Vol. 4, # 6
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Terms and Meanings of Genealogical Words
Something a little bit different from the usual articles. During the course of research, terms and initials are bound to appear in most any kind of document that will require researchers to search for answers as to just exactly what the meaning of a word or abbreviation indicates or means. In an effort to offer assistance with these terms and abbreviations, the following lists are the first of a two-part series on genealogical terms and their meanings. This month’s newsletter covers the subjects of occupations and initials.
Here is a list of old occupations compiled. Some of the words have evolved to mean other things in modern times. They can be a tremendous help, especially when reading census records or wills..
Almoner—Giver of charity to the needy
Amanuensis—Secretary or stenographer
Artificer—A soldier mechanic who does repairs
Boniface—Keeper of an inn
Brazier—One who works with brass
Caulker—One who filled up cracks (in ships or windows or seems to make them watertight by using tar or oakum-hem fiber produced by taking old ropes apart
Chandler—Dealer or trader; one who makes or sells candles; retailer of groceries, ship supplier
Clicker—The servant of a salesman who stood at the door to invite customers; one who received the matter in the galley from the compositors and arranged it in due form ready for printing; one who makes eyelet holes in boots using a machine which clicked.
Colporteur—Peddler of books
Cooper—One who makes or repairs vessels made of staves & hoops, such as casks, barrels, tubs, etc.
Cordwainer—Shoemaker, originally any leather worker using leather from Cordova/Cordoba in Spain
Costermonger—Peddler of fruits and vegetables
Currier—One who dresses the coat of a horse with a currycomb; one who tanned leather by incorporating oil or grease
Docker—Stevedore, dock worker who loads and unloads cargo
Dowser—One who finds water using a rod or witching stick
Draper—A dealer in dry goods
Drayman—One who drives a long strong cart without fixed sides for carrying heavy loads
Dresser—A surgeon’s assistant in a hospital
Drover—One who drives cattle, sheep, etc. to market; a dealer in cattle
Factor Agent—commission merchant; one who acts or transacts business for another; Scottish steward or bailiff of an estate
Farrier—A blacksmith, one who shoes horses
Fell monger—One who removes hair or wool from hides in preparation for leather making
Fletcher—One who made bows and arrows
Fuller—One who fulls cloth; one who shrinks and thickens woolen cloth by moistening, heating and pressing; one who cleans and finishes cloth
Gaoler—A keeper of the goal, a jailer
Hacker—Maker of hoes
Hatcheler—One who combed out or carded flax
Haymonger—Dealer in hay
Hayward—Keeper of fences
Hind—A farm laborer
Holster—A groom who took care of horses, often at an inn
Hooper—One who made hoops for casks and barrels
Huckster—Sells small wares
Husbandman—A farmer who cultivated the land
Journeyman—One who had served his apprenticeship and mastered his craft, not bound to serve a master, but hired by the day
Joyner / Joiner—A skilled carpenter
Lardner—Keeper of the cupboard
Lormer —Maker of horse gear
Mintmaster—One who issued local currency
Monger—Seller of goods (ale, fish)
Ordinary Keeper—Innkeeper with fixed prices
Pattern Maker—A maker of a clog shod with an iron ring.
A clog was a wooden pole with a pattern cut into the end
Peruker—A wig maker
Pettifogger—A shyster lawyer
Plumber—One who applied sheet lead for roofing and set lead frames for plain or stained glass windows.
Puddler—Wrought iron worker
Rigger—Hoist tackle worker
Ripper—Seller of fish
Roper—Maker of rope or nets
Saddler—One who makes, repairs or sells saddles or other furnishings for horses
Sawyer—One who saws; carpenter
Scribler—A minor or worthless author
Scrivener—Professional or public copyist or writer; notary public
Slopseller—Seller of ready-made clothes in a slop shop
Snobscat / Snob—One who repaired shoes
Spinster—A woman who spins or an unmarried woman
Spurrer—Maker of spurs
Squire—Country gentleman; farm owner; justice of peace
Stuff gown—Junior barrister
Stuff gownsman—Junior barrister
Supercargo—Officer on merchant ship who is in charge of cargo and the commercial concerns of the ship.
Tanner—One who tans (cures) animal hides into leather
Tapley—One who puts the tap in an ale cask
Teamster—One who drives a team for hauling
Tide waiter—Customs inspector
Tinker—Am itinerant tin pot and pan seller and repairman
Travers—Toll bridge collection
Tucker—Cleaner of cloth goods
Turner—A person who turns wood on a lathe into spindles
Victualer—A tavern keeper, or one who provides an army, navy or ship with food
Wagoner—Teamster not for hire
Waiter Customs officer or tide waiter—one who waited on the tide to collect duty on goods brought in.
Waterman—Boatman who plies for hire
Webster—Operator of looms
Wharfinger—Owner of a wharf
Wheelwright—One who made or repaired wheels; wheeled carriages,etc.
Whitesmith Tinsmith—worker of iron who finishes or polishes the work
Whitster—Bleach of cloth
Wright—Workman, especially a construction worker
Yeoman Farmer—who owns his own land
What Do Those Initials Mean?
Initials after your ancestor’s names may provide useful information that you’d not expected. The following list includes initials you may come across, again, when reading old wills or other documents.
a.a.s.- died in the year of his/her age (anno aetitis suae) (86 y/o died in year 86)
d.s.p.- died without issue (decessit sine prole legitima)
d.s.p.l.- died without legitimate issue (decessit sine prole mascula supesita)
d.s.p.m.s.- died without surviving male issue (decessit sine prole mascula supersita)
d.s.p.s - died without surviving male issue (decessit sine prole mascula supersita)
d.unm - died without surviving issue (decessit sine prole supersita)
d.v.p.- died in the lifetime of his father (decessit vita patris)
d.v.m.- died in the lifetime of his mother (decessit vita matris)
Et al- and others (et alia)
Inst - present month (instans)
Liber - book or volume
Nepos - grandson
Nunc - Nuncapative will, an oral will, written by a witness
Ob - he/she died (obit)
Relict - widow or widower (relicta/relictus)
Sic - so or thus, exact copy as written
Testes - witnesses
Utl - late (ultimo)
Ux or vs - wife (uxor)
Viz - namely (videlicet)
Look for the second and final part of the series in the October newsletter on genealogy terms.
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Fact: The term GEDCOM stands for Genealogical Data Communications. Years ago, one computer genealogy program couldn't read another program's data. Genealogists could only share computerized information with people who had the same program. Then the LDS Church, known for its commitment to family history, developed the GEDCOM standard. A software program could export a file in GEDCOM format, which could then be imported into a different program.
Most genealogy software today supports GEDCOM imports and exports, and family history files can be shared no matter what program an individual uses.
Tip: Ahnentafel is a methodical numbering system, from a German word meaning "ancestor table." Picture a pedigree chart, visually divide it into columns, and number each person one column at a time. The starting person is #1, the father is #2, the mother is #3. The father's parents are #4 & #5, the mother's parents are #6 & #7, etc.
The Ahnentafel numbers are very systematic: all men are even numbers, all women are odd numbers. A father's number is double that of his child, and a mother's number is double-plus-one. With this information, ancestors be organized and listed without the need for a chart.
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Genealogy Research Online ~
Classes are from 2 to 4 PM Wednesday afternoon.
Oct. 21st and Nov. 18th
The following classes are on Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.
New England Ancestors
**NOTE: Basic Genealogy and Computer Skills Required.
All classes are FREE and held in the Computer Lab now located on Second Floor in the Information and Periodicals Department of the Main Library.
Register for classes in person or by
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