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Wills Glossary
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Glossary of Terms found in or concerning Wills.
In the 18th century and (especially) earlier, various alternative spellings will be found.

Absolute/absolutely :Without any conditions

Administration : The management and distribution of the estate of the deceased; The authority to do so, granted by a court. Where no will had been made or a will was deemed to be invalid, Letters of Administration were issued by the court, appointing one or more people (usually next-of-kin) to administer the deceased's estate

Admõn : Abbreviation of ‘Administration’

Admõrs : Abbreviation of 'Administrators'

Animus testandi : Latin term meaning 'an intention to make a testament or will'

Anno Domini : Latin for 'Year of the Lord' - often abbreviated to AD

Anno Salutis : Latin for 'Year of the salvation' - a dating style used up until the eighteenth century which, like Anno Domini, dates years from the birth of Jesus.

Annuity : An annual income or payment of a fixed amount from an investment of capital which is, usually, not repayable

Annunciation : Feast day, 25th March in the Roman Catholic church, commemorates the visit of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, during which he informed her that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God  aka 'Lady Day'

Appoint : To specify

Appurtenance : A right or benefit belonging to a property (e.g. the right to fish in the river at the bottom of the garden or to draw water from a well; a garage in a nearby block)

Appurts : Abbreviation of Appurtenances

Arrearages : Payments (or the amount of payments) in arrears

Assign(s) : Person(s) to whom any property or right is made over

Banker : A cloth or covering tapestry for a form or bench

Begotten : Fathered

Behoof : Use, benefit, advantage

Bequeath : To leave property in a will (strictly, personal estate) - see Devise

Bequest : An item or sum of money left in a will

Borough English : An ancient Anglo-Saxon custom by which the youngest son inherited the land

Bushel : A dry measure equal to 8 gallons (approximately 36 Litres)

Calaber : A kind of fur

Cambric : A finely woven white linen or cotton fabric

Camlet : A thin material originally made of camel's hair

Capcase : A chest or trunk

Caterfoil : Quatrefoil - an ornamental design of four lobes or leaves as used in architectural tracery, resembling a flower or clover leaf

Chafing dish : A dish or pan for cooking on the table, traditionally heated by hot coals

Chattels : Property other than freehold. Distinguished into chattels - real (leasehold interests) and chattels - personal (personal movables eg plate, china, cattle)

Cob irons : Frames to hold a roasting spit at different heights from the fire to help control the roasting of meat

Codicil : A supplement to a will, usually defining additional bequests or making small changes.

Commissary : A deputy; An officer representing a bishop

Commission : Delegation of authority; the act of issuing letters of administration.

Common Box: The parish church chest, which was used to store all valuables. Not, as has been suggested, a separate box for collections for the poor

Comõn : Abbreviation of ‘Commission’

Copyhold : Property and/or land held, subject to the custom of a manor. When transferring the property the tenant first surrendered it to the lord of the manor who held the fee simple, and then the new tenant was admitted on payment of a fine. The term comes from the fact that both the Court and the Tenant had a copy of the Indenture (see Indenture) detailing the Tenant's admission to the property (see Leasehold, Freehold)

Covenant : A formal agreement under seal; To grant or promise by covenant

Coverlet : aka Coverlid; A bedspread or bedquilt that does not cover the pillow

Covert : Being married (women) and therefore protected by one's husband

Coverture : The condition of a married woman as legally under the protection of her husband (until the Married Woman's Property Act of 1882, married women could not, by law, own property; before this they and their possessions were considered as possessions of the husband - fortunately we live in more enlightened times)

Curtilage : A court or area of land attached to and including a dwelling-house; Messuage

Custom : The laws of a manor court; A common tradition or usage so long established that it has the force or validity of law

Deed : An instrument (usually a document) comprehending the terms of a contract and the evidence of its due execution

Devise : Property left in a will; or the act of leaving property in a will (strictly, real estate) - see Bequeath

Devisee : Person to whom property is left in a will (strictly, real estate)

Diaper : A pattern composed of small, regularly repeated geometric motifs, usually diamonds or lozenges; A white cotton or linen fabric having such a pattern

Dirge : A traditional ecclesiastical office (a cycle of prayers) of the Roman Catholic Church that is sung or recited for the repose of the soul of a deceased person

Discovert : (of a woman) not under the protection of a spouse; being a widow, spinster, or divorcée

Distrain : To seize goods for debt, especially non-payment of rent

Distress : Goods seized for debt, especially non-payment of rent

Dornix : Dornix originated in the Dutch town of Doornijk in the 15th century and was a coarse cloth made from a combination of wool and linen. It was used on beds, hangings, curtains and for similar purposes.

Doublet : A tight-fitting garment for the upper body, worn with 'Hose'

Dower : Property to be enjoyed by a widow after her husband's death (see Jointure, Thirds); Property that a woman brings to her husband in marriage (also Dowry)

Easement : The right one landowner has been granted of making limited use of his neighbour's land, as the right of access to water, right of way, etc., at no charge.

Edifices : Buildings

Enceinte : Latin meaning 'with child'; pregnant

Estate : Property, especially a landed property (see Real estate, Personal estate); A person's assets and liabilities taken collectively

Ewe : A female sheep

Execution : Performance of what is required to give validity to any legal instrument, as by signing and sealing; The discharge of a duty

Executor/Executrix : Person charged with carrying out the wishes of the testator (executrix if female)

Exõrs : Abbreviation of Executors

Expectancy : The position of being entitled to possession of any property at a future time by virtue of reversion, remainder or death

Fee : Inheritance of a freehold estate

Fee Simple : Absolute inheritance, immediate and without restrictions

Fee Tail : Inheritance of an entailed estate, which may descend only to a certain class of heirs e.g. eldest sons

Feoffee : Person who holds land for the use of another explanation

Feoffment : Transfer of land from one person to another where the land is held subject to a fee or service explanation

Fine : A sum of money paid on particular occasions e.g. on inheriting a copyhold property

Firkin : A small cask (a quarter barrel) containing 9 gallons (approximately 41 Litres)

Flaxen : Linen

Flock : A tuft of wool

Flockbed : A bed (mattress) stuffed with wool

Foregift : A premium paid by a tenant for the renewal of a lease (see Fine, Premium)

Fowling piece : A shotgun for shooting birds or small animals

Freebench : A widow's right to dower out of her late husband's Copyhold lands (see Copyhold, Dower)

Freehold : A property and/or land held free of duty except to the monarch (see Leasehold, Copyhold)

Fustian : A coarse twilled cotton fabric (e.g. corduroy, moleskin, velveteen)

Gardeviance : A chest, trunk, pannier or basket

Garnish : A service or set usually consisting of 12 platters, 12 dishes and 12 saucers

Groat : Traditional name of an English silver coin worth four pence; the name has also been applied to various Irish, Scottish and mainland European coins

Heifer : A young female bovine (cow) over one year old that has not produced a calf; once she produces a calf she automatically becomes a cow

Heir/Heiress : Person to whom property will come into possession upon the death of the current holder (heiress if female)

Hereditament : Any property that may be passed to an heir/heiress

Heredits : Abbreviation of Hereditaments

Hereinafter : Later in this document

Hereinbefore : Earlier in this document

Heriot : Fine due to the Lord of the Manor (e.g. the best beast) upon the death of a tenant

Holland : Originally a fine linen, first made in Holland in the Netherlands; now a coarse unbleached linen fabric

Hose : Close-fitting breeches, worn on the legs, usually with a 'doublet'

Hundred : An administrative division of an English county

Husslements : Minor household goods of little value

Impeachment (of waste): An accusation or charge; A life tenant who is granted an estate "without impeachment of waste" may not be sued for destruction or loss, however they may not commit acts of flagrant destruction inconsistent with the fruitful use of the land

Imprimis : Latin for 'especially' - often used to introduce the commending of the soul to God or the first bequest

Impropriate : To place ecclesiastical (church) property in the hands of a layman; Description of property so devolved.

Impropriator : A layman who holds possession of the lands of the church or an ecclesiastical living.

Incumbrance : A charge against property (as a lien or mortgage)

Indenture : A written contract under seal (so called because the two copies of the document had their edges cut or indented exactly alike so as to correspond with one another)

Intestate : Having died without leaving a valid will

Inventory : A list and valuation of all the deceased's movable goods (usually room by room) - more common before the mid 18th century

Issue : All living decendants - children, grandchildren etc. Legally adopted children and grandchildren are included, unless the will expressly excludes them. Does not include step-children

Jerkin : A short coat or a waistcoat

Jesyne : Childbirth; also the period after childbirth before the mother might appear in church or the temple  also spelled 'Gesin'

John the Baptist (feast of) : Feast day, 24 June, commemorates the birth of John the Baptist

Joint tenants : Two or more people who own a property together. The joint tenants do not own distinct shares in the property; if one of them dies, the others will continue to own the entire property. Only the last tenant to die can pass the property on in their will (see Tenants in Common)

Jointure : Property (land or tenements) settled on a woman at marriage to be enjoyed after her husband's death; Like Dower

Kersey : A kind of coarse woollen cloth that was an important component of the textile trade in medieval England, named from the village of Kersey, Suffolk

Kilderkin : A cask (a half barrel) containing 18 gallons (approximately 82 Litres)

Kirtle : A woman's gown or outer petticoat

Kyne : An archaic term for the plural form 'cows'

Land : The ground, the buildings built on it, the subsoil below the ground, property fixed to the ground, and the airspace above the ground necessary for its ordinary use

Latten : A brass or similar alloy

Leasehold : Property and/or land held, subject to the terms of a contract, for a specified period of time (see Freehold, Copyhold)

Leat (also lete or leet ): An artificial trench or channel that conveys water to a mill wheel or millpond;  A millstream

Leet: A Court Leet - a court of record held annually by the Steward of a hundred, lordship or manor

Legacy : Personal property left in a will (i.e. other than a house or land)

Lessee : One to whom a lease is granted (see Lease)

Lessor : One who grants a lease (see Lease)

Lien : A claim upon a part of another's property that arises because of an unpaid debt related to that property and that operates as an encumbrance on the property until the debt is satisfied; The right to hold another's property as security for a debt owed.

Limit : To specify

Lockram : A coarse, rough-textured linen cloth - from Locronan, the Breton town where it is said to have originated

Manor : The district over which the court of the Lord of the manor had authority

Mark : The mark was a currency or unit of account in many nations.  It was a measure of weight mainly for gold and silver, commonly used throughout Western Europe.  In England the mark never appeared as a coin but was only a unit of account. It was apparently introduced in the 10th century by the Danes. It was initially equivalent to 100 pence, but after the Norman Conquest (1066), it was worth 160 pence (13 shillings and 4 pence), two-thirds of a pound sterling.

Mead Silver : A Tithe payment, which rather than being paid in produce was paid on the area of land under cultivation (e.g. 1d per acre). This seems to be a colloquial term used in Surrey

Messuage : Dwelling and offices (eg barns, sheds) together with the adjoining lands

Michaelmas : Feast day of Saint Michael the Archangel, 29th September (8th November in Eastern Orthodox churches)

Moiety : One of two parts; Half

Mortgage : The grant of an estate or other immovable property in fee as security for the payment of money, to be voided on the discharge of the debt or loan

Muslin : A fine plain-weave cotton fabric

Nativity : Feast day, 25th December, aka Christmas, commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ or 8th September commemorating the birth of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Nuncupative : Spoken; A will declared orally before witnesses rather than written, usually by a testator on his/her deathbed

Overplus : Surplus

Overseer : Person appointed to oversee the execution of a will - someone to give help and advice but with no legal powers

Ox : A castrated male bovine (see Steer) used for draft work (pl Oxen); historically, female bovine (cows) have occasionally been used for this purpose

Parthlette : A ruff or band worn round the neck

Personal Estate : Property of the Testator, other than real estate

Peruke : A wig

Pillowbere or Pillowcoat : A old term for a pillow-case or pillow-slip

Placebo : In the Roman Catholic Church, the service or office of vespers for the dead (see Dirge)

Posenett : A small pot

Premium : A sum paid in addition to interest, wages etc. (see Fine, Foregift)

Presents : Writings

Primogeniture : The practice (introduced by the Normans) of conferring land on the eldest son without subdivision, thereby leaving an estate intact for centuries

Probate : Proof, before a competent court, that a written paper purporting to be the will of a person who has died is indeed his lawful act and granting the executor(s) the right to carry out its terms

Purpresture : An illegal enclosure or encroachment (on public or common land)

Quarter : A measure of grain equal to approximately eight bushels (approx 288 litres); One fourth of a hundredweight - 28 pounds. [also many other meanings]

Quarter days : The four days throughout the year on which rents were traditionally due and payable: Lady Day aka The Annunciation of the (Blessed) Virgin Mary (25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September), Christmas (25th December)

Quatrefoil : An ornamental design of four lobes or leaves as used in architectural tracery, resembling a flower or clover leaf

Rack rent : Rent at the maximum obtainable annual value

Raile : A garment of fine linen worn around the neck

Relict : Another term for widow; A widow who has not remarried

Remainder : Interest in an estate to come into effect after a certain other event happens e.g. inheritance by heirs after the death of their widowed mother (similar to reversion)

Residue : The remainder of an estate after all legacies and bequests have been given and once all debts, taxes and expenses have been paid

Reversion : Future possession of any property after some particular event (similar to remainder)

Revoke : Annull, repeal or reverse; to legally cancel a will

Ruffle : A strip of frilled or closely pleated fabric used for trimming or decoration

Russelles : A kind of satin

Sad (coloured) : Sombre, dark or dull in colour

Sentence : A judgement about a disputed will given at the conclusion of litigation

Several : Separate; distinct

Singular : Particular; specific

Slophose : A kind of long loose breeches

Sparver : Canopy

Standerd : A large chest, used for plate, jewels, and sometimes for linen

Steer : A castrated male bovine - usually raised for meat (see Ox); An uncastrated male is a bull, for breeding

Stilo Anglie : Latin for 'English Style' - after the Catholic church (and much of Western Europe) adopted the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, England persisted with the Julian Calendar (with the year starting on 25th March) until 1752

Stirpes : Family or generation; describes the way a bequest is to be divided among a person's issue. Most people want bequests to their children to be divided equally among the children. A per stirpes distribution does this, and it also governs what happens if any child has died. If a child has died, his (or her) share is divided among his issue if he has any issue. For example, presume that you have three children and that your will provides for a bequest to your children per stirpes. If all three children survive you, each would get one third of the property. If, however, one has died, his one third share would be divided among his children if he had any, or if he had no living issue his one third share would pass to his two siblings

Tail : Inheritance only to a certain class of heirs e.g. males (see Fee, Fee Simple, Fee Tail)

Teg : A sheep in its second year or before its first shearing.

Temporal estate : Possessions that one has during one's lifetime (also referred to as worldly estate)

Tenants in common : Two or more people who own a property together. Each has a distinct share and can pass it to someone on their death (see Joint Tenants)

Tenement : A dwelling or habitation (or part of) occupied by one family

Testament : Legal document disposing of a person's personal estate, usually combined with a Will; A writing or decree appointing an executor

Tenths : See Tithes

Testator/Testatrix : Person making and leaving a will (testatrix if female)

Thirds : Ecclesiastical law provided that at least one-third of a man's personal property should go to his widow (as her dower) and one-third should pass to his children (see Dower, Jointure)

Tick : A mattress case; Ticking - the linen material of which they were made - see Tyke

Tithes : A right to part of the produce of, lands, the stocks upon lands, and the personal industry of the inhabitants of a parish. The ancient system consisted of three tithes: Praedial Tithes which were calculated on income from produce (crops, wood, etc), Personal Tithes assessed on income derived from labour and Mixed Tithes which were calculated from a combination of stock and labour.  The tithes, theoretically a tenth part of the income, went towards the upkeep of the incumbent of the parish church.  This was straightforward where the Rector was also the incumbent but where a Vicar had been appointed to be in charge of the parish, the tithes were divided between the Rector (Great Tithes) and the Vicar (Small Tithes).  Under the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, tithes could be commuted to a rent-charge.  Tithes were extinguished by the Tithe Act of 1936.

Tithing : An administrative division (of land) consisting of ten householders; a sub-division (originally a tenth) of a hundred

Trencher : A plate or platter (usually large & wooden).

Trental : In the Roman Catholic Church, either an office and mass for the dead on the thirtieth day after death or burial or a series of thirty requiem masses (i.e. one a day for thirty days).

Trussing : A travelling bed

Trust : An arrangement, usually established by a written document, to provide for the management and disposition of assets. It normally involves three parties: the person who establishes the trust (sometimes called a donor, grantor or trustor), one or more trustees and one or more beneficiaries

Trustee : Person to whom the management of property is entrusted for the benefit of others

Tuffet : A low stool or footstool

Tup : A male sheep, a ram

Tyke : Scottish word for a mattress case or the linen material of which they were made (alt sp Tike) - see Tick

Valance : An ornamental drapery hung across the top edge of a bed, canopy or window, to hide structural detail

Verder : A type of tapestry

Vespers : Chiefly in the Roman Catholic Church, the sixth of the seven canonical hours of the divine office, originally fixed for the early evening and now often made a public service on Sundays and major feast days (see Dirge, Placebo)

Vested : Present and absolute right; not conditional

Videlicet : Latin term meaning "namely"

Viz : Abbreviation of the latin videlicet meaning "namely" (also written 'Vizt')

Waste : The common uncultivated land or heathland; Destruction or reduction in value

Wether : A castrated male sheep

Will : Legal document disposing of a person's real estate

Xpian : An abbreviation of 'Christian'

Yelt : A young sow