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Glossary of Terms

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

  • Accomptant - accountant.
  • Action - formal procedure in introducing and carrying through a court suit.
  • Administration account - account of an executor or administrator listing costs of administration, payments to creditors, and sometimes distribution to heirs.
  • Administrator - In older records, this is a person appointed to settle estate of the deceased.
  • Administratix - female administrator.
  • Affirmation - a solemn statement, equivalent by law to an oath, but without religious significance or reference to a Supreme Being.
  • Ague - recurring fever or chills of malaria.
  • Amanuensis - secretary.
  • Amerced - fined.
  • Amercement - a payment applied to both parties in a civil suit for the privilege of using the courts, more especially to discourage frivilous suits; the losing party paid both amercements. County court amercements were thirty pounds of tobacco; those of the provincial court were fifty pounds.
  • Apoplexy - stroke.
  • Artificer - soldier mechanic.
  • Assignee - person to whom property has been assigned.
  • Assumpsit - a court suit filed when a written or oral contract has been broken.

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B
  • Banns - publication or posting of the announcement of a coming marriage, a period of time before the actual marriage to allow advance notice to those that might have reason to protest. In most churches the banns were read aloud on three successive Sundays.
  • Bequest - a gift by will of personal property.
  • Bilious Fever - fever caused by liver disorder.
  • Bill of complaint - a written statement introduced by a plaintiff into court.
  • Bill of sale - an instrument transferring title to personal property from one person to another.
  • Bloody Flux - dysentery.
  • Bolus - a medicinal dose, in the form of a round mass of medicine larger than an ordinary pill.

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C

  • Calavances - dried beans or pease used as army-stores, probably a corruption of Spanish "garbanzos".
  • Capias - a writ to take a person into custody.
  • Carner - granary keeper.
  • Causa - a court suit.
  • Caveat - an action used to prevent land from being patented.
  • Certiorari - see Writ of certiorari.
  • Chancery - another term for equity.
  • Chattels - articles of personal property.
  • Circa - about (for example c. 1790).
  • Citation - a writ commanding a person's presence in court to perform a specific action.
  • Civil - court suit dealing with recovery of private rights or compensation for their infraction, such as nonpayment of debts or claims for damages.
  • Codicil - an addition or supplement to a will.
  • Common Recovery - a court proceeding to break an entail.
  • Complainant - another term for plaintiff.
  • Consort - spouse.
  • Consumption - tuberculosis.
  • Conveyance - transfer of title to land from one person to another.

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D
  • De bonis non - concerning goods not settled by preceding administrator.
  • Decedent - a person who has died.
  • Decree - final decision rendered in an equity case.
  • Dedimus potestatum - A legal procedure that permitted one party to take and record the testimony of a witness before trial, but only if that testimony might otherwise be lost, as for example with a witness who was terminally ill and might not live until the trial took place.
  • Deed - an instrument transfering title to land from one person to another.
  • Deed of trust - An instrument transfering title to real or personal property to a trustee in order to secure repayment of money or performance of other conditions.
  • Demurrer - a pleading which acknowledges facts presented but contends they are insufficient to proceed further with the case.
  • Deponent - the person who takes an oath or affirmation.
  • Deposition - sworn, written testimony of a witness.
  • Desperate debts - uncollectable debts.
  • Devise - a gift of land by will.
  • Docket - an abbreviated agenda of court proceedings, outlining papers filed and actions taken.
  • Dower right - The right of a widow to a life estate in one-third of her husband's real estate.
  • Dropsy - swelling of tissue; congestive heart failure.
  • Duces tecum - a form of supoena requesting the transfer to the court of a thing (i.e. a document or some other object) to serve as evidence in a trial.

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E

  • Ejectment - Legal action to regain possession and clear title to real property.
  • Electuary - A medicine usually consisting of a powder mixed with syrup or honey to form a pasty mass.
  • Emolument - refers to all wages, benefits, or other benefit received as compensation for holding some office or employment.
  • Enfeoff - to transfer land.
  • Entail - to transfer land with restrictions, usually only to male heirs.
  • Equity - court suit involving a matter needing an equitable solution, which cannot be decided on the basis of common or statute law, such as settlement of an estate or divorce.
  • Escheat - Reversion of land to the state (and in colonial Maryland, to Lord Baltimore) for want of heirs.
  • Essoyned - Essoin, Essoign. An excuse for not appearing in court at the return of the process; presentation of such excuse.
  • Estate - the interest anyone has in lands or other property; property composing the assets of a decedent or a ward.
  • Estrays - cattle of unknown owners.
  • Et al - "and others"
  • Et ux - "and wife"
  • Execution - process of carrying into effect a court judgment or decree.
  • Executor - appointed by testator (deceased) to carry out the direction and request of his will.
  • Executrix - a female executor.

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F
  • Farrier - horse doctor; blacksmith who shoes horses.
  • Febrifuge - a medication that reduces fever; acting to reduce fever (adj.).
  • Fee simple - unencumbered title to land, clear of restriction or conditions.
  • Femme Covert - married woman.
  • Femme Sole - single woman.
  • Fire-ship - prostitute.
  • Fieri facias - a writ directing property to be seized and sold in order to satisfy a judgement against a debtor.
  • Folio - page.

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G
  • Glebe - church land.
  • Grant - conveyance of right to land, particularly from the proprietor to others.
  • Grantee - person to whom land is deeded.
  • Grantor - person who deeds land.

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H
  • Hundreds (Hds.) - an old English term for land division equaling a land area of less than a county or shire but larger than a town or parish.

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I

  • Imparlance - time granted by a court to respond to allegations.
  • In carads - encourages.
  • Instrument - legal document.
  • Intestate - person who dies without making a will.
  • Inventory - detailed list of articles or property of a decedent with estimated value.

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J
  • Jeofail - an error or oversight in pleading; the acknowledgement of such an error.
  • Judgment - decision of the court after a case is heard, used particularly in reference to a civil case.
  • Jurat - to swear. The certificate signed and sealed by a notary which is affixed below the sworn or affirmed statement and signature of the deponent.

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K

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L

  • Legatee - a person who recieves personal property by will.
  • Letters of Administration (LTA) - formal instrument appointing an administrator to settle an estate.
  • Letters Testamentary - authorization granted by a court to administer the estate of a testator.
  • Liber - book.
  • Locus Sigili - in the place of the seal.

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M
  • Manucaption - actual bodily possession.
  • Manumission - act of freeing a person from bondage.
  • Melilot - or Sweet Clover, a fabaceous (bean-like) member of the genus Melilotus.
  • Moiety - one-half.

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N
  • Nemine Contradicente - unanimously; without dissent.
  • Next Friend - a person who acts for the benefit of a minor or married woman in a court suit.
  • Next of Kin - persons most nearly related to a decedent by blood.
  • Non Compos Mentis - not of sound mind.
  • Nuncupative - description of a will orally created, not written.

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O

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P

  • Palatine - These were inhabitants of the Palatinate of the Rhine, which was ravaged and almost depopulated by the French armies in 1688 and the following years. For further details see page 10 of the preface in Volume 27.
  • Patent - a grant of priveleges; in Maryland records, a grant of title to land from the proprietor or the state.
  • Perch - land measurement equaling 16.5 feet.
  • Plaintiff -a person who files suit in court.
  • Plant shavers - tobacco cutters.
  • Probate - the act or process of proving a will; a general term referring to administration of a decedent's estate.
  • Prothonotary - Clerk of the Court.
  • Prout petitor - as is asked.
  • prt pet - contraction for "prout petitur".

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Q

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R

  • Relict - widow or widower.
  • Renunciation - act by which a person abandons rights to serve as an executor, etc.
  • Replevin - an action to recover property taken unlawfully.

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S

  • Scire Facias - a writ to revive or renew a judgement.
  • Skiddaw - imported cloth, known by the name of the area of Cumbria in which it was produced.
  • Sperate Debts - collectable debts.
  • Stilliards (Steelyards) - a portable balance with two unequal arms, the longer with a movable counterpoise, and the shorter with a hook or similar device for holding the object to be weighed.
  • Summons - a writ notifying a person that legal action has been commenced against him or her.
  • Sudorific - causing or increasing sweat.
  • Supersedeas - a suspension of legal proceedings.

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T

  • Tenant - in the broad sense a person who possesses land; in a restricted sense one who rents land.
  • Testator - one who dies leaving a will.
  • Testatrix - female testator.
  • Testamento -  will.
  • Testatum Fi Fa - a writ for Sheriff to levy judgment against a debtor.
  • Testimony - verbal or written evidence given by a witness in court proceedings.
  • Theriaca Andromachi - an antidote for poison, prepared by mixing pulverized drugs with honey to form an electuary. Named for Andromachus, the Greek physician of Roman emporer Nero, who is credited with inventing the antidote.
  • Tomusts and woull - ?
  • Trespass on the Case - court action taken to recover damages inflicted without force by the defendant, often used for the collection of debts.
  • Trust - an estate held by one person for the benefit of another.

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U

  • Ut Supra - and above.
  • Uxor - wife.

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V

  • Voucher - receipt, acquittance, or release which serves as evidence of payment or discharge or a debt.

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W

  • Ward - a person, usually a minor, placed under the care of a guardian.
  • Warrant - a writ directing an official to take certain action.
  • Writ - legal document issued by a court ordering or prohibiting an action.
  • Writ of certiorari - a discretionary writ issued by an appellate court requiring a lower court to deliver a case record for review. Often shortened to 'cert' (e.g. "the Court granted cert").

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X

Y

Z

Sources Include:

Phebe R. Jacobsen and Patricia M. Vanorny. Glossary of Legal Terms. Maryland State Archives, REF D-2-3.
Walter A. Shumaker and George Foster Longsdorf. The Cyclepedic Dictionary of Law. (St. Paul: Keefe-Davidson, 1901). Maryland State Archives, 2/5/11/27.

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