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ROOTS


Dictionary of Genealogy & Archaic Terms

[S]

Last Edited: 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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SABLE
[Heraldry] black, or represented in black-and-white as horizontal and vertical lines crossing
SAC
jurisdiction in matters of dispute
SACKLESS/SACKELESE
[Leg.] blameless
SACRIST
a religious official charged with ensuring the security and cleanliness of a church.  he was also the keeper of the altar vessels
SAKE AND SOKE
a right of jurisdiction claimed by a lord of a manor
SALANDRA
a ship of Alexandria
SALIC LAW
The rule by which royal succession could only pass through sons, derived from an old law of the Franks about land inheritance. It was used by the French Royal House to justify the exclusion of daughters from succession but is wrongly believed to be the legal basis on which women were excluded from succession. It did not apply in England and was only introduced in Spain in 1713. The LEX SALICA (in Latin) was set down by Clovis, the founder of the Merovingian dynasty in Western Europe, around the end of the 5th century. It is a code of laws covering many matters, but the clause governing questions of inheritance stated that daughters could not inherit land and that all land should go to sons. This prohibition on land inheritance by a daughter had nothing to say about royal inheritance, per se, and was modified very early to allow daughters to inherit land if there were no sons. The law was forgotten and "rediscovered" in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was subsequently adapted to justify the exclusion of a daughter from inheriting the throne of France and of those whose descent from a previous sovereign is traced only through a woman. -- Matthew Harley, GEN-MEDIEVAL, 27 Mar 1002
SALTIRE
[Heraldry] one of the primary ordinaries on a shield, comprising a large X across the body of the shield
SANTAE MARIAE
[Latin] St. Mary
SATRAP
In ancient Middle East, a provincial ruler, with virtual unlimited power, under Ptolemaic and Persian empires
SCEAT, SCĘT
four sceats equal one penny
SCHEPEL
a bushel
SCIPPOND
a Baltic measure equaling 300-400 pounds
SCOT AND LOT
the rights and duties of a citizen
SCOTS-IRISH:
The descendants of the Presbyterian Scots who had been placed in the northern counties of Ireland by British rulers in the early part of the 17th Century. Most came to America from 1718 until the Revolution. They settled first in PA, then moved south and then westward to the frontier.
SCRIPTORIUM
the room or building in a monastery where a the monks copied books and documents
SCUTAGE
a shield tax in place of required military service
SECONDARY RECORD
or secondary source; a record created some time after the event
SEIGNEUR
[French] indicate a fief's owner (noble or not), and sometimes a noble person (owning fief or not). See also sieur, sire.
SEIZE QUARTIERS
[French] sixteen quarters. To be of true nobility in medieval times, one had to show the lineage (noble, of course) back 4 generations, where one would have 16 great-great-grandparents. This led during this period to the frquent creation of fictitious genealogies.
SEIZIN
possession of real property under claim of freehold estate. Possession with an intent on the part of him who holds it to claim a freehold interest. Right to immediate possession according to the nature of the estate.{B}
SELECTMAN
a town official, as in New England, USA
SELION
a narrow strip of land between two furrows dividing an open field
SEMY
[Heraldic] a bunch of
SENESCHAL
An official in a medieval noble household in charge of domestic arrangements and the administration of servants; a steward or major-domo. From Middle English, from Old French, of Germanic origin
SENNIGHT
aweek; seven days
SEPTEM
[Latin] 7
SEPULCHERED
buried
SERF
a semi-free peasant who works the lord's demesne, and pays dues for the use of the land, the possession (but not ownership) is inheritable. Also known as villeins, churls, boors, and naifs.
SERVI
serfs or slaves
SERVUS/A SERVARUM
[Latin] servant/servants
SESTER
4 gallons
SETIER
3-1/4 liters
SEWER
someone who superintended the formalities of a banquet i.e. arrangement of seating, serving of dishes
SEWERY
a store room for provisions, linen or furniture
SEX
[Latin, French] 6
SEXTON
A church official in charge of keeping the churchyard, cemetery
SHAMBLES
an area of town where the butchers threw out their waste
SHERIFF
a magistrative office dating to  medieval England.  The term derives from "shire's reeve", of the King's representative in the shore (county), charged with enforcing the King's law's and orders.  In colonial America, "the office of sheriff rotated approximately at two-year intervals among justices of the county court, who were planters, farmers, craftsmen-businessmen, or members of the professions.  The sheriff received a salary along with a richer source of income:  fees for specific duties he performed and portions of the funds he collected.  Together with their other duties, deputy sheriffs kept records of tax delinquents and conducted "sheriff's sales" of goods forfeited by people who could not pay court-ordered judgments.  These deputies, like the sheriffs they served, were not necessarily chosen for any particular aptitude as crime-stoppers.  Rather, they joined together to "farm the sheriffalty"---meaning, in the utterly frank language of the time, that the deputy sheriffs split both the "labour" and the "profits" attending the functions of the sheriff's office."  (Melvin Patrick Ely, Israel on the Appomattox, 2004, pp. 245-246. Vintage Books, New York)
SHERIFF'S PLEAS
a medieval jurisdictional authority which allowed the authority to hear any case that would be heard in court.
SHILLING
a unit of British currency, used only for accounting purposes, equaling 12 pence
SHIRE
[Britain] county
SIBLING
a brother or sister
SIC
[Latin] thus
SILIQUA
[Visgothic] 1-1/3 silver solidi
SILIQUE
1/24 of a solidus
SEIGNEUR
 [French] lord
SIEUR [French]
1. lord of a "place". Very often "place" is only residence and "sieur" evokes prominence, and designates land-holding, without right of lordship, thus non-noble
2. an honorific address of formality or politeness, especially after the 16th C., equivalent to the colonial English use of Mister. Sieur is often found associated with a person's name in legal documents in New France, and it does not necessary mean the person was socially prominent. There is no noble title such as "sieur", it is used as an honorific, although a titled nobleman is sometimes called a "sieur" or "sieur de". See also seigneur, sire.
SIMONY
the buying and selling of spiritual things, such as church offices and benefices
SINISTER
[Heraldry] Right as seen from the shield's front, but left as seen by the wearer.
SIR
[fr French sire] father
1. the current modern honorific address of formality or politeness, especially after the 16th C., equivalent to the colonial English use of Mister.
2. the medieval title associate with knights. Not all "sirs" were knights. In the medieval period, clergymen were titled "Sir", as are the Baronets created since "invented" by James VI. Barons were not "Sirs", they were "Lords". -- Renia Simmons (edited)
SIRE {D}
[fr French seigneur, fr Latin senus, senor]
  1. A father.
  2. The male parent of an animal, especially a domesticated mammal such as a horse.
  3. Archaic. A male ancestor; a forefather.
  4. Archaic. A gentleman of rank.
  5. Archaic. Used as a form of address for a superior, especially a king.
SISTER
has definitions comparable to "brother"
SITULAE
a measure containing 8 setiers
SKALD
[Old Norse] a medieval Scandanavian poet
SLAVE SCHEDULE
completed questionnaire for the enumeration of slaves in 1850 and 1860 censuses
SMOCK WEDDING
one of the more unusual customs that came to America. Under English common law if a widow remarried and brought any of her late husband's property to the marriage, the new husband became liable for any and all the debts of the previous husband. Women owned nothing in their own right, and this included their clothing. So it became the custom for indebted widows to get married in their underwear, or smocks. The smock wedding was tripple-fold. It was a bankruptcy proceeding; it was a marriage ceremony; it was an investiture because the bride then got a new wardrobe from her new husband. In theory the ceremony was held for all to see, on a public highway. But in practice many smock weddings were indoors. When Major Moses JOY married Widow Hannah WARD of Newfame, Vermont, in 1789, she was stark naked. She was in a closet, her hand extended through a hole cut in the door. Then she put on a fine set of clothes and emerged from her closet in style, to the general admiration of the assembled. --Harold Oliver from "Ancestors of Lewis Ross Freeman", by Patty Myers
SOBRINA/SOBRINO
[Spanish] niece/nephew
SOKEMAN
a free peasant
SOC
jurisdiction granted by the king to an individual  
SOCAGE
feudal tenure of land by a tenant, in return for agricultural or other nonmilitary services or for payment of rent in money. The holder was not a villein, but a free man. His obligations included the duty of attendance at the manor court held by the lord of the manor. After the decay of feudalism, socage tenure became freehold.
SOCIAL SECURITY DEATH INDEX (SSDI)
index of Social Security Death Benefit records which document how much the government has paid to an individual (spouse, child, etc.) as a result of a relative's death. An individual will appear in the Social Security Death Benefits Index if he or she died between 1937 and 1993 and had applied for Social Security during their lifetime, and someone must have applied for their Social Security death benefits at the time of death. See SSDI
SOCN
sanctuary
SOCRUS
[Latin, mother-in-law]
SOKEMAN
free tenant
SOLIDUS
[Latin] the gold coin which was the standard of the Roman monetary system from Constantine c.500 AD, and used as the standard of currency until the 13th Century   
SON-IN-LAW
in addition to the current meaning as the husband of one's daughter, in colonial and medieval times, it could also carry the meaning of stepson
SORPENNY
payment for pasturage
SORORATE
the marriage of one man to two or more sisters usually successively and after the first wife has been found to be barren or after her death
SORORIS
[Latin, sister] referring to one's relatives, it includes a sister's husband, a wife's brother, or a sister's son
SOUNDEX
a filing system, usually for recording.
SPECTIBLES
[Latin] the second of three ranks of the high officials of Imperial Roman service, all of whom were senators. This rank included proconsuls, vicars, and military governors, among others. The other ranks were the illustres and the clarissimi. {H}  
SPINSTER
a woman who has never been married
SPORTA
a basket
SQUIRE
a member of the knightly class, and an assistant to a knight, and part of the gentry
STABILITAS
the right of a lord to force a vassal to live on his land
STALLAGE
payment for a stall at a market or fair
STALLER
(1) in medieval England, a high ranking official equivalent to a constable 
(2) A small trader holding a stall and not in a guild 
(3) a confederate to a pickpocket 
(4) a deputy to a vicar 
STANNERY
tin-mining district of Devon and Cornwall, under the jurisdiction of special courts
STATANT
[Heraldry] standing
STATEGOS
 a title in the ancient Near East with a variety of meanings:
(1) in Asia Minor: general, leader, commander
(2) in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt: military & civil governor
(3) in Jerusalem: officer with custody of the Temple
(4) in Alexandria: superintendent of police 
STATUTE MERCHANT AND STATUTE STAPLE
a British medieval authority, now repealed, for an individual, originally a merchant, to seize and hold a merchant's goods and hold them for non-payment of debt.
STATER
[Visgothic] a gold coin worth three solidi  
STICA
a bundle of 20 eels
STINTING
limiting, especially in the rights of pasturage
SUCCENTOR
a religious official responsible for the music and the library of the church  
SUIT OF MILL
the obligation of tenants to use aa specified mill
SULTAN
a Muslim ruler equivalent to a king
SULUNG, SULONG
a measure of land equal to two hides, in co.Kent, England  
SURNAME
the family name that is passed down directly through generations or created. It is usually based on a name, title, or epithet added to a person's name or names, esp. one derived from his birthplace or from some quality or achievement. {O}
SURETY
as relates to marriage, someone who is bonded to guarantee a groom will marry the bride. This is done to keep a groom from promising or proposing marriage, then backing out. The surety puts up a bond of an amount of money, which he would lose if the groom does not marry. See also Magna Carta Surety.
SURSISSE
penalty for contempt of court
SUTTLER
a peddler of various sundries to an army in the field, used during the Civil War
SYXHYNDEMAN
wergeld of 600 schillings

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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