Anabaptism is a term deriving from the Greek “ana” which means “double”. This word was used by the authorities in both England and New England to describe those who practiced believer’s baptism because they were originally baptized as infants in their established churches and then re-baptized as adults, believing their infant baptism was meaningless. But to the established Protestant and Catholic faiths, this was an appalling travesty of belief. Infant baptism had been fundamental to European Christians (of all kinds) for centuries. However, despite the word anabaptist meaning “twice baptized” or “re-baptized”, it was taken to mean “rejecting baptism”. This is why the early Quakers, before they were better known as Quakers or Friends, were also labeled anabaptist. Parish constables and magistrates didn’t know how else to label them, for failing to attend the state church and not baptizing their children. Accusing someone of being an anabaptist was a serious crime and calling someone an Anabaptist was a horrific accusation in the 16th and 17th centuries because of the scandal caused by the Munster Rebellion in Germany in the 1530s. (

Arminianism was a controversial theological position within the Church of England. It rejected the doctrine of predestination and was particularly disliked by the Puritans. The name derives from Jacobus Arminius, a Dutch theologian. Arminianism in England included a support for or extension of church hierarchy, uniformity, central government powers over clerics, a retention of the liturgy and ritual.

Bargain and sale was 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.

Burials have their own terminology both in the US and England. In the US, graveyard, burial ground, and cemetery are mostly interchangeable and have been for some time, but in colonial America and in England, it’s important to remember there can be differences in these terms: graveyard; churchyard; burial ground and cemetery plus (from 1885) cremations and interments. The following terms apply to colonial and English use of the words.

A “churchyard” is the term that’s normally given to an 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 non-members as “churches.”

Graveyard’ and ‘burial ground’ are more general terms used for an area of land dedicated to burials for ANY faith. They may or may not be located alongside or even near their particular religious building. Though most people would think first of the Church of England when these terms are used, all religious buildings and faiths can have a graveyard or burial ground and normally only members of that particular faith would be buried in them.

The term “cemetery” is simply another term for an area where people are buried or interred. In England it is not normally attached to a particular faith, though it can be if, for example, it’s associated with a non-Christian faith, or when a Christian church has no churchyard at all, or has run out of space and therefore creates its own cemetery. Most English cemeteries are public and civil, containing both consecrated areas (for members of the Church of England) and non-consecrated areas (for anyone else). In bigger conurbations, there is often demarcated space for non-Anglican and Jewish burials and those of other non-Christian faiths. Highgate in London, opened in 1839, is considered the oldest cemetery in England. From that date onwards, especially after the Metropolitan Burial Act of 1852, public cemeteries were opened in towns and cities throughout the country.

Private “burial grounds” and “cemeteries” also exist, belonging to individual families, communities, neighborhoods and funeral businesses. Records of these can be hard to locate.

1885 was the year of the first Christian cremation in England and crematoria are now commonplace around the country. Ashes of those cremated are either scattered or interred (with legal restrictions on where these can happen) although sometimes retained privately in urns by family members. Interments of ashes are normally made as additions to existing family graves or in crematoria grounds, and in areas of cemeteries specifically for ashes to be placed, called ‘memorial gardens’ or similar.

So a broader term is useful for describing all the options for disposal of a deceased person, both historical and modern, which is “interment“.

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

Copyhold is 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. It also obligated them to seek permission from the manor courts to sell (the lease), sublet, or pass on the copyhold property.

Types of copyhold:

Heritable copyhold meant the land could pass to the copyholder’s heir on his or her death depending on the manor’s custom. It might pass to the eldest son, youngest son, be divided amongst all the sons, or bequeathed by a will placed with the manor court specifying a designated heir.

Copyhold for lives could be a lease for one lifetime, but was 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 who could then grant it to a new tenant who might or might not be the next heir in the line. Land passed this way might be used by the same family for several generations.

Deeds or title deeds are complex and took many forms over the centuries. See Feoffment, Bargain and sale, Lease and release, Sale by recovery, and Mortgage.

Fees are a legal payment in return for goods and services, but in early Dover the word could also mean an extra tax payment for specific commodities such as the ship masts that were so important in the early Dover economy. Fees were paid by sawmill owners based on the size of the trees they turned into 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 is a term from the Middle Ages, used mainly in the European  feudal system. Feoffment or enfeoffment was the transfer of land for a pledge of service. This same mechanism was used later to avoid restrictions on the passage of title in which a landowner would give land to one person for the use of another. It later meant an individual was granted the right of title to a property, but he/she might have to pay a fee or pledge service in return for ownership.

Freehold is a mode of estate ownership in which land within specific bounds and all structures on it can be used, sold, or willed at the discretion of the title owner. However, the owner can still be required to acknowledge fealty to a local lord, or the town, or whatever entity can be described as governing that property. A freehold owner can build on the land, fence it, and use it at will (within reason) without acquiring permission first. It differs from leasehold, in which the property reverts back to the owner of the land after the lease (which can extend over generations) expires or otherwise lawfully terminates.  A similar term is fee simple, which means the land is held without a time limit and can be sold or passed on as desired. A fee tail has strings attached, meaning it cannot be sold or willed away, but passes automatically to a named heir, functioning like a trust.

Types of Freehold:

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

Fee tail meant there was an interest in the estate as long as there were living male lineal descendants of the person who first had the land granted, though the “tail” could be defined differently. The land could not be sold or willed away from the person designated as the heir, who was usually the eldest living male in a family.

Life estate was also a freehold which could be granted to a person for the duration of his or her life, or possibly more. Essentially, ownership was kept by the person with a right to the land, but it was “owned” by a stipulated individual for his or her life. The most common example is a widow getting a life interest in her husband’s property which would then go to the heir (often the eldest son) upon the death of the widow.

Godly was the term the puritans used for themselves, an indication they felt they were more devout and had a better way of worshiping and building a personal relationship with God.

Indenture is one way of binding oneself to serve for a period of years in consequence of receiving money or or possibly an apprenticeship. But this is not the only meaning. It is a general word for a contract between two parties or an agreement concerning the sale, lease, rental, mortgage, feoffment, or use of land. The term comes from the physical appearance of the documented agreement, in which the parchment was given a wavy or indented edge that provided a precaution against counterfeiting. If the two copies of the agreement were brought together but did not perfectly, then one was not authentic.

Lease and release title deeds were a way to get around fees that could be imposed when land was passed along. It’s helpful to think of them more like “lease and re-lease,” meaning a lease and then a different kind of lease. It was a simple, quick, and effective formula that was a secret but also legal way to convey property. 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 contained the purchase price and guarantee the buyer could hold the land forever. By the mid-1700s, it was the main form of conveyance until 1845 when it was abolished.

Lease should not be confused with lease and release. There were many leases, which are simply the right to have tenure of property for a certain period for payment. Leases often began on feast days such as Lady Day, Midsummer, Michaelmas, or Christmas and the payments could be yearly, semi-yearly, or quarterly, and the term could be for a term of years (usually 3-21 years) or it could be a three-life lease (see Copyhold for lives).

Levies is by definition a tax, fee or fine. Use of the word “levied” is more common as in a tax was levied on a specific commodity. Occasionally, levy is used to reference a specific, one-time tax.

Mortgage in previous centuries was essentially the same as today’s definition of the word. It’s a loan raised against the value of the property. They were usually destroyed when the loan was repaid. Few still exist and those which do are generally for small amounts, essentially more of a way to get a capital loan than of purchasing a complete property.

Rate is a tax term referencing the percentage or amount of tax to be paid based on an individual’s property and/or possessions. For example, a rate of 6 pence per 20 pounds meant for every 20 pounds worth of real and personal property a man owned, he was assessed 6 pence for tax purposes. Paying rates can be synonymous with paying taxes and the phrase was occasionally used that way.

Sale by recovery was another way to convey property. This was “sale by lawsuit,” which was often fictitious as time went on. In it, the person interested in buying property would pretend he had a claim to it. A third party (often a lawyer’s clerk) 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 agreeing that a certain amount of money should be paid by the new owner to the previous owner to ensure his title to the property.

Seals (on a property document) were not a way of closing it up, but rather authenticating the parties involv3d. They were used on legal documents all the way back to Saxon times to show the document was approved by the person or persons concerned. A seal or signet which was stamped into the wax was unique to each person and broken at his death so no one could use it fraudulently. The wax used might be placed directly on the paper or attached by a small piece of parchment to the bottom.

Selectman-Member of a local governing board of a New England town. They were often tasked with communal issues such as where cattle and horses could be kept, what to do about various stray animals, determining taxes, judging fences and more.