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Genealogy Glossary

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This glossary of genealogical terms details some of the most common terms you are likely to come across during your family search.

It is a collaborative reference not comprehensive. If you have to research an unfamiliar term, please add an entry. It will make that information easier for you to find next time.

For terms having special meaning when using Gramps, see Gramps Glossary.

 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

Affinity
close relationship or connection. In secular law, cultural anthropology, or religious canon; it refers to a kinship relationship created (or that exists) between two persons as a result of marriage. May also include kinship by sexual congress, adoption or indirectly via a step relationship.
(Note that Catholic canon states 'affinity does not beget affinity'... that is, a spouse's siblings have no relationship by marriage to the other spouse's siblings. Thus multiple siblings of one family marrying siblings of another family would have no incestuous implications due to affinity.)
Anglicisation
process of making something (such as a surname) into an English variant

C

Centimorgan
In DNA analysis, a centimorgan (abbreviated cM, or cMs plural) is a unit for measuring genetic commonality. It describes a distance between loci (also termed chromosome positions or markers) where blocks of the chromosome tend not to break apart for recombination. In that block, the predicted frequency of intervening chromosomal crossovers is 0.01 over a single generation. While it is often used to infer distance along a chromosome, it is not a true physical distance. An alternative term is map unit (abbreviated m.u.) but this alternative form is less frequently seen in genealogy forums.
Consanguinity
From the Latin term "consanguinitās"; meaning ‘a quality of the same blood’ (deconstructed: CON- meaning ‘with’ or ‘together’ + SANGUIS/SANGUIN meaning ‘blood’ + -ITAS a suffix meaning ‘having a distinctive attribute/quality of’; an affix turning a noun into the adjective form )
relationship by descent from a common ancestor; kinship
Words Related To Consanguinity:
lineage, agnate, cognate, affiliation, kindred, strain, connection, race, affinity, kin, brotherhood, sisterhood, kinship, filiation, kindredship
Outmoded words for relatives:
niblings (nieces and nephews), fadu (paternal aunt),fœdra (paternal uncle), modrige (maternal aunt), avuncle/eam/eme (maternal uncle), patruel (child of your paternal uncle), brother-uterine (half-brother by the mother), bother-consanguine (half-brother by the father), double cousin (first cousin sharing all four grandparents), machetonim (your child's parents-in-law)

D

DNA
  1. acronym: deoxyribonucleic acid
  2. a nucleic acid that carries genetic information.

E

endonym
Source: Wikipedia
From the Greek terms: éndon, 'inner' + ónoma, 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common name for a geographical place, group of people, or a language/dialect, that is used only internally. i.e.: inside that particular place, group, or linguistic community in question. It is their self-designated name for themselves, their homeland, or their language.
Conversely, an exonym is a common name only used externally.
eponym
A person, place or thing which is honored by a namesake. Eponym is a term that tends to be used rarely and generically. To simplify the sentence "George Thomas met his eponym, his maternal uncle George Franklin.", you might write "George Thomas met his eponymous maternal uncle, George Franklin."
exonym
Source: Wikipedia
From the Greek terms: éxō, 'outer'; also known as xenonym) is a common name for a geographical place, group of people, or a language/dialect, that is only used externally. i.e.: outside that particular place, group, or linguistic community in question. Exonyms not only exist for historico-geographical reasons, but also in consideration of difficulties when pronouncing foreign words.
Conversely, an endonym is a common name only used internally.

F

family
  1. Group of related people.
Family Tree
  1. generic: a representation of Genealogical data
  2. in Gramps: a set of Genealogical data collected into a database file
Fonds
The entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process reflecting the functions of the creator. The fonds is the chief Archive Unit in the Continental archival system and the basis of all rules of arrangement. The principle of provenance or the respect des fonds dictates that records of different origins (provenance) be kept separate to preserve their context.
From Old French funz (“cultivated or developed land”)

G

GEDCOM
  1. acronym: Genealogy Data Communication
  2. a format for exchanging genealogy data
genealogy
  1. the organized historical accounting of the descent of something that can be traced from an progenitor
  2. the study of ancestral and descendant lines
genealogical numbering system
A standardized method of abstractly indexing familial relationship by number or identifier. Most systems are biased towards identifying Ancestors (ascending) or Descendants (descending) and may have idiosyncractic methods for labeling collateral lines, spouses or indirect connections.

I

instante (inst./inſt.)
From the Latin term "instante mense" meaning "this month". (Sometimes it would be written as "instant" or typeset using the 'long s' as "inſtant".) An anachronistic newspaper term sometimes used in obituaries. So, the phrase "3rd inst." included in a 26 Dec 1766 obituary means 3 December 1766. See also prox. and ult.

L

Latin phrases
Documents will commonly contain annotations in Latin or their abbreviated forms: exempli gratia (e.g.), et cetera (etc.), id est (i.e.), nota bene or notate bene (N.B.), post scriptum (P.S.), sic erat scriptum ([sic]), sic erat scriptum, recte ([sic, recte ____]), videlicet (viz.), versus (vs.)
LDS IGI
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes abbreviated as LDS) International Genealogical Index (IGI) reference identification system. The Ancestral File, Pedigree Resource File, and International Genealogical Index are records systems in the LDS system.

M

matronym
personal name based on the name of one's mother

N

né, née
meaning 'had been born', in masculine and feminine variants. Signifies the following surname was used prior to a name change. The change is not merely due to marriage, it can be for any reason including stage & pen names. Often omits the accent and gender distinction when used as the 'nee' loanword from the past participle of the French base term: naître (to be born). Commonly assumed to mean 'formerly' in American documents... which exceeds the original intent of specifically indicating a birthname. See Maiden and married names on Wikipedia
nickname
A diminutive (familiar, pet) pseudonym.
A linguistic stretch has been posited with the theory that the word is based on "an eke name" (an additional name) which became "an ekename" then by misdivision became "a nekename" to finally "a nickname." This is based on 'eke' from Old English 'eaca,' meaning "an increase"
Numbering system
Several Genealogical Numbering Systems have been adopted by genealogists for indexing family trees and pedigree charts in text format. Each system provides a consistent methodology to determine the appropriate & predictable identifier for persons in a Family Tree. Most systems assign identifiers relative to a focal person and are oriented towards Ancestors (an ascending system) or Descendants (a descending system). Common numbering systems represented by features in Gramps include: Ahnen (often called "Ahnentafel"), d'Aboville, de Villiers, Henry, Meurgey de Tupigny, Register, Sosa-Stradonitz.

P

patronym
personal name based on the name of one's father (The adjective patronymic means derived from one's father while avonymic is derived from one's grandfather. When used as a noun, it refers to a name of that derivation.)
proximo (prox.)
From the Latin term "proximo mense" meaning "next month". An anachronistic newspaper term sometimes used in obituaries. So, the phrase "3rd prox." included in a 26 Dec 1766 obituary means not just the following month but also the following calendar year and would refer to 3 January 1767. See also inst. and ult.

R

recte
From the Latin term "recte" meaning "rightly, correctly". Used parenthetically in a verbatim quotation clarify an ambiguous error in the original. (In contrast, the Latin term "sic" notes an unambiguous error without correcting it.) See also recte definition
Romanization
linguistic representation of a word in the Roman (Latin) alphabet

S

sic
From the Latin term "sic" meaning "thus, so". Used parenthetically in a verbatim quotation to denote "it was as thus" -- that an obvious error is maintained as in the original. (In contrast, the Latin term "recte" notes an ambiguous error with correction.) See also sic definition

U

ultimo (ult.)
From the Latin term "ultimo mense" meaning "last month". An anachronistic newspaper term sometimes used in obituaries. So, the phrase "3rd ult." included in a 26 January 1767 obituary means not just the previous month but also the previous calendar year and would refer to 3 Dec 1766. See also inst. and prox.

External References