HomeFun!SNGF: Common Genealogy Terms Defined

This week’s Saturday Night’s Genealogy Fun at Randy Seaver’s Geneamusings was this:

“1)  Recall that some genealogists love to make up new words to define what we do or where we are… we want to make a “Genealogisms Dictionary” so that we all understand what we’re writing about.
2)  Make up one or more words that deal with some aspect of genealogy – they could start with genea- or ancest- or end with -ology (we don’t care), and then define the word for us.
3)  Submit your genealogisms(s) as a Comment to this blog post, or write a blog post of your own, or in a Facebook status or comment (please let me know if you do this in a comment here).”

Well, I didn’t do any of that. I’ve taken this opportunity to clear up some commonly misused genealogy terms that everyone really should know. I’ve kept it simple. I didn’t get into any advanced concepts such as the “reasonably exhausted search,” (too tired to look anymore) or the “genealogical *poof* standard (your ancestor appears out of nowhere or instantly vanishes from sight). Such topics are better left to the professionals.

I’ve seen other definitions for these words, and I wonder what those people were thinking. Clearly, these definitions I present cut right  through the genea-crap and will illuminate all who visit here. Make sure to read, memorize, and use these terms at your next genealogical event. Your colleagues will be most impressed with your genea-vocab. Really.

Commonly Mis-defined Genea-Words


ahnentafal:  Sound produced by a sudden sneeze only partially covered by the crook of an elbow. Generally caused by dusty old books.

ancestor:  A person from whom you descend and have been able to find and document in a number of reliable sources

bastard:  A person from whom you descend and are unable to find and document in any record whatsoever. Ex. “I can’t find that bastard anywhere!”

bequest:  A very polite way to ask the clerk to make copies or perform some other favor that even obtuse researchers think might be ridiculous. Ex. “I’d like to bequest copies of the first twelve deed books in their entirety whenever might be convenient for you, my dear sir.”

bond:  A relationship formed between researcher and subject based on the former’s inability to find the latter. Ex. “I’ve been looking for that bastard for 20 years. We’ve formed quite a bond, he and I.”

bounty land:  Any place you make numerous genealogical discoveries. Ex. “That courthouse basement sure was a bounty land of info!”

cadastra:   A male mapmaker with a really high voice

chattels:   the sound made by your ancestors’ indentures on a cold day.

consanguinity:  A drink served at the genea-bar

conveyance:  A supernatural meeting, the goal of which is summoning an ancestor’s spirit to demand answers to kinship and other genealogical questions

cousin:   The person responsible for all of the incorrect data in your family tree

descendant:  A person looking for the bastard (see above)

emigration:  Leaving one courthouse office to go to another that promises more opportunity

enumeration:  Process of counting and listing all of the people in a given area…except your ancestor

enumerator:  Another guy who couldn’t seem to find your ancestor

gazetteer:  One who really, really likes geography. Similar to a mouseketeer.

GEDCOM:  The standard, official language spoken by everyone who “does genealogy,” as defined and explained in the genea-dictionary.

marriage bann:  The prevention of marriage by an angry would-be bride’s father. Ant. “shotgun wedding”

marriage record:  Although this can have multiple meanings, generally refers to Al Green’s “Let’s Get Married”

née:  The surname of the initiator of an unsuccessful marriage bann (see above)

primary source:  What you mostly used

widow:   Wife of a male genealogist

widower:  Husband of a female genealogist

wife:  The person around whom you must sneak the money necessary to find all the ancestors and bastards

will:  A persistence in locating dead people against all odds



SNGF: Common Genealogy Terms Defined — 7 Comments