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Dictionary of Genealogy & Archaic Terms

[B]

 

Updated: January 17, 2012

This file contains many of the common "buzzwords", terminology and legal words found in genealogy work. If you think of any words that should be added to this list, please notify Randy Jones.

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BACH

[Welsh small, little]

BACHELOR

in Medieval times, young knight in the service of another knight

BACHGEN

[Welsh boy] See also ap/ab, map.

BAILEY

the yard within a castle's walls

BAILIFF

(1) a manorial official charged with collecting rents and other administrative duties, including oversight of agriculture

(2) a town official and principle aide to the mayor, sometimes with his own court

(3) the municipal official in charge of the jail 

(4) the official presiding over the Hundred Court   

BAKR

[Arabic] first-born

BALCH

[Welsh fine, proud, splendid] See also valch

BALLISTA

 [Latin] cross-bow

BALLISTARIUS

[Latin] a cross-bow man

BALK

a ridge between two furrows; a strip of unploughed land between two plowed areas

BAN

a royal or ecclesiastical proclamation

BANALITIES

fees a feudal lord imposed for the use of his property or facilities

BANE, BAN, BAIN

[Scottish] pale or white, usually of hair

BANN

a public announcement of an intended marriage to allow advance notice should someone desire to protest.  In medieval and colonial times, many churches would read the banns on three consecutive Sundays prior to the marriage

BANNERET

a British rank of knight, it represented originally a knight with the honor of leading his men into a battle under his own banner and with rank above a Knight Bachelor . It is distinct from Baronet. -- Jay Kotliar

BANNS

publication or posting of the announcement of a coming marriage, a period of time before the actual marriage, to allow advance notice to those that might have reason to protest. In most churches, the banns were read aloud in church on three successive Sundays.

BANU

[Arabic, sons of] designation of tribe

BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD

members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS- Mormans) have the ceremony of Baptism for the Dead, performed by living individuals on behalf of the dead family members. These living individuals represent the person for whom the baptism is being performed. The baptism ceremony is simple and dignified and not much different from the baptism performed when a living individual joins the church. Baptisms for the dead are performed only in the temples of the church.

BAPTIZAVI

[Latin I baptized]

BAR

[Syriac] son of

BAR MITZVAH

A Jewish celebration for a boy when he becomes 13 years old and is accepted into the congregation

BAR SINISTER

[heraldic] a misnomer for bend sinister, coming from the translation of the French equivalent barre sinistre

BARBICAN

the gateway defending the entrance to a castle

BARD

minstrel or poet

BARON

a feudal title, below earl/count in rank, originally signifying just "companion to the king", but later assuming territorial responsibilities.  In England, barons are designated by writ of Parliament

BARONETCY

[Brit.] an hereditary dignity (but not peerage) created by James I to produce revenue, the holder of which is accorded the prefix of 'Sir' and the suffix of 'Baronet' to his name. The suffix is invariably abbreviated in correspondence, usually 'Bt' but the more old-fashioned 'Bart.' is sometimes preferred. in order of preference, a Baronet ranks below all ranks of peerage, but above all other dignities.

BARONY BY WRIT

[Eng.] assumption of the honor based on the King's writ of summons to attend Parliament. At first, the honor was only temporal to the session served, but after the 14th C., the writ was considered to be permanent and hereditary.

BARRISTER

lawyer

BARRY

[Heraldic] a series of bars

BASE BORN

born out of wedlock  

BASILEUS

[Byzantine] initially from the first century on a prince, later became "king", especially in the eastern provinces.  Later the title was reserved only for the Eastern Roman and the Persian emperors

BASTION

a small tower on a castle wall

BATON SINISTER

[heraldic] a bend sinister usually one-forth the size of a bend sinister. Sometimes only referred to as Baton, it also indicates illegitimacy

BATTEN

the sloping part of a castle curtain wall

BATTLEMENT

a narrow wall built along the walk wall of a castle to protect defenders  

BEG, BEY

[Turkish] lord or prince

BEND

[heraldic] One of the ordinaries. It is formed of two lines, and is drawn from the dexter chief (upper left) to the sinister base point (lower right) of the escutcheon. It generally occupies one-fifth of the field; but formerly it was one-fifth only when plain, and one-third when charged.

BEND SINISTER

[heraldic] a slash to the left held to signify bastardy; a hint or proof of illegitimate birth.

BENDLET

[heraldic] a bend as two or more thin bars

BENEFICE

a grant of land given to a noble or the church, usually for limited use or in return for specified services

BENEFICIARY

a person who receives the proceeds or income of an estate or trust

BEQUEST

legacy; usually a gift of real estate by will

BERM

a flat space between a castle wall and the moat

BEZANT

[Heraldic] small dot

BEZANTY

[Heraldic] a series of solid dots

BIBLIOGRAPHY

list of sources.

BILLET

[Heraldic] a small vertical bar

BILLHOOK

            a medieval weapon similar to a halberd, the carrier of which was call a billman

BILLMAN

            a carrier of a billhook

BIN

[Arabic] son of}

BINDING OUT

[Colonial U.S.] in colonial English America, church wardens were empowered to bind out, contract into servitude, any bastard, or orphan or other person under 30, so that they might not become an economic burden on the church parish

BINT

[Arabic] daughter of

BIRELE

a cup-bearer

BIRTH CERTIFICATE

documentation about one's birth.  

BIRTHRIGHT

In New England, the eldest son received a double portion of the estate, it was called his birthright. If you should find a person has conveyed a 1/7 interest in the father's estate, you may conclude there were six surviving children, each of whom received a 1/7 of the estate, except for the eldest son, who received a 2/7 or double portion.

BLACK CANKER

[Archaic] diphtheria

BLACK DEATH

bubonic plague. A disease prevalent in the middle ages, but still occurring in third world countries, transmitted by fleas from rats.  

BLACK DUTCH

·         Sephardic Jews who married Dutch protestants to escape the Inquisition, many of their descendants later moving to the Americas, the "black" referring to their dark hair and complexion;

·         Descendents of marriages between Dutch women and Portuguese soldiers stationed in the Netherlands as part of Spanish forces in the Spanish-Dutch wars 1555-1609.

·         See also Melungeons.

·         Perhaps rarely, German immigrants c.1740 from the Black Forest region,

·         Early 19th C. American Indians who claimed they were "Black Dutch" to avoid persecution or deportation to reservations

BLACKFRIARS

see DOMINICANS

BLACK LUNG

a disease from breathing coal dust

BLODWIT

americament by court for bloodshed

BLOODEAGLE

a medieval Norse method of execution. The victim's ribs were removed from the spine, then lungs pulled out to resemble angel's wings.

BLOODY FLUX

See flux

BLOT

a sacrifice or offering to idols

BOL

[Welsh belly] Also as 'bwl'.

BOLD-GAETAL

[Anglo-Saxon] a lord's estate

BOLTING-HOUSE

a building where the bran is sifted from flour

BONA

[Latin] in good faith

BOND

(1) a written promise by a borrower to pay a lender a fixed dollar sum of interest for a prescribed period of time and to repay the principal on a stated date;

(2) a contract to carry out specific duties, such as a marriage, for which if not done satisfactorily, a penalty is paid

BONDE

(1) head of a family

(2) a freeman serving as a vassal 

BONDLAND

land which also contained dwelling houses and other buildings (such as barns) and was usually held by copyhold or charter

BONDMAID/BONDMAN

a slave or serf required to serve with wages,  See also NATIVI.

BONDSMAN

a person who will vouch for or be liable for a person required to post a bond.  This person can either be a friend/relative or a professional bondsman

BONNIER

[Old French] approximately 10 arpents

BOON-WORK

a day's work, given to a lord by his people on special occasion

BORDAR/BORDERER

a small landholder, the serf class between cottars and villeins.  They held just enough land to support their family, about five acres, and were required to work as part of the lord's demesne.

BORH

surety

BORHBRYCE

breach of surety

BORDURE

[Heraldic] border

BOROUGH

[orig. Anglo-Saxon] a self-governing incorporated town, larger than a village. The term is common in the Northeastern U.S.

BOUND OUT

Apprenticed or indentured out.  Most often the child was bound to a person in the community in the skilled trades.  In return for the labor that the child provided they were given food, shelter and (sometimes) clothing.  The families of the children being bound out were poor and in many cases the children were orphans or the father of the family had died and the mother could not provide for the children.  The court appointed an Overseer of the Poor who looked into these cases and reported to the court. 

BOUNTY LAND

public land given by the government to induce young men to join the military, or as a reward for fighting.  Much land in the Midwest (U.S.) was given to the veterans of the Revolutionary War as a reward and payment for their time in the war.

BOUNTY LAND WARRANT

a gift of bounty land due to a person entitled by military service, or to his heirs or assigns

BOURGEOIS

[French] an address of formality or politeness in France from the 16th C., usually for a non-noble person. However, a person addressed as NN, bourgeois de [place] might be a noble man who was involved in town affairs and wanted to keep the title bourgeois de [place] to maintain certain tax breaks.

BOVATE

[Latin bos, ox] a measure of land also known as an oxgang.  It was 1/8 of a ploughgate (or as much land as one ox could plough in a year). A bovate varyied in acreage from 8 to 18 acres, depending on how arable the land was.

BRAND IRON

the cob irons or fire dogs which confine the brands on an open hearth.

BRAS

[Welsh] fat

BRIDEWEALTH

goods and services transferred from a groom's family to a brides family

BROTBAN

bread money

BROTHER

a male sibling, or a half brother, stepbrother, brother-in-law, husband of a sister-in-law, or a Brother in Church. Sometimes it is also used to show close friendship.

BROWDERER

[Archaic] embroiderer

BRYCE

breach, violation

BUFFET

the dubbing administered to a new knight.  See also COLEE.

BUNDLING

to sleep in the same bed while fully clothed, a practice commonly practiced by engaged couples in early New England It also houses an extensive collection of written manuscripts including family histories, local histories, indexes, periodicals, and aids to help in genealogical research

BURDATIO

a tax

BURGAGE

[English] a town plot, the holder of which was known as a burgess

BURGBRICE

breach of peace of a town

BURGESS

[English] a freeman in a medieval town holding a burgage, a piece of land.  Later in Virginia, the term came to designate substantial wealthy landowners.  The legislative house there became known as the House of Burgesses, replaced after the Revolution by the House of Delegates.  Brent Tarter, LVA -- "From the middle of the seventeenth century until ratification of the Constitution of 1830, every county in Virginia was entitled to elect two members of the lower house of the assembly, the House of Burgesses through 1775 and the House of Delegates from 1776 through 1830. At those elections, each adult white male who owned enough property in the county could vote for two candidates. The cities of Williamsburg and Norfolk each elected one burgess or delegate, and until the Constitution of 1776 went into effect the president and professors of the College of William and the residents of Jamestown each elected one burgess. Cities that were incorporated after the American Revolution then gained the right to return one or more delegates."

BURGHER

a town resident with full rights and privileges of the town

BURGHRITE

jurisdiction over a town

BURH

a castle or dwelling

BUTTERY

[fr. French le botelerie] a store room for beer, wine and other staples

BYRBAN

beer money

BYZANT

a gold coin, the Byzantine solidus dating from about 500 AD and used until the 13th Century


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


Sources:

{A}The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

{B} Black's Law Dictionary, 6th Edition

{D} Dictionary.com

{E} Evans, Barbara Jean. The New A to Zax

{F}The Dictionary of Genealogy by Terrick V H Fitzhugh

{H} History of the Later Roman Empire,  Vol.1, J.B. Bury, 1958.

{O}The Oxford English Dictionary

{P} Pepys' diary

{R} Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2006)

{Q} Hinshaw, William Wade, "Encyclopedia of America Quaker Genealogy," (1938, Rpt., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994)

{W} Webster's Collegiate Dictionary; Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.


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