When tracing an ancestry it is common to encounter records filled with obsolete, archaic, or legal terms that can be difficult to interpret.

Misinterpreting these terms can make the difference between linking persons to the right generation, parents, spouse or children. Understanding exactly what is stated in any record is vital before attempting to move to the next generation.

Inexperienced or impatient genealogists undervalue the quality of their research by applying present-day definitions to documents created in an earlier century.

Take the time to use the glossaries provided here and other excellent dictionaries, genealogical reference books and encyclopedias to interpret documents correctly.

Terminology & Meanings of Genealogical Terms

Terminology & Meanings of Genealogical Abbreviations
The following abbreviations are those most commonly used in genealogical records. It is not unusual to find, within the pages of one record, different variations used, but care should be taken to ensure that in these instances, it is a variation and not meant to indicate something else.

Terminology & Meanings of Early Illnesses & Diseases
This describes the various old time Illnesses and Diseases that you will find in old documents, medical records or listed as causes of death on old death certificates or in old family Bibles

Terminology & Meanings of Early Occupations
This following list that describes the various old occupations of which many are archaic. These are useful to genealogists since surnames usually originated from someone’s occupation. Ships passenger lists, census returns and other documents used in genealogy may give an ancestor’s occupation, this list gives more modern interpretations of those terms. They also are useful to historians in general. The list is by no means complete.

Terminology & Meanings of Genealogical Terms
This page defines the Genealogical Terms used in genealogical research you will find in documents

Terminology & Meanings of Common Nicknames
& Their Given Name Equivalents

Terminology & Meanings of Tombstone Symbols
A list of some of the most commonly seen tombstone symbols. Learn the meanings of the various carvings, symbols, icons and other funerary art found on gravestones, tombstones and headstones.

Terminology & Meanings of Worldwide Epidemics
A List of Major U.S. and world wide epidemics