Genealogy Definitions

family words

If you're new to family history research, it can be helpful to keep a list of genealogy definitions and abbreviations handy as you work. Even if you're an experienced genealogist, you may run into terms and acronyms that are unfamiliar.

Terms for Family Relationships

As you research your family history, you may encounter the following family relationship terms on genealogy websites and in written sources:

  • Affinity – This term indicates a family relationship that does not involve blood ties. Genealogists sometimes use it when talking about adoptions or marriages.
  • Consanguinity – This refers to the degree of blood relationship between two people.
  • Cousins – This can refer to a first cousin, the child of your parent's sibling. It can also refer to a more distant relative, such a second or third cousin. If the individual is the child of your cousin, he or she is your cousin "once removed."
  • Maternal – This term indicates information pertaining to your mother's side of the family.
  • Paternal – This relates to your father's side of the family.

Terms Used for Family Trees

These terms are common in family tree charts:

  • Ascendant – This is a family tree that shows the ancestors of an individual.
  • Descendant – This type of family tree chart shows the children, grandchildren, and other progeny of an individual. It can also refer to one of these progeny.
  • Lineage – A lineage is a list of direct ancestors or descendents for an individual.
  • Pedigree – This is a chart or list indicating the parents, grandparents, and other direct ancestors of an individual.
  • Progenitor – This refers to a forefather or the oldest ancestor in a family line.

Common Abbreviations and Acronyms

You'll find abbreviations and acronyms in public records, genealogy databases, and other information sources. The following are some of the most common:

  • Abt. – This abbreviation stands for the word "about." It's often used when the researcher is uncertain of the exact date.  You may also see "ab."
  • Ad. – This abbreviation stands for "adopted" and is used to distinguish an individual who was raised by someone other than his or her biological parents.
  • A.O. – This stands for "account of" and is used to credit the source of a first-person narrative or report.
  • Arr. – This abbreviation stands for "arrived" and indicates the year an individual immigrated to a new country or moved to a new location.
  • B. – This abbreviation usually precedes a date or place and represents the word "born."
  • Bap. – This abbreviation means "baptized." You may also see it as "bpt."
  • Bef. – This is a shortened version of "before" and is used to indicate that something happened prior to the date specified.
  • Bur. – This stands for "buried" or "burial" and is usually followed by a date and the name of a cemetery or town.
  • Ca. – This abbreviation stands for "circa," which means the same as about. You may also see it as "cir" or "c."
  • D. – This abbreviation usually comes before a date or locations and means "died." You may also see "d'd," which means "deceased."
  • Desc. – This stands for "descendant." You'll also see "dsct."
  • D/o – This acronym stands for "daughter of." You'll also see "s/o" from "son of," "w/o" for "wife of," "h/o" for "husband of," and several other similar terms.
  • D.Y. – This acronym stands for "died young" and is usually used to represent someone who died in childhood or early adulthood, often without having children.
  • F.N. – This acronym stands for "free negro" and was used to signify free African American people in some census records and other and public documents before the Civil War. Similarly, "F.M." stands for "free mulatto."
  • G. – This stands for "great." You'll often see several gs preceding "grandparent." Similarly, "ggm" means "great grandmother." "G" also sometimes stands for "generation."
  • Jr. – This common abbreviation stands for "junior" and indicates that someone was named after a parent.
  • Liv. – This abbreviation indicates that a person in the family tree is still living.
  • M. – This stands for "married" and usually precedes a date or place. You'll also see "md."
  • N.F.K. – This acronym stands for "nothing further known." You'll also see "N.F.I.," meaning "no further information."
  • Obit. – This abbreviation stands for "obituary."
  • Pr. – This abbreviation means "proved" or "probated" and is used to indicate the date of a will.
  • Unk. – This indicated information that is "unknown."
  • V.R. – This stands for "vital records," often including public records of birth, marriage, and death. You may also see "v.s." for "vital statistics."
  • V.S. – This common abbreviation stands for "versus" and is used in some court records.
  • Wd. – This means "widow," "widower," or "widowed."

Print It Out

If you frequently run into a genealogy terms that confuse you, take a few moments to print out this list of definitions. That way, you can refer to it as you do in-person or online genealogy research.

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