Anabaptism: used by the authorities in both England and New England to describe those who practiced believer’s baptism, the doctrine of being baptized or re-baptized as adults.

Arminianism: a controversial theological position within the Church of England which rejected the doctrine of predestination and was particularly disliked by the Puritans. Arminianism in England included a support for church hierarchy, uniformity, central government powers over clerics, and a retention of the liturgy and ritual.

Advowson: the right to recommend a member of the Anglican clergy for a vacant benefice (the living of a parish minister), or to make such an appointment. This right could be bought, sold and inherited. For most parishes, the bishop of the diocese gave the final rubber-stamp to any clerical appointment, and they seldom disagreed with the advowson-holders’ wishes.

Bargain and sale: a way to convey land by an indenture, but it was considered an insufficient way to pass on property, so the lease and release was developed.

Burial: has various terminology in the US and England, with most words interchangeable now. The following terms apply to colonial and English use of the words.

Churchyard: the burial area around a Christian church building where members of that particular faith are buried. In England, it is usually only Anglican and Catholic buildings that are called “churches” with “churchyards”, though non-conformist chapels may also be referred to as “churches.”

Graveyard and burial ground: general terms for an area of land dedicated to burials for ANY faith.

Cemetery: another term for an area where people are buried or interred, not attached to any particular faith. Private burial grounds and cemeteries also exist belonging to families, communities, neighborhoods and funeral businesses.

Cremation: the disposal of the deceased through burning, after which the ashes may be scattered or interred.

Interment: the broadest definition for the disposal of a deceased person which covers any type of burial.

For more on burial practices and other details, see the full document here.

Copyhold: any land occupied by someone other than the owner. This is generally done with a lease or rental agreement of some kind. Manors had a form of tenure particular to them, and often specified what the occupiers could or could not do with the land. Manorial tenants needed permission to sell (the lease), sublet, or pass on the copyhold property.

Types of copyhold:

Heritable copyhold: the land could pass to the copyholder’s heir on his or her death depending on the manor’s custom.

Copyhold for lives: a lease for one lifetime, but usually for three lifetimes, commonly the tenant, his wife, and their heir, thus ensuring security of tenure for the family. The land then reverted to the overlord to grant to the individual of his choosing.

Deeds or title deeds: See Feoffment, Bargain and sale, Lease and release, Sale by recovery, and Mortgage.

DNA (aka deoxyribonucleic acid) is a self-replicating component of cells that is present in all individuals as the main component of chromosomes. It is the carrier of genetic information.

Types of DNA useful to genealogists:

Y-DNA: one of two sex chromosomes and is present in and passed on only by men. It may be passed down many generations almost unchanged. For a male to find his Y inheritance/haplogroup he must test specifically for that.

X-DNA: one of two sex chromosomes that determine gender. It is always present in and passed on by a mother. A father may pass on an X or Y chromosome. An X from a mother and a Y from a father becomes a boy and an X from each parent becomes a girl.

atDNA: the abbreviation for autosomal DNA, which contains 22 chromosomes, the majority of a person’s genetic inheritance. Individual autosomes are identified by number, with approximately half coming from a mother and half from a father.

mtDNA: the abbreviation for mitochondrial DNA. It is always inherited from a mother and is found in the outside the nucleus of a cell. It may be passed down several generations with very little change.

DNA testing: the sequencing of a person’s genome which can include autosomal, mitochrondrial, X-DNA and/or Y-DNA. The most detailed test available to men the Big Y-700 which sequences approximately 12 million base pairs on the Y chromosome. It can be helpful in determining genetic distance (approximately how far back a common ancestor may have lived), finding surname changes, and identifying a patrilineal line.

Fees: a legal payment in return for goods and services, but in early New England, the word could also mean an extra tax payment for specific commodities such as the ship masts. Fine: (such as for non-payment of taxes) is occasionally interchangeable with the word fee, meaning something extra paid beyond the usual tax.

Feoffment: a transfer of land. It could be used to avoid restrictions on the passage of title. It later meant an individual was granted the right of ownership in return for a fee or pledge of service.

Freehold: a mode of estate ownership. However, the owner may be required to acknowledge fealty to a local lord, the town, or whatever entity governs the property. This differs from leasehold, in which the property reverts back to the land owner after the lease terminates. 

Types of Freehold:

Fee simple: the nearest thing to absolute possession of land. The property can be conveyed by deed or will without legal restriction.

Fee tail: an interest in the estate as long as there is a living male lineal descendant. The land could not be sold or willed away from the person designated as the heir, usually the eldest living male in a family.

Life estate: a freehold which could be granted to a person for the duration of his or her life, or possibly more. The most common example is a widow getting a life interest in her husband’s property which would then go to the heir upon the death of the widow.

Godly: the term the puritans used for themselves, an indication they felt they were devout and had a way of worshiping which built a personal relationship with God.

Haplogroups: genetic classifications for mtDNA and Y-DNA designated by stings of letters and numbers. Inherited genetic markers or mutations, which pass down from a common ancestor, define a haplogroup. Haplogroups provide insights which help researchers understand genetic relationships and ancestral origins.

Indenture: a way of binding oneself to serve for a period of years in return for money or or possibly an apprenticeship. Also a general word for a contract between two parties or legal agreement of sale, lease, mortgage, feoffment, or use of land.

Lease and release: a deed that could get around fees imposed when land was passed along. It required two documents (which were supposed to be kept together). One granted the property by lease for one year (usually) without mention of a monetary rent payment, and the other (made the next day) cancelled the previous lease and stated the purchase price with a guarantee the buyer could hold the land forever.

Lease: not to be confused with lease and release. Leases are the right to have tenure of property for a certain period for payment. Manorial tenant leases often began on feast days such as Lady Day, Midsummer, Michaelmas, or Christmas and the payments could be yearly, semi-yearly, or quarterly.

Levies: a tax, fee or fine, usually applied to a specific commodity but occasionally meaning a one-time tax.

Mortgage: a loan raised against the value of a property.

Mutation: any difference between a DNA test taker’s results and the reference or “parent” sequence. These occur naturally over time and can be used to determine approximately how close a genetic relationship is.

NPE or Non-Parental Event or Not the Parent Expected are both ways of saying the genetic line of descent does not match the paper trail. This can be caused by illegitimacy, informal adoption, the use of alias surnames, purposeful name changes, and even inadvertent surname spelling changes.

Open Fields: an agricultural system used mainly in southern and midlands counties of England. It was based on three large fields with no hedges or fences, surrounding a settlement whose inhabitants collectively cultivated their allocated strips in two fields with crops, rotated with a third left fallow for grazing and manuring.

Rate: a tax term for the percentage or amount of tax to be paid based on an individual’s property and/or possessions. Paying rates can be synonymous with paying taxes.

Sale by recovery: a way to convey property, also called “sale by lawsuit,” which was often fictitious as time went on. It required the buyer to pretend he had a claim to it. A third party would testify the claimant was the owner, which was uncontested by the current owner. Title was thus proved and the court issued a deed of recovery.

Seals: on a document were not a way of closing it up, but rather authenticating the parties involved. A seal or signet stamped into the wax was unique to each person and broken upon his death. The wax used could placed directly on the paper or attached by a small piece of parchment to the bottom.

Selectman: a member of a local governing board of a New England town, often tasked with communal issues such as where domestic animals could graze, taxes, fencing placement, the capture of stray animals, and more.

Usher: an archaic term for the second schoolmaster in a school in England in the early period when only one schoolmaster was usually employed and only better endowed or larger schools could afford a second one.