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Understanding Common Record Types: Glossary of terms

Guide to understanding common types of archive documents: abstracts of title, accounts, annual reports, charters & letters patent, constitutions, diaries, household books, land deeds, letters, manorial records, maps & plans, minutes, photographs, & wills.

Glossary of terms

Many of these words have largely fallen out of everyday use and will be unfamiliar to the modern reader. Below is a list of words, along with definitions, which are often found within the document types discussed in this SkillsGuide.

Use the following list as a quick reference tool when working with archive documents discussed in this SkillsGuide. Should you encounter something which is not listed, you will find this list of reference works helpful.


A penalty or fine determined and imposed on an individual by a court. Commonly used in manorial courts to punish infringement of manorial customs and regulations.


Something which accompanies or belongs to a piece of land or property, i.e. a back yard attached to a house, a fence or wall on a piece of land, etc.


To give someone your personal property by will.


A subcategory of personal property, this refers to physical items owned by an individual (such as hair brushes, jewellery, etc.). Chattels might also include fixtures and fittings in a property (such as curtains, furnaces, etc.) which are not considered part of the real property.


A category of landholding, signaling that a landholder had been granted the right to hold a piece of land. The right was granted by the lord of the manor in which the land was situated, and the ownership of the land remained with the lord of the manor.


A supplement to an existing will, which extends or alters the terms of said will without the need to re-write it in full.

Deed poll

A legal deed executed by a single party to express an intention. Wills are an example of a deed poll.


Land attached to a manor, belonging to and retained by the lord of the manor for their own use.


To give someone your real property by will.


Seizure of goods or property in payment of a debt.


A true copy of a record or extract of a record, usually in relation to amercements imposed in manorial courts.


An individual who is granted the right to hold a piece of freehold property as a trustee for a specified purpose. Often relates to land granted for charitable uses.


A category of landholding, signaling that a landholder owns a property, and the land on which it sits, outright.


Any property, including real property and legal rights (i.e. to collect rents, etc.), which can be inherited.


A legal document recording an agreement or contract. The term comes from the practice of creating two copies of the document on one piece of parchment, then splitting it with an indented line to create two parts that can be matched together for authentication.


A category of landholding, signaling that a landholder has been granted a temporary right to land ownership for a specified period of time. At the conclusion of the period, ownership reverts to the original landowner.


A dwelling with outbuildings and land assigned to its use.


Orders or byelaws of the manorial court.

Personal property

Any property that is not real property. A subcategory of personal property is chattels.


The process by which the will of a deceased individual is proved to be a valid and legal representation of that person's last wishes.


The minimum number of individuals required to consider a court session, hearing, vote or decision valid, i.e. a quorum of 9 committee members of a society to be present to make a rule change. Commonly applies to benches of magistrates and the boards or committees of legally constituted organisations.

Real property

Land, including any attached buildings and structures.


Refers to a document which has been authorised by the addition of an official or personal wax seal. The seal itself might be applied as a stamp in wax at the foot of the document, or moulded and attached by a parchment strip or piece of cord to the bottom of the document.


The legal possession of land or property.


Real property consisting of a building, usually containing multiple dwellings.


Male individual who has made a will. Female equivalent is a testatrix.


An unfree tenant, given land in return for the performance of services and the payment of goods to a lord.

Recommended books and eBooks from our collections

The following resources will help if you encounter any unfamiliar words or phrases not listed above. Please note that some of these resources are not available at the University Library, but must be consulted in person at Hull History Centre. These items have no Call Number, and are instead marked 'Hull History Centre Reference'.