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Making Sense ofTerminology

There are some terms that are used in everyday language that are then misunderstood in genealogical reference. Perhaps they are terms people hear but never use because they are not certain of the meaning. This list is some of the words you may have come across on this website or in other conversations about your family history. This does not cover all the terms nor does it imply these are the only definitions to these words. 


Ancestor:  a distant relation somebody is descended from, especially more distant than a grandparent, usually in a direct line

Ancestry:  ancestral descent or lineage


Bastard:  a child born of parents not married to each other; illegitimate

Blended Family:  a family consisting of a couple and their children from this and all previous relationships; including foster children


Cemetery Records:  an account of the names and death dates of those buried within a cemetery

Census Record:  records that were created to number the population, especially sponsored by governments to determine the available men for soldiers; the amount of information given in a census varies, according to the needs and purposes of those who sponsored the census

Coat of Arms:  a design on a shield that signifies a particular family and direct descendants

Common Ancestor:  an ancestor that two or more descendants have in common

Commoner:  an ordinary member of society who does not belong to the nobility


Decedent:  a person who is deceased
                        (not to be confused with descendant)

Descendant:  somebody related to one that lived in the past     (not to be confused with decedent)

Distant Relative:  somebody with whom another is connected because of similar ancestry


Emigrant:  a person who leaves one country and settles in another  (not quite the same as immigrant)


Forebearer:  an ancestor, especially one who died a long time ago


Genealogy:  the study and tracing of family pedigrees; finding date and place records related to ancestors


Heir:  somebody who holds the right to receive a property, position, or title of somebody else when that person dies


Immigrant:  a person who settles in one country after having left another       (not quite the same as emigrant)


Kindred:  related to somebody by blood (formal)
(not the same as a kindred spirit, who is someone who resembles another in character, interest or temperament.)


Legacy:  something that is handed down or remains from a previous generation