Genealogical Glossary              

List of Words Used in Genealogical Records

Click on each letter to see the list of genealogical terms.

A - B - CD - E F G H - I - J - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V -  X 

Online Dictionaries

Language is constantly changing, and many words used in old records could have a different meaning from the common meaning used today; therefore, dictionaries from earlier years or centuries are an excellent resource for researchers. Below is a list of common words that are found in Portuguese records to help you get started.


Letter A​


Abade: abbot; rector of a parish (in some provinces)
Abadengo: abbey
Abadia: monastery headed by abbot or abbess
Abscesso: abscess
Ação judicial: lawsuit
Aceitante: accepting
Aceite: an act whereby the person, by stating the date and signature, is bound by an obligation in a security against him/her.
Aceptilação: debt settlement given to a debtor, with effect extended to other covered by the delivery of the unpaid security to the debtor. Remission of unpaid debt. 
Acre: acre
Adjacente: ajacent
Administrador: administrator
Adoção: adoption
Advento: advent, the four week period that comes before Christmas
Afastamento: the act or effect of seperating
Afinidade: affinity; the relationship between one spouse and relatives of the other
Alabardeiro: Spanish Royal Guard
Albino: someone who suffers from albinism, an organic anomaly characterized by the absence or great lack of pigment in the skin, eyes, and hair
Alcaide: mayor; magistrate; offical to whom the maybor delegates his power in a certain section of a city
Alcaide-mor: justice of the peace; the administrative and judical magistrate of a province or district; local magistrate
Alferes: the least graduated of junior officers.
Alma: soul
Alqueire: bushel
Alteza: an honorary title given to the kings, princes, and officals of the high court and to some of the royal councils
Aluguel: rent
Amparo: the act of protection of the Indian by the Spaniard, specifically teaching him the trade, bringing him up
Anata: traditional tax paid to the Apostolic Chamber
Anexo: annex; a church rependent upon another one; rural district joined to a borough
Anteiglesia: atrium or portico (of a church); parish church; parish or district
Apeamento: surveying; shoring up of a building
Aprendiz: apprentice
Aprovação: Aprovement
Arcebispado ou Arquidiocese: archbishopric, ecclesiatical territory under the jurisdiction of an archbishop
Arcebispo: archbishop, the bishop of a metropolitan church to which other bishops are subordinate
Arciprestado: land under jurusdiction of an archpriest composed of several parishes
Arcipreste: archpriest, a parish priest who also presides over several other parish priests
Arquivo: archives, place where records are kept; (office) files, file
Arrendamento: to rent
Arroba: weight measure equivalent to 25 lbs. of 16 oz. each; liquid measurement equivalent to about 3 gallons; the fourth part of a quintal
Árvore genealógica: Family tree
Ascendência: ascendency, a series of ancestors
Asilo Político: asylum, shelter
Assinatura hológrafa: holographic signature
Assinatura sinalática: signal signature
Assinatura: signature
Audiência: regional high court; civil tribunal that dealt with the civil and criminal actions of the last resort
Auto: judicial sentence; warrant; edict; various legal documents both judical and administrative, not including wills or inventories
Auto-da-fé: a public procedure in which those accused by the Inquistition were sentenced 
Avaliador: Evaluator

Letter B
Bacharel: holder of a bachelor's degree
Bairro: city ward
Basco: person who is from/ lives in the country of Basco.
Bastardo: bastard
Beneficiário: beneficence, charity; welfare organization or institution, charity organization, public welfare office
Benefício de Inventário: (law) benefit of inventory, right granted to heir to accept inheritance without being obligated to pay debts amounting to more than the inheritance
Benefício: benefit, profit
Bens de Raiz: property, goods, fee
Bispado: bishopric
Bispo: bishop
Braça: length measure, length formed by having both arms of a person open and extended, which commonly is taken to be 6 feet of width
Bula: papal bull or proclamation

Letter C
c.c.: Casado com-- Married with
c.m.c.: Contrato matrimonial com-- Marriage contract with
Cabido: chapter of a cathedral or collegiate church
Cabildo colonial: name given to municipal corporations instituted in Latin American during the colonial period that were in charge of the general administration of colonial cities
Cabo: Corporal; military graduate who, in the hierachy of our Armed Forces, is above the solder, in the Army; above a first-class sailor in the navy; and above a first-class soldier in aeronautics
Caboclo ou Curiboca: mestizo individual; child of white with indigenous
Cabra: mestizo indivual; mix of black with native or native with white 
Caçador: hunter
Cacique: the chief or ruler of some Indian tribes; local ruler
Cadastro: register
Cadeira: chair; position or place of honor of an authority or dignity
Cafuz (Cafuzo): regarding black or indigenous mestizos
Câmara municipal: city council; city hall
Canônico: canonical; canonry (canons collectively)
Capelania: benefice or foundation subject to certain obligations; lay foundation without ecclesiastical intervention
Capelão: a priest who has a chaplaincy, or says mass in a private chapel and who is paid by a trust fund or private individual to administer the affirs of said fund or indivudal
Capitania-geral: general captain; territorial demarcation governed by a General Captain during the colonial era
Capitulação: the act of contract making
Capítulo conventual: conventual chapter; collegiate body of a monastery or a religious house with consultative and deliberative functions of varying frequency
Capítulo geral: general chapter; collegiate body, representative of a religious institute, which has the supreme authority
Capítulo: chapter; collegiate body that brings together representatives of members of a religious institute at different levels
Cardeal: cardinal, member of the Pope's electoral college
Carisma: charisma
Carta de alforria: freedom letter; document given to slave by its owner
Casa: house
Casta: caste; racial lineage
Catalão: native of Catalonia; romance language spoken in Catalonia and other Spanish regions of Spain that were part of the old Crown of Aragon
Catedral: cathedral
Catelhano: native of Castille; Castillian Spanish; Spanish
Catequese: Sunday school; a school attended by children on Sundays for religious instruction
Catequista: catechist; someone who teaches precepts or religious doctrine in catechism classes
Cavalaria: cavalry; troop of soldiers serving on horseback
Cavaleiro: knight
Censo: census of population, etc.
Certificado: certificate
Clérigo: clergy; the individual belonging to the social body of the Church
Codicilo: codicil; amendment to a will
Colegiada: collegiate church
Coletor: collector of taxes, or of collection for the church
Comadre: midwife; godmother
Comarca: region or district
Comparecer: to appear officially
Compromisso: pledge, commitment, promise
Conceder: grant; give permission or consent for something to happen
Concerto: agreement; contract; arrangement
Cunhado: brother-in-law
Cunhada: sister-in-law
Condado: earldom; courtship; county
Conde: count; eral; overseer
Cónego: canon; one who observes and follows a canon
Confirmação: confirmation
Confrade: brother or member of a brotherhood
Confraria: brotherhood; voluntary association in which the brothers are grouped together for mutual assistance both in material and spiritual terms
Consanguinidade: consanguinity; kinship; blood relationship
Conselho da Índia: royal council that governed the colonies
Conselho de Portugal: council of Portugal
Conselho Provincial: provincial council; organization that brings together the advisors of the Provincial Superior
Conselho: council
Consignação: consignment; deposit (of money)
Consorte: spouse; partner associate
Corregedor: Portuguese magistrate; mayor appointed by the King
Cortesão: courtier; individual who attends the court of a sovereign
Crioulo: Creole; Latin-American colonial born of European parents
Crisma: Chrism, concecrated oil
Cúria: set of ecclesiastical organizations and entities that cooperate with the bishop
Cursivo: cursive
Curtidor: tanner; one who does tanning
Curtimento: tanning; treatment of animal skin with chemical organic substance such as tannin

Letter D
Datar: typing or putting something in a database
Deão: dean
Decanato: deanship, deanery
Defunctus sine prole: deceased without offspring
Delação: reporting
Dentição: dentition; formation, natural appearance and growth of teeth
Departamento: department
Dia de Reis: Day of the Kings, Twlfth Night, Janurary 6th
Dicionário corográfico: geographical dictionary
Diocese: diocese, unit of the Catholic Church presided over by a bishop
Direito canônico/canónico: canon law; the set of laws and regulations made or adopted by the leaders of the Church
Disenteria: dysentery
Divisão: division
Dízimo: tithing; monetary contributions to the church
Dom (título): don; title of respect prefixed to Christian names
Dona: respectful title for women
Dote: dowry; that property which a womn takes into marriage
Ducado: the coin of gold or silver that the Catholic manarches created
Duque: duke; title of honor which follows that of prince

Letter E
Eclesiástico: ecclesiastical
Ecônomo: priest temporarily in charge of a parish
Emancipação: emancipation; the act of rfeeing from servitude
Empréstimo: Loan
Encomendeiro: one who had Indians assigned to him in a trust
Enteado: step-child
Entrambos: both
Episcopal: of the bishop
Escalduno: native to the Basque County, which includes a Spanish part and a French part
Escarlatina: Scarlet fever
Escravo de aluguel: slaves for hire
Escravo de campo: slaves who worked in rural areas
Escravo de ganho: a slave who is offered several types of service, such as cargo transportation, baber shop, washing clothes, or even manufacturing some medicines
Escravo de lida: slaves of heavy toil with little rest
Escravo doméstico: domestic slave
Escravo:  slave
Escravos do engenho de cana: slaves of the sugarcane mill
Escrevente: scribe
Escriba: scribe
Escritura: scripture
Escudo português: Portuguese Escudo; the currency used after te Real and before the Euro was adopted as the official currency
Esmola: alms; given out of charity; cash reward to the church where mass was celebrated by someone
Espírito: spirit
Estalagem: inn
Estalajadeiro: innkeeper
Executor: executor

Letter F
Fábrica: factory
Fânega: Measure for cereals, equivalent to 100 kilograms, in current use at the borders of Rio Grande do Sul
Fé: faith
Febre tifóide: typhoid fever
Feminino: feminine
Ferrajaria: Hardware industry
Feudo: feud; in the Middle Ages, land or sometimes; right granted by the feudal lord (overlord) to the vassal in exchange for certain services and mutual loyalty
Fiança: guarantee; responsibility assumed by a third party (guarantor), in order to guarantee the payment of an obligation assumed by another person (debtor), according to the conditions established in the contract
Fidalgo: word used in Portugal that means "son-of-something", who had something in goods or in noble condition
Filho adotivo: adoptive son
Filha adotivo: adoptive daughter
Filho bastardo: bastard child; child born out of the bounds of matrimony
Filho ilegítimo: illegitimate child; a child whose parents are not married
Filho legítimo: legitimate child
Filho natural: natural child
Filho póstumo: posthumous son; one who is born after the death of the father
Filho(a) exposto(a): child abondoned by biological parents
Filiação legítima: legitimate affliation; one that results from parents legally married to each other
Filiação: affliation
Finado: dead
Floresta: forest
Folha: page (typically page of paper); leaf
Foro: forum; right, privileges in general that the law grants to someone
Fórum: forum; building where the Judiciary Power functions and where legal issues are debated and judged
Fossário: Person in charge of a grave
Fraternidade: fraternity
Frei: Abbreviation for Freire
Freguesia: parish
Freire: religious; term used to designate members of Military Orders

Letter G
Gêmeo: twin
Gêmeos fraternos: fraternal twins
Gêmeos idênticos: identical twins
Genro: son-in-law
Gota: gout, grop
Governo do Rio da Prata e do Paraguai: Government of the River Plate and Paraguay; the territorial division of the Spanish Empire in the area of the River Plate basin in South America and whose capital was Asunción
Grávida: pregnant
Grêmio: guild, society, association, brotherhood
Gripe: flu or cold
Guarda: guard

Letter H


Habilitação de casamento: marriage qualification
Heráldica: heraldry
Herança vacante: vacant inheritance; the heirs are not known
Herança: inheritance
Hóstia: circular blade of unleavened wheat dough that the priest consecrates and offers to the faithful during communion on the occasion of the Mass
Hostiário: box to store the circular blades of unleavened wheat dough that are not yet consecrated

Letter I

i.: illegitamate
ill.: illegitamate
Imóvel: fixed property
Impedimento matrimonial: marital impediment; absense of legal conditions or the existence of a reason presented by the deceived contractor, which prevent the marriage celebration
Impedimento: imprediment; act or effect of preventing
Imposto de Passagem: tax for passage; term used in the Order of Malta to designate the fee paid to the Order by candidates to the religious professon, with a view to efinitive entry into it as professed nuns or knights, corresponding to a symbolic form of remission of the obligation to stay in the central convent in Malta
Incógnito: incognito; unknown
Indenização: indemnity; security or protection against a loss or other financial burden
Indias: Indies; the American continent, including the Caribbean, Mexico, Central American, and South America
Índio: indian; a person living with the Indians who adopts their customs, a social designation
Indulgência: indulgence
Infantil: childish, or relative to childhood
Intendente: quartermaster
Inumação: burial
Item: used to introduce a new fact or statement, or, more frequently, each new article or particular in an enumeration, especially in a formal list or document, as an inventory, or will

Letter J
Jesuíta: Jesuit; a member of the Society of Jesus, a religious order founded by Santo Inácio de Loyola in 1534
Jornaleiro: journeyman, day laborer
Jovem: youth
Judeu: jewish
Juiz de primeira instância: judge of first instance; magistrate who knows and judges common causes, since he has original competence and whose decisions are appealed to the immediately superior instance
Juro: interest

Letter L
Latifúndio: large landed estate typical of Andalucia and large parts of Latin America
Lavrador: farmer
Legítimo: legitimate, lawful
Légua: league (3.5 miles); lenght--land measurement which varies depending on the nation, equivalent to approximately 5.572m
Leilão: auction
Leste: east
Liberto: freedom, liberty; privelge, right
Licença: license
Licenciado: licensed 
Lícito: lawful
Liquidação: liquidation
Livros paroquiais: Parish books
Loja: store
Lugarejo: village

Letter M


Madrasta: stepmother
Madrinha: godmother
Magistratura: judiciary; magistrate
Mameluco: child of Indian with white
Mancipação: mancipation; voluntary transfer, in the presence of witnesses, of a property
Manda: bequest
Mar do Norte: Atlantic Ocean; North Sea
Mar do Sul: Pacific Ocean; South Sea
Marquês: marquis; in ancient times, a lord over the lands situtated on the frontiers of a kingdom; in later times, a noble title between that of count and duke
Matrícula: register, list, roster, roll census
Meio-irmão: half-brother
Meia-irmã: half-sister
Mendigo: beggar
Mercado: market
Mestiço: mestizo; an indivual born to a father and mother of different races
Missa: celebration of the Eucharist, Mass
Missão: mission; parish under control of one of the religious orders
Monsenhor: monsignor; title used in many countries to designate Bishops
Morador: resident
Moreno(a): one who has a skin tone between white and brown or between brown and black
Morgado: linked patrimony that could not be solid or divided and that was passed on to the eldest son, due to the death of the one who owned it
Mourisco: Moorish, those baptized Moors that lived in Spain and the colonies; Mexico, mixture of Spanish and mulatto blood
Mulato(a): one who is a mixed race of the white and black races
Município: municipality; the territorial jurisdiction which includes the inhabitants governed by a town council

Letter N
nas. : born
Natural: native of, born in a given locality; born outside of the marriage contract
Naturalizado: naturalized; when a foreiger has aquired the rights of a natural citizen
Natureza: nature
Navio negreiro: slave ship
Navio: ship
Negro: negro, black or dark-skinned, native of various tribes of Africa
Nobiliário: nobiliary, peerage list; pertaining to the nobility
Nobre: noble
Nomeação: appointment, election, nomination, commission
Nomear: to elect or appoint; to name, to mention by name
Nono: ninth
Notário: notary; authorized official for preparing and certifying public actions, contracts, deeds, bonds, wills, etc. 
Nubente: one who is about to get married
Num. : number
Núpcias: marriage, wedding, nuptials

Letter O


Óbito: death
Obituário: obituary
Oblato: oblate; from the Latin oblatus, passive past participle of the verb offerre (to offer). The term designates a person who offers himself to God, or a child who is offerred by his parents. This designation included mainly children who, in this way, were entrusted to the care and a religious community, a habit that has been documented since the orgins of monasticism and which would be officially suppressed only with the Council of Trent (1545-1563). It also designates a person linked to the spirituality of a religious order or institute.
Oferenda: one who gives offers
Oferta: offering
Ofício: occupation, job, work, craft, trade; office, post, position; function
Oleiro: potter
Onça: English weight measurement equivalent to 28.35 grams
Onomástica: onomastics; study and linguistic investigation of proper names
Oração pelas almas do Purgatório: prayer for souls in Purgatory
Ordem militar: religious order of knights, such as Santiago, Calatrava, Alcántara, Malta, San Juan de Jerusalem 
Órfão: orfan
Ouvidor: ombudsman; an offical appointed to investigate individuals' complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities
Ouvidoria: ecclesiastical structure similar to the Arciprestado that brings together several parishes, under the coordination of the Ombudsman priest

Letter P


Pacto antenupcial ou convenção antenupcial: prenuptial agreement
Padrasto: stepfather
Padrinho: godfather
Pag.: page
Pai incógnito: unknown father
Paleografia: palaeography; study of ancient writing, its forms, and variations over the centuries, including its deciphering and interpretation
Panteão: pantheon; building dedicated to the memory of illustrious men who made their homeland great and where their ashes are kept
Pardo: mixture of one part of Spanish blood, two parts of Indian blood, and one part of Negro blood; dark, mulatto
Pároco: parish priest
Paróquia: parish, territory covered by the spiritual jurisdiction of a parish priest
Paroquiano: parishioner
Pastor: shepherd
Patriarcado: patriarchate; ecclesiastical circumscription with a certain legal autonomy, equivalent to a Metropolis of Metropolises and attributed to episcopal headquarters highly venerable for their antiquity and apostolic roots
Patrimônio: inheritance
Pé: foot; unit of length that corresponds, in the metric decimal system, to 12 inches
Peninsular: penisular, born in Spain or Portugal
Permutar: to exchange; usually of two public or ecclesiastical offices or benefices
Plebeu: commoner
Poder: ability; power 
Polegada: inch 
Prado: land covered with herbaceous plants suitable for pasture or forage for cattle
Prefeito: ecclesiatical who governs an apostolic prefecture, or Cardinal who presides over a congregation of the Roman Curia
Prelado: prelate, ecclesiastical dignitary, superior of a convent
Presbítero: priest; one who receives the second degree of the Sacrament of Order
Presídio: prison
Pretendente: claimant, seeker, petitioner
Primeira instância: first instance; the first hierachical jurisdiction, the first body of Justice to which the citizen must address a conflict resolution request
Primo coirmão ou primo carnal ou primo primeiro ou primo em primeiro grau: cousin
Primo cruzado bilateral: bilateral cross-cousin; he who is both the son of the father's sister and the son of the mother's brother
Primo cruzado: son of a mother's brother or son of a father's brother
Primo em segundo grau: second cousin
Primo em terceiro grau: third cousin
Primo paralelo ou primo direito ou primo direto: parallel cousin or right cousin or direct cousin; son of a brother of the father or son of a sister of the mother of an individual
Priorado: priory; religious community in which the prior or prioress performs his/her duties
Privilégio: privelge
Proclama: marriage notice, reading in the church by the priest and/or published by the civil registry officer
Procurador: attorney
Prole: offspring
Propriedade: property
Prorrogação: extension, postponement, delay
Protesto: protest
Protocolo: protocol
Prova: proof
Província: province
Pureza de sangue: blood purity; people who were not descendants of Moors, Jews, mulattos, Indians, and blacks
Letter Q
Quaresma: Lent, 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday
Quarto voto: Fourth vote, particular and extraordinary vote of some religious institutes issued according to their own tradition 
Quinta: country house, manor, villa
Quintal: weight measurement, equivalent to 100 pounds or four arrobas or 58,758 kilograms
Quitação: settlement, declaration releasing a debtor from a certain amount of credit

Letter R


Ração: ration
Rancho: ranch
Real Cédula: Royal Decree-- reasonable order issued by the King of Spain between the 15th and 19th centuries. Its cntent resolved some conflict of legal relevance. It established some guidelines for legal conduct, created an institution, appointed a royal position, granted a personal or collective right or ordered some concrete action
Real(Réis): real, form of currency from 1430 to 1911 in Portugal
Recibo: recepit (document acknowledging payment)
Reclamação: claim, demand, objection, protest, complain
Redibição: redefinition, means of canceling a purchase and sale of a movable or semi-movable item that has hidden defects, discovered by the buyer
Regimento: regiment
Registro: register
Regular: regular-- monk or priest who is a member of a religious order that takes vowes
Religioso: religious
Repartição: distributions of lands after reconquest
Requerimento: request, requistition, demand, summons
Revocação ou revogação: revocation, annulment

Letter S


Sacristão: sacristan, sexton, the individual who took care of the ecclesiastical cemeteries
Sangria: bleeding, for therapeutic purposes
Santa Sé: Episcopal Headquarters of Rome
Secretário: secretary
Seguro: safe, secure; insurance policy
Seleiro: saddler; one who manufactures saddles
Senhoril: belonging to a lord, lady, or noble person
Serviço: service
Setentrional: northern
Sigla: paleographic term, abbreviation by use of initial letters to represent entire words
Sineiro: one who commands the ringing of church bells
Sínodo: sinode, ancient name given to ecclesistical councils of a diocese
Sobrinho-neto: grand-nephew (niece)
Solar: manor house  
Soldada: salary, wages; soldier's pay
Sub-rogação: subrogation, substitution or change of thing or person, by something who follows in your duties and acts in your place
Sufragâneo: suffragan, one who is under the jurisdiction or authority of another
Sumo pontífice: Pope

Letter T


Tanoeiro: one who makes barrels
Tarifa: tariff, catalog of goods with current prices per unit or type
Tataraneto ou trineto: great-great-grandson (granddaughter) or great-grandson (granddaughter)
Tataravô ou trisavô: grea-great-grandfather (grandmother) or great-grandfather (grandmother)
Tenente: lieutenant
Terceira Ordem Regular de São Francisco: Third Regular Order of San Francisco, an order of the Franciscan family, of the Catholic Church, founded by Francisco de Assis in 1221
Término: the end, to end
Testador: tastator, one who makes a will
Testamenteiro: testamentary
Testamento cerrado: a will that is written in secret and then sealed before a notary and witnesses to be opened after the death of the testator
Testamento público: a will that is prepared in a public notary, requiring two witnesses who must attend to everything, which reveals his/her willingness to dispose of assets after his/her death
Testamento: testament
Tia: aunt
Tio: uncle
Tio-avô: great-uncle (aunt)
Tio-bisavô: great-great-uncle
Título: title; document with legal value that validates any right
Transferência: transfer
Tribunal: court
Tributável: taxable
Tributo: tax, compulsory tax that the population pays to the state for services and goods
Trigo: wheat
Trisavô(ó): great-great-grandfather (grandmother)
Troca: trade
Tutela: guardianship
Tutelado: guardian

Letter U
Unção dos enfermos (extrema-unção): anointing of the sick, Catholic sacrament dedicated to the sick, performed with oil 
Usufruto: usufruct. That is to say, the right and privilege to the use and profits of something, usually a property, that originally belonged to another. A formal word that is often used in Notarial documents to refer to inheritances.
Ut supra: (Lat.) as above

Letter V


Varão: male
Varíola: smallpox
Viático: viaticum, sacrament of the Euacharist administered to the sick in danger of death
Vicariato: vicariate, territory or area of jurisdiction under the responsibilty of a vicar
Vice-rei: viceroy, what governs a state subordinate to a kingdom
Vice-reinado: area governed by a viceroy
Vigário: vicar, the religious functionary who, as an assistant, takes full charge when his superior is gone, the functionary in charge of a parish times
Vigília: vigil, evening celebration on the eve of a religious fast
Vila: village
Visconde: viscount, title of nobilty, inferior to that of count and superior to that of baron
Visita pastoral: pastoral visit, obligation imposed on Cathlic bishops to visit the entire diocese, at least every five years
Vizinho: neighbor
Votos perpétuos: perpetual vows, public vows issued by a religious person, with a perpetual character, whose nature and effects are sanctioned by canonical norms
Votos privados: private votes
Votos públicos: public votes
Votos religiosos: religious votes
Votos simples: simple votes
Votos solenes: solemn votes, issued by members of religious orders and recognized by the Church as such
Votos temporários: temporary votes, cast by members of religious institutes

Letter X
Xerife: sheriff

1031 Joseph F. Smith Building

Provo, UT 84602

Phone: 801.422.1968