Genealogy Dictionary

Palatinate
An area in the western part of modern-day Germany that has been known as Pfalz, Rhineland Pfalz, and Bavarian Pfalz. Thousands of immigrants to colonial America came from this region and were encouraged by the English to do so.
Palatine
People from the Palatinate. Many of these people settled in the Hudson and Mohawk river valleys.
paleography
The study of ancient forms of writing.
pandemic
An epidemic that affects multiple geographic areas at the same time. See Also: Epidemic.
parent county
The county from which a new county is formed. Official records for land, people, taxes, etc. related to the region encompassed by the new county prior to the creation date of the new county will found in the parent county. Records did not move.
patent
A government grant or property for a fee simple to public lands. See Also: Grant.
paternal Of the father.
paternal line
A line of descent traced through the father's ancestry. See Maternal Line.
patronymic A name derived from the father or a paternal ancestor. i.e., Williams, Williamson both mean "son of William".
paresis
A slight or partial paralysis, which migth be caused by a stroke.
parish
Ecclesiastical division or jurisdiction. The site of a church. In the State of Louisiana, equivalent of (though not quite the same as) a county.
parish register
Records maintained by a church of (usually) religious events in members' lives. These events include baptism (or similar ceremony), marriage, and death/burial. Parents' names and the names of godparents are usually included in baptism records.
passenger list
A list of all passengers arriving on a ship. Prior to 1820, ships' lists were not required.

 

By 1820 the U.S. Congress passed a law requiring all ship's Masters to provide a manifest showing all passengers disembarking in the United States. This was due to the practice of "dumping" people on U.S. shores, many of whom ended up in the alms houses. This situation caused an increased burden on communities all through the young nation.

Why were there so many unable to care for themselves?
The shipping companies were using people for ballast on the journey from Europe when their ships were not full; the trip from the U.S. would find no need of this excess ballast so the people were left behind… welcome to America. Shipping companies didn't much care about the type of people being used as ballast, just that they were there.

The 1820 law declared that the cost of any passenger who ended up in the poor house would be charged back to the shipping company who brought them.

pedigree
Recorded ancestry, or line of ascent.
pedigree chart
A standard genealogical form that shows an individual's ancestors. The chart is usually restricted to direct line ancestors and usually shows between three and five generations (including the subject of the chart), though larger charts do exist. more>
pension (military)
A benefit paid regularly to a person for military service or a military service related disability. It was not common to receive both a pension and bounty land. As the 19th century progressed the national government changed from granting bounty land to paying pensions. See NATF 80.
Pennsylvania Dutch
People living in the eastern part of Pennsylvania whose characteristic traditions go back to the Germanic migrations of the 18th century. A dialect of High German spoken in parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. The "Dutch" is a corrupted pronunciation of Deutsch (meaning German).
perch
A measure of 16 and 1/2 feet used to describe land in the metes and bounds system.
personal property
Property other than land, which is called Real Property.
plague
Usually refers to the Black Death of the Middle Ages, Bubonic Plague. See Also: Epidemic.
plat
A plan, map, or chart of a piece of land with actual or proposed features (such as lots or plots). Sometimes called a survey, this is usually the surveyor's drawing of the legal description (usually using metes and bounds).
plat records
Records that document individual burials, plots to be sold, paths through a cemetery, etc. Many times a plat map was created after burials began and may have some guesswork included as to where the earlier burials took place. These records may include names of those buried, names and dates when the plot was purchased, etc. These records may be with the county, an historical society, a cemetery association, the cemetery sexton, or the caretaker.
p. o. a.
power of attorney.
pole
A varying unit of length (about 16-1/2 feet) or an area equal to a square rod (30.25 square yards). See Perch.
poll
A term used in early tax records to indicate a person. A person eligible to vote.
population schedule A completed population census questionnaire.
port of entry
The sea port or boarder crossing where an immigrant entered the country. In the U.S. the main ports of entry included New York (over 80%), Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, New Orleans, San Francisco, Charleston and Houston though many other cities also received passengers. St Albans was the primary boarder crossing from Canada and most Canadian crossings, regardless of the location, are found under this records collection.
posthumous
After death. May refer to someone born after the father's death.
potter's field
A public burial place for paupers, unknown persons and criminals.
power of attorney
A written instrument where a person appoints another person to act as their agent. A power of attorney statement may be broad of very specific in what the agent can do.
preponderance of evidence
Evidence of greater weight or more convincing than the opposing evidence. Enough evidence to convince most reasonable people of the proof of an assertion or claim when conclusive evidence is not available.
primary evidence
Original or first-hand evidence supporting a statement, assertion, or claim.
primogeniture
A practice of inheritance that ensures the right of the first born or eldest living son receives the entire estate of his parents. Through this practice younger sons and all daughters were excluded from inheriting anything of real value from their parents. Primogeniture was practiced in many states and England for many years. The true purpose was to protect families from losing influence through a breakup of ownership of the land.
prob.
probably or probated.
probate
The legal process used to determine the validity of a will before the court authorizes distribution of the assets of an estate. Part of the legal process includes appointing an Administrator or Executor to manage the distribution.
probate records
The original or copies of the original documents and court orders regarding the probate of a will. These records can include the Last Will & Testament, witness depositions, letters of administration, letters of testamentary, bond of sale, application for probate, declaration for insolvency & sale, inventory & account report, declaration to bar creditors, sale report, receipts (for expenses or payment to beneficiaries), and other miscellaneous court orders.
progenitor
The originator of a line of descent, frequently used in reference to the immigrant ancestor of a line.
progeny
Children.
Prothonotary
County official in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (U.S.) responsible for recording deeds. Sometimes called the county clerk though this isn't strictly true. This title does not appear to be used widely throughout the U.S.
province
A geo-political subdivision of a nation as found in Canada and other countries. See Also: State.
public domain
Land owned by the government.
pvt.
Private, a military rank.

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