Roots to the Past

Diana Tibert
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Genealogy Terminology 101

After a decade and a half of researching, I continue to learn new genealogy terminology.

After a decade and a half of researching, I continue to learn new genealogy terminology. A good dictionary provides most meanings, but it doesnt reveal the entire picture. Genealogy has its own language. Knowing the proper meaning from the genealogy perspective helps avoid confusion.

As a genealogist, or someone who studies their ancestors, I am often faced with relationship words. For example, we all know our ancestors are the relatives who came before us, but more specifically, they are the direct line of people we descend from. In other words, they are our mother, father, grandparents and so on. They are not our aunts, uncles and cousins.

These consanguineous, or blood-related, family members, are collateral ancestors. Sometimes they are referred to as the collateral line or collateral relatives.

My descendants are my children, grandchildren and their children. My ascendants are my parents, grandparents and their parents. Im stuck in the middle being me.

Forebear and forefather are terms meaning the same as ancestor. If one wants to denote a specific lineage, or a direct line of descent from the mothers side, use maternal ancestors or maternal line. For the fathers side, use paternal ancestors or paternal line.

A Pedigree chart is the recording of a direct descent line, both maternal and paternal. Included in this chart will be the progenitors, the oldest ancestors discovered in each family line. For example, my McDonald progenitor is Loyalist Alexander McDonald. My Tibert progenitor is Johannes Diebert who settled in Lunenburg in 1753. Their progeny, or their children, are included in the chart, too.

Within old obituaries, widows who did not remarry were sometimes referred to as the relict (or relicta) of their late spouses. Widowers might have been referred to as the relictus of their late wife.

Two words sometimes confusing novice genealogists are emigrate and immigrate. When one leaves their homeland to live in another country, they emigrate. When they come to a new country, they immigrate. For example, my Foreign Protestant ancestors emigrated from the Palatinate Area. They immigrated to Canada.

When dealing with wills, researchers might encounter devise, which means to bequeath land. A divisor is the person bequeathing the land and the devisee is the person who is given the land.

A dower is the portion of an estate a widow is entitled to when her husband dies. Amounts varied, but it was usually around one third of the estate.

Dower is not to be confused with dowry (dowery) which was the valuables a bride brought to her husband in marriage.

Copying a document word for word, errors and all, is called transcribing. An abstract is a summary of a document including only the essential information. Mistakes are still recorded as in the original, but corrections can be made in brackets.

Researchers File

Looking for Ann and Hugh McLean from East River area of Pictou. They had two sons: Daniel Alexander (1843, went to US in 1864) and James Donley (1848, married Lucy Embree at Oxford in 1877, went to US in 1880). Contact: Jim Newman, 28 Dogwood Lane, Grove City, PA 16127 USA; e-mail:

Editor's Note - Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living at Milford, NS. Submit genealogy queries by writing: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS B0N 1Y0; or email:

Geographic location: Lunenburg, US, Palatinate Area Canada East River Pictou Grove City Hants County

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