coulter A knife in the form of an iron blade or sharp edged wheel, attached to the beam of a plow to make vertical cuts in the soil & facilitate the work of the plow share.
court of record A court whose acts and jusicial proceedings are written down for permanent keeping
coven Agreement
covenant To agree. A written agreement or promise - usually under seal between two or more parties
cruet A vial or small glass bottle; particularly one used on the table for holding vinegar oil, etc.
crupper The loop in a harness passing under the tail; also a similar strap attached to a saddle
cryer, crier A person who shouts out announcements of news, court orders,etc.
crying Calling for immediate notice or remedy
dedimus A writ to commission private persons to do some act in place of a judge, as to examine a witness
demise The conveyance of an estate; transfer of the sovereignty to a successor; a cessation of existence or activity; death
depute To appoint as a substitute or agent to act for another
devise A gift of real property by Will
devolve To pass (on) to another; said of duties
dimity A light weight cotton fabric with fine twills much used for dresses; also a stout cotton fabric used for upholstering
do Abbreviation for ditto
dog (dogg) Simple mechanical device for holding, gripping or fastening consisting of a spike, rod or bar; andiron.
dr An abbreviation for debtor; also for doctor
dsp Died without issue
ejecon (ejection) To throw out; cast out
ell A former measure of different lengths; used chiefly for measuring cloth; an English ell was 45 inches
emoluments Gain, profit, advantage
entayle (entail) To restrict (property) by limiting the inheritance to the owner's line descendants or to a particular class thereof; to impose, involve or imply as a necessary accompaniment or result
enure (inure) Use, custom. To accustom; to accept something undesirable.
escuage In feudal law, a kind of tenure by Knight service, by which a tenant was bound to follow his lord to war.
evite To show; to avoid (archaic)
evitation The act of avoiding
everse To overthrow or subvert (obs)
extents Valuation (as of land) in Great Britain, esp. for taxation; a writ giving a creditor temporary possession of his debtor's property.
eye The hole in the upper millstone through which grain passes; also a loop of metal or thread
flax A plant; flax seeds are used to make linseed oil; fibers of the stem are spun to make linen thread.
fizgig Also called fishgig; an instrument for catching fish at sea consisting of a staff with barbed prongs
gaol (jail) British variant of jail
garret A room or unfinished part of the house; just under the roof (in one Will, that's where some slaves were housed)
gimlet, gimblet A small boring tool with a handle at right angles to a shaft having at the other end a spiral pointed cutting edge
hackle, hatchel To separate coarse part of flax or hemp from the fine by drawing through the teeth of a hackle or hatchel.
hereditament Hereditable property
hereditable Capable of being inhereited or of passing by inheritance.
hogshead (hhd) A large barrel or cask, especially one containing from 100 to 140 gallons; also a liquid measure, especially one equal to 63 gallons (52-1/2 imperial gallons)
hone A stone of very fine grit usually of a slaty composition; used to sharpen cutting tools; esp razors; also called a whetstone
howel A plane with a convex sole used by coopers for smoothing the insides of barrels and casks
quit-rent A fixed rent payable to a feudal superior in communication of services - a fixed rent due from a socage tenant
imprimis In the first place; among the first things
indefeazable (indefeasible) Not capable of being annuled or voided or undone
indemnified. Unharmed. To secure against loss or damage
indemnified letter One that rents or leases; such as a farm-letter
livery The act of delivering legal possession of property; the feeding stabling and care of horses for pay; ones retainers or retinue; the apportioning of previsions, esp. to servants
inter-alia Among other things
joynture (jointure) An estate settled on a wife to be taken by her in lieu of dower; a settlement on the wife of a freehold estate for her lifetime
kersey A kind of coarse light-weight woolen cloth, usually ribbed with a cotton warp
last A mold or form of the human foot made of wood on which shoes are built or repaired (later lasts were made of iron)
let A hindrance; obstacle; impediment; delay: used commonly only in the legal phrase, "without let or hindrance"
letter One that rents or leases
let out To lease or rent out
lett suit One document refers to "lett suit trouble" meaning trouble with the ownership of the property (not wishing to have any)
levy To arrange (a fine) in settlement of a suit to establish title to land
livery of seizin The putting of a person in corporal possession of a freehold by performing some ceremony before witnesses which clearly places the party in possession
manumit To set at liberty, free; to release from slavery
manumission Set free; being freed from slavery
moiety A half; one of 2 equal parts; as moiety of an estate
noggin A small mug or cup
nuncupative To declare orally; oral-not written: especially of Wills
outcry A public auction
pence Monetary unit of Great Britain; 12 pence equals 1 shilling, 240 pence equals 1 pound.
peremption A defeat; a quashing; non suit
peremptorilly Absolutely, positively; in a decisive manner
pestle A club-shaped implement for pounding or grinding, stamping or pressing.
piggin A small wooden dipper; also a small wooden pail with a long handle
pole A varying unit of length, esp. one measuring 16-1/2 feet
pone In old English law, a writ whereby an action pending in an inferior court might be removed for trial to a superior one; a writ whereby a sheriff was ordered to take security of a man for his appearance at a specified time.
porringer A small metal vessel for porridge, etc., esp. one for child
pottle Formerly a liquid measure equal to a half gallon; a pot or tankard having this capacity
pound (£) Monetary unit of Great Britain; equal to 1 sovereign, 20 shillings
£.s.d. Librae solide denarii - stands for pounds/shillings/pence. (you will find these symbols at the top of all columns in estate inventories)
provender Dry food for livestock; to provide with food; to feed; to fodder
reap A small bundle of grain
refractory Stubborn, obstinate, hard to manage (used in reference to slaves)
relict Widow
riddle To separate or sift as grain from the chaff
remise To give, grant or release a claim to: deed
rod Equal to 16.5 feet
rundlet A small barrel or cask of varying capacities (archaic); the amount of liquor contained in this an old British liquid measure usually taken as equal to about 18 wine gallons (archaic)
scimitar A saber made of a curved blade with the edge on the convex side and used chiefly by Arabs and Turks (in one Will it was left to his son).
seize To vest ownership of a free hold estate; seizer: one that seizes; seizure: to take possession of person or property by legal process
seizin To seize. In law: possession, specifically possession of a freehold estate
shilling Monetary unit of Great Britain; one shilling equals 12 pence; 1/20th of a pound; written, i.e.: 15/ = 15 shillings.
shoat A young hog
shuck The covering shell or husk of corn; to shuck (corn) is to remove the outer covering.
sickle Cutting tool consisting of a crescent-shaped blade with a short handle used for cutting down tall grasses & weeds
skein A quanatity of thread, silk or yarn wound in a coil (in one inventory it was spelled scains)
socage A tenure of land by agricultural service fixed in amount and kind or by payment of money rent only and not burdened with any military service.
specie A form of payment in gold, silver or other coin as distinguished from paper money
spider A frying pan, originally one with attached legs for use over an open fire
steelyard A balance or scale consisting of a metal arm suspended off center from above: object to be weighed is hung from the shorter end, & a sliding weight is moved along the graduated longer end until whole arm balances.
subjoin To add at the end; to add after something has been said or written; to append (as an item subjoined to a Will)
suite (suit) Suite is archaic form of suit. Action to secure justice in a court of law; attempt to recover a right or claim through legal action
suithold In feudal law, a tenure granted for attendance and services rendered a superior lord
tallow The harder and less fusible fat in cows, sheep, etc; it is used to make candles, soap, etc.
tobo An abbreviation used for tobacco
traces Either of two straps, chains, etc. connecting a draft animal's harness to the vehicle drawn
truss A bundle of hay, especially one of a certain weight (usually 50-60 pounds)
truss hoop In nautical usage, a hoop round a yard or mast to which an iron truss is fixed (this is the only definition I could find for "trus hoops" which was listed in an inventory).
unfeignedly Sincere
viz or vizt An abbreviation for videlicet meaning: That is to say; namely
voc vin Voc stands for vocative (haven't figured out what vin is)
wafer An adhesive disk of dried paste with added coloring matter used as a seal.
William, III, King King William III, b. 1650; d. 1694 of small pox; addressed Parliament on 31 Dec 1701. King of Eng. 1689-1702
&c. Latin for et cetera; meaning: and others; and so forth; (can be found at the end of all early Wills)
/ Symbol used to indicate shillings, i.e. (15/)

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