M

Genealogy Dictionary

maiden name
The original last or family name with which a woman was born. Sometimes referred to as her birth name.
major
A person who has reached the age of majority.
majority
Legal age.
manumission
A formal, written act to free slaves.
manse
Parsonage, enough land to support a family.
marriage application
A document filed with the local court indicating two individuals intent to marry through civil and/or (combined) religious ceremony. The application, usually filed with the county court, required a "return" from the person who conducted the ceremony to be considered complete.
marriage banns
See Banns.
marriage bond
A document executed to guarantee that no legal or moral impediments existed to an intended marriage.
marriage contract
A legal agreement between prospective spouses to determine their property rights and those of their children.
marriage license
A document in possession of the couple documenting their marriage as legal.
Master (of a ship)
In colonial times, the captain of a ship was called the Master.
maternal
Of the mother.
maternal line
Line of descent traced through the mother's ancestry. See Paternal Line.
matron
An older married woman with children.
medical history
A summary of the diseases and other medical conditions afflicting a family group. The purpose of this report is to help medical professionals determine the risks for an individual.
medical records (military)
When wounded, a soldier was sent to a field hospital for emergency treatment then, when it was possible, he would be sent on to more established hospitals. Whenever a doctor examined the solider, he may have completed an examination report. These reports were placed in the soldiers' military file later. See NATF 80.
Mennonite
A Swiss Protestant group established in the early 16th century that migrated to North America by way of Alsace (now in France). Settled in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Kansas
mensis
Month.
metes
A measure of distance and direction. See Metes and Bounds.
metes and bounds
A method of surveying land by using physical and topographical features, along with actual measurements, to describe the property. The land was measured and featured were named to define the boundaries of the property. In the beginning this was necessary because there was no formal surveyed grid of meridians, baselines, etc. Later, the practice was simply continued out of convenience.
military land reserves
Land set aside by the Federal Government in the U.S. to reward men to serve in the military. Military reserves were established in western New York and Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Kentucky, southern and eastern Tennessee, western Illinois, northern Missouri, eastern Arkansas, northern Virginia, western North Carolina, and northern Georgia. Some of these reserves were quite large while others were more modest in size.
militia
An army or paramilitary group comprised of citizens to serve in times of emergency.
Minnié ball
Cone shaped ammunition for rifled guns first introduced during the American Civil War. Since the Minnié ball was fired from a rifled barrel it moved faster than the old lead balls fired from smoothbore muskets. When the Minnié ball hit an object (like a person) the cone shaped head would flatten out, resulting in greater injury.
By World War I bullets were made of steel and didn't flatten out when they hit something. Plus, they were going at an even greater speed than the Minnié ball. The result was that they would usually enter and exit the body without bouncing around too much. Wounds during the Civil War were usually more life threatening since the Minnié ball flattened out and bounced around the body and then remained inside the body (causing infection). A lot of splintered bones resulted from the Minnié ball forcing surgeons of the time to amputate the limb more often.
minor
A person under the legal age. Historically, the legal age was different from place to place and over time. In general, though, legal age was 21 in many area.
Moravian
A Protestant group that was established in the 15th century in Bohemia. Their followers spread to Poland, Prussia, Germany and England.
mortality schedule
A part of the U.S. Federal census for counting people who died in the 12 months preceding the census.
mortis
Death.
Mr.
Mister — Originally, a title reserved for gentlemen, clergymen, and government officials. This strict usage has been broadened to indicate any man.
Mrs.
Missus — The female equivalent of Mr. Originally, this title did not indicate marriage but, rather, social rank. An unmarried woman of good social status could be called "Mrs."
mug book
A book, very popular in the late 19th century, where the author or publisher would solicit "subscriptions" (payment, usually in advance) for purchase of the book. To be a true mug book the subscriber would then be permitted to submit a story or would be interviewed for a story to be included in the book. Sometimes photographs or sketches of the subscriber or their property would be included in the book. Mug books can provide a great wealth of information but it must be remembered that the subscribers wanted nice (sometimes grand) things said about them… and were paying for the privilege. The biographical section of the mug book must be viewed with a little skepticism and additional evidence should be required to ensure truthfulness.
mulatto A child of white and African heritage. A person who is one-half African.
muster A formal military inspection of the troops. This inspection usually coincided with pay day and was therefore important to many soldiers.
muster out
To discharge from military service.
muster roll
The list of officers and enlisted men in a military unit or ship's company.

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