Genealogy Terms K - O

If you're just starting out, or have been researching for a while and have come across a word you're not familiar with, check our list below. If it's not listed, please feel free to send it on to us at and we'll research it's meaning and add it to our glossary.
Words starting the letters K through O:
Kindly tenants
A Scottish term for tenants who due to a well recognized and accepted custom, held their land forlife and were able to adopt the right hereditary succession.
Kinship - canon
Canon law records the number of steps back to two relatives' common ancestor.
For example, your first cousin is two steps to the ancestor you two share (your grandparent)—so the canon number is 2.
A fixed annual sum payable to widows out of the spouse's freehold for life or until they remarried.
A trades or craftsman who had complketed an apprenticeship but had not yet become a master.
Kinship - civil
Civil relationships (non-religious) give the total number of steps from one relative to the other. For example, your first cousin, is two steps from you to your grandparent and two more from your grandparent to your first cousin. That makes the civil relationship IV (it's customarily shown in Roman numerals).
Knight of the shire
A member of parliament, not neccesarily a knight in rankm who was selected by vote to represent the landed gentry of the local countryside.
Knight service
A military tenure where men received land in exchange for service in war. Theland was known as "knight's fee."
Knobstick wedding
The equivalent of "shotgun" wedding.
Land Grant
The first transfer of land from the government to an individual.
Landed gentry
In British society, a reference to upper class families.
Language of the law until 1733.
Legal age
Males, under 21 years of age. Between 14 and 21 they could select guardian.
Females, under 18 years of age. Between 12 and 18 they could select a guardian.
Lineal kin
Your direct descendents (children, grandchildren, etc.) and progenitors (parents, grandparents, etc.
Lloyd's Captains' Registers
These registers give details of the careers of both captain and mate on merchant vessels whose voyage details were transmitted to Lloyd's of London.. They were first published in 1869 and recorded crew members who had received their master's certificates between 1851 and 1948.
A person who has separate accomodation to the householder.
A word used to describe someone who was mentally ill. The term was used often in the census returns.
The onset of labor and the birth of a child.
Marriage license
Allowed a couple to marry without the reading of banns.
Metes and Bounds
A survey method used in the state-land states in the United States. The method uses distance measurements (metes) and boundary markers (bounds) such as natural features.
A protestant denomination which was started in18th century England by the Wesley brothers. The Methodists split from the Church of England in 1784.
Film rolls containing reduced images of documents. The standard storage used for historical documents is 35mm film.
Reduced images of photographed documents provided as rectangular sheets of film containing several rows of frames.
Was a title used only for men of wealth and/or education.
Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
A genetic material both males and females inherit from their mothers. Because it’s passed down mostly unchanged from mothers to daughters, mtDNA can tell you about your maternal line—but because this type of DNA mutates infrequently, the results reveal only “deep ancestry,” not definitive links to recent generations.
This is the set of most-common DYS values in a group of closely related haplotypes. A particular branch of a surname, for example, might have a slightly different modal from another branch of the name.
One-half interest.
A custom in Scotland where a coffin was covered with a velvet cloth on its way to burial.
(Most Recent           Common Ancestor)
the most recent paternal ancestor of two males. Every male on earth shares an MRCA with every other male, although some will have an MRCA thousands of years ago and others will have an MRCA within the last few generations. Y-DNA results can reveal how many generations have passed between two participants and their MRCA.
Muster roll
A list of men between the ages of 18 and 45 available for military service in the militia within their own county.
Usually a harmless change in the DNA sequence. A mutation can change the value of a DYS marker, for example. Although mutations are random, they typically occur at a known rate and thus provide a rough molecular “clock” useful for surname studies.
Natural Child
Sometimes researchers find this term and conclude that it denotes an illegitimate relationship. Rather, it is meant to indicate a relationship by blood rather than one by marriage or adoption. An illegitimate child may be called “my base son” or “my bastard son,” or even “my alleged son.’”
The child of a sibling (or a half-sibling, or a step-sibling, or a spouse’s sibling, or your sibling’s spouse’s sibling). Because the term derives from the Latin term nepos, meaning grandson, it is possible that an early colonial reference may have this meaning.
In 1750 it meant a grandchild.
A historical term used to denote people who refused to conform to the established religious practices of the day.
Now wife
Can fool a researcher into assuming that the testator of a will using this term had a former wife. While this may be true, it is more likely the testator is indicating that the bequest is intended only for his present wife and not necessarily for any subsequent wife he may have.
(non-paternal event)
A break in the Y-chromosome line resulting from adoption, infidelity, or another cause. NPEs (also known as non-paternity events or false paternity) can be detected by DNA testing.
Nuclear family
A family group consisting of mother, father, and dependent children.
Nuncupative wills
An unwritten will declared before witnesses by the testator, usually shortly before death. This type of will was not written, signed, or sealed. Wills were posthumously required to attest to its authenticity in a probate court.
Nurse child
A child who was fostered with another family.
Obit sine prole
Died without issue.
Oral History
A method for collecting living people’s testimony about their experiences, memories, and stories
An early day hotel or inn which served meals. Rates were probably set by the county court.
Ordinary Will
Not handwritten must be signed, dated, and witnessed.
Under legal age and an heir to an estate, not that both parents were deceased.
Updated: 16 May 2020
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