Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library



Explanation of terms found on this site

&c.: et cetera, and others, and the like.

& al.: and others.

Anglican: of the Church of England.

Apparitor: An officer who carried out the orders of a civil or ecclesiastical court.

Apprentice: In 1834 slaves were made 'apprentices' for 4 years before becoming unconditionally free (see Historical Background.)

Armory: The building in Spanish Town in which the Registrar's copies of the Registers were housed prior to 1997.

Articled Clerk: In order to become a lawyer, one had to "sign articles" agreeing to work and study with a practising lawyer for a set number of years. During this period the person was called an "articled clerk." (see Occupations)

Attorney (planting attorney): Non-resident proprietors hired someone to whom they gave a 'power of attorney' to manager their properties. This 'attorney' might be a resident proprietor, a merchant, a lawyer, or an old experienced overseer. (See Occupations)

Attorney at law: Lawyer.

Banns: A public announcement of an upcoming wedding, usually made weekly for three weeks prior to the wedding, requiring anyone who knew of just grounds why the marriage could not take place to report it prior to the date announced.

Base born. Illegitimate. Term used in some early Parish Registers.

BMB: Baptism, Marriage, Burial (Used on this site when referring to Parish Registers).

Bookkeeper: A bookkeeper's task had very little to do with accounting. He directly supervised the agricultural laborers in the field, usually on a sugar estate.(See Occupations)

Caveat: a legal warning to a judicial officer to suspend a proceeding until the opposition has a hearing.

Christening: The term used in the Anglican church for the ceremony of baptizing and naming a child.

Clerk Court: Now referred to as "Clerk of the Court."

Commissary: (1) A person representing a bishop in a part of his diocese. (2) An army officer in charge of providing soldiers with food and other supplies.

Coolie: Indian worker (from India).

Cooper: A man that makes or repairs wooden barrels, casks, or tubs.

Cordwainer: (archaic) a worker in cordovan leather.

Counted the Will: The words in a Will were counted, and the number was recorded in the Probate to prevent anyone from subsequently adding or removing words.

Creole: An inhabitant who was born on the island; a native. The term was applied to persons of any color, but originally referred to white persons born in Jamaica.

Curate: In the Parish Registers this term was used for a clergyman who served as the Assistant to the Rector of a Parish. It may appear in the Register as "Ass. Cur." Some were termed "Island Curate", and this would be abbreviated in the Register as "I.C."

c : in a Will, usually used for 'currency,' meaning Jamaican , as opposed to 'sterling' the value in British pounds.

Custos Rotulorum: Each parish was governed by a chief magistrate, who was the custos rotulorum, and a bench of justices. The custos represents the governor at the parish level.

Decreet, n. [Cf. Decree.] (Scots Law). The final judgment of the Court of Session, or of an inferior court, by which the question at issue is decided.

Dissenter: A Protestant in a non-Anglican church (eg. a Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Moravian).

Esquire: A title of courtesy, placed after a man's name. Abbreviated to Esq. When this appears in Almanacs, Parish Registers, and newspapers prior to about 1840 it is usually used of landed proprietors or gentry, or persons of high social standing. There it is distinguished from those referred to as "Mr.". See Mister. By 1865 the Almanac stated that all persons appearing in the Almanac were entitled to the title of Esquire in Jamaica.

et: [Latin] and.

et al: abbreviation of et alia, et alii, (Latin), meaning and others.

et ux: abbreviation of et uxor, (Latin), meaning and wife.

FHL: Family History Library or Center, either in Salt Lake City or at a local Mormon church.

Fits: Epilepsy.

Flux: Dysentery or other excessive bodily discharge.

Full age: Twenty-one years old or more.

Glebe: (archaic) land belonging to or yielding revenue to a parish church or ecclesiastical benefice.

Hereditament: property that can be inherited.

Hogshead: A large cask or barrel; a unit of capacity, in the U.S.A. equal to 63 gallons (52 1/2 imperial gallons).

Housekeeper. Term used for a woman who is living in a house with a man and bearing his children, but is not married to him.

IGI: The International Genealogical Index on computer or microfiche at the FHL, prepared from vital records or from genealogies submitted to the FHL in Salt Lake.

instant; inst.: of or occurring in the present month.

JLP: Jamaica Labour Party. One of the two main modern political parties in the island.

Justice of the Peace (JP): These are recommended by the custos and appointed by the governor, and hold sessions of the peace, and courts of common pleas: a single justice, however, can decide on minor actions not exceeding amounts set by law.

K.C.B: Knight Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

Marriage License: A marriage license was not required; banns could be read. A license cost more than banns and required a lot of time and red tape. People living outside the Kingston/Spanish Town area were only married by license if they were more well-to-do or influential.

M. D.: Doctor of Medicine.

Messuage: a building or part of a building with its appurtenances and land.

Mestee: See Mustee.

Mesteefeena: The offspring of one white and one mestee. The term occurs rarely in the baptismal registers. It is not found in books, as the mesteefeena was regarded as white and free by the laws, which explains partly why such terms of racial crossing in the records were important, and lost their significance after emancipation.

MHR: Member of the House of Representatives.

Mister. Mr. When this term was used in the Almanacs or Parish Registers prior to about 1840, it usually inferred that the person did not own a large property. The person may have been a shopkeeper, schoolmaster, craftsman, or someone who was treated with a certain amount of respect, but whose name would not be followed by the term 'Esquire.'

Mountain: (when used in the name of a property). A block of land separate from the main property, and in the surrounding uplands, on which slaves were given "provision grounds" on which to plant their crops. If for example the main property was named "Hope Penn," this land would be called "Hope Mountain."

Mulatto: The child of one white and one Negro parent. (One half black.)

Mustee, mestee: An octoroon, child of a white and a quadroon. (One-eighths black.)

Natural child: A child born outside of marriage.

Nee: (French for "born", referring to a female.) Precedes a woman's maiden name.

Octoroon, octaroon: The child of a white and a quadroon; has one Negro and 7 white great grandparents. (One-eighths black.)

Outside child: A child born outside of marriage.

Overseer: His job was to superintend the planting and work on the estates. He had charge of the overall maintenance of the property.(See Occupations)

Parish church: The Anglican church. The 'Parish Registers' in the Jamaica Records Office are for baptisms, marriages and burials in the Anglican church (Church of England) only.

Patent: A document or instrument making a conveyance of public lands; also the land so conveyed. The patentee was the person to whom the land was granted.

Pen, Penn: A pen was a type of farm that raised cows, horses and mules for sale. The average size of a pen was 693 acres. A large portion of this was pasture land, but often pimento and coffee were grown, and sometimes cotton and logwood. There were also pens in which the wealthy lived on the fringes of major towns; they were primarily residential, but with woodland and pastures.

Peruke: incorrect spelling of perruque (French) meaning a wig.

Plat book: A plat is a plan, map, or chart of a piece of land with actual or proposed features; also the land which it represents. These have been collected in the Plat Books. Most of the Plats did seem to have a roughly drawn chart, and most of those that I have read had very long preambles about King Charles. They dated from 1672 to 1719. At that time England was trying to persuade people to colonize Jamaica.

PNP: People's National Party. One of the two main modern political parties in the island.

Practitioner of physic: Physician.

Praedial: A field laborer.

Private Act: A white man who fathered non-white children could have a Private Act presented to the National Assembly. This Act would give them the same rights and privileges of British subjects, born of white parents, subject to certain restrictions, usually with respect to voting. These children would appear in the records as "white by law."

pro tem.: abbreviation of Latin pro tempore, for the time being.

proximo; prox.: [Latin: proximo mense in the next month] of or occurring in the next month after the present one.

Puncheon: A large cask of varying capacity (72-120 gallons), for rum.

Quadroon: The child of a white and a mulatto; has 1 Negro grandparent. (One-fourths black.)

Quarteroon (see Quadroon)

Quit-rent: An annual payment due to the crown for tenure of land that had been granted to the payee, in commutation of services due to the crown under the feudal system.

Rector: In the Parish Registers this term was used for the clergyman in charge of a Parish.

Relict: Widow.

Reputed child: A child whose father was named at its baptism, but the parents were unmarried.

Sambo: The offspring of a Negro and a mulatto.

Settler: One who took up residence on, and cultivated, land that had previously been unused. The term was used for people who settled land received by a grant. If it was a large estate, a settlement would grow up on the property, due to houses etc. for workers.

sine prole (S.P.): [Latin] without issue.

Solicitor: A lawyer.

s : used in reference to money in the body of a legal document, usually used for 'sterling,' meaning British , as opposed to 'currency' the value in Jamaican pounds.

Ss, SS or ss, used in "Jamaica Ss". This legal format always preceded a will, deed, or other legal document. The history of its use would indicate that it originally was the initials for "stated and sworn."

Taylor: old spelling of "tailor", when referring to an occupation.

Tenants in common: A type of land ownership when the land is held by more than one person. If one of the owners dies his portion goes to his descendants.

Tierce an old liquid measure equal to 42 U.S.gallons; 2/3 of a hogshead.

ultimo; ult.: [Latin: ultimo mense in the last month] of or occurring in the month preceding the current one.

Uxor; ux. (abbrev).: [Latin] wife.

Vestry: The vestry consisted of the custos, two or more of the local magistrates, ten vestrymen (landowners), and the rector of the Anglican church. The vestrymen were elected annually by the freeholders. The vestrymen in turn appointed all the parochial officers at their first meeting. These vestries, which formerly ran the local parish government, were replaced by Parochial Boards during the government reorganization that took place between 1865 and 1874.

Warden: A Church warden was and is a lay officer of the Anglican Church. The wardens have supervisory roles over the administrative functions of the church.

White by law: See Private Act.

Yaws: an infectious nonvenereal disease of tropical climates with early symptoms resembling syphilis, characterized by red skin eruptions and, later, pain in the joints: it is caused by the spiral bacterium Treponema pertenue. Also called framboesia.

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