The following are some of the basic terms used in genealogical research.
Alien – foreigner
Ancestor – a person from whom you are descended; a forefather
Archives – records of a government, organization, institution; the place where records are stored
Borough – a self-governing incorporated town
Census – official enumeration, listing or counting of citizens
Circa – about, near, or approximate – usually referring to a date
Collateral ancestor – belong to the same ancestral stock but not in direct line of descent; opposed to lineal such as aunts, uncles & cousins
Common ancestor – ancestor shared by any two people
Cousin – relative descended from a common ancestor, but not a brother or sister
Decedent – a person who has died
Declaration of intention – first paper, sworn to and filed in court, by an alien stating that he wants to become a citizen
Emigrant – one leaving a country and moving to another
Epitaph – an inscription on or at a tomb or grave in memory of the one buried there
Genealogy – study of family history and descent
Given name – name given to a person at birth or baptism, one’s first and middle names
Half-brother/half-sister – child by another marriage of one’s mother or father; the relationship of two people who have only one parent in common
Immigrant – one moving into a country from another
Lineage – ancestry; direct descent from a specific ancestor
Lineal – consisting of or being in a direct line of ancestry or descendants; descended in a direct line
Maiden name – a girl’s last name or surname before she marries
Manifest – A document giving the details of a ship and its cargo, passengers, and crew for the use of customs officers
Maternal – related through one’s mother (the mother’s side)
Microfiche – sheet of microfilm with greatly reduced images of pages of documents
Microfilm – reproduction of documents on film at reduced size
Passenger list – a ships list of passengers, usually referring to those ships arriving in the US or Canada, from Europe
Paternal – related through one’s father (the father’s side)
Pedigree – family tree; ancestry
Posterity – descendants; those who come after
Power of attorney – when a person is unable to act for himself, he appoints another to act on his behalf
Progenitor – a direct ancestor
Progeny – descendants of a common ancestor; issue
Sibling – person having one or both parents in common; a brother or sister
Sic – Latin meaning thus; copied exactly as the original reads. Often suggests a mistake or surprise in the original
Step-brother / step-sister – child of one’s step-father or step-mother
Step-father – husband of one’s mother by a later marriage
Step-mother – wife of one’s father by a later marriage
Surname – family name or last name
Tradition – the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, genealogies, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth
Transcribe – to make a copy in writing
Verbatim – word for word; in the same words, verbally
Vital records – records of birth, death, marriage or divorce
Vital statistics – data dealing with birth, death, marriage or divorce
Ward – chiefly the division of a city for election purposes