What can you learn from Black’s Law Dictionary?

All sorts of weird and archaic things!  I bought the 1968 Black’s Law Dictionary.  Perhaps I should have bought the CD of the 1st edition but, instead, I got the “real” book, 4th edition (1968.)  I spent last night leafing through the over 1700 pages (!) to get an idea of what was in there.  I am to the “T’s.”

Black's DictionaryBlack’s Law Dictionary explains some of the archaic (and not so archaic) legal terms that one runs into in deeds, wills etc. from the 18th and 19th centuries.  It also educates the rest of us in contemporary legal terms which we might not be familiar.  here are some of my favorites:

muggle:  (now I always thought this was a “mixed breed” person who got into Hogwarts, but no…) Did you know…”Marihuana (interesting spelling) is popularly known among the criminal element as “muggles” or “mooter” and addicts are commonly termed “muggle heads.” ” I might have to go back and watch the series again!

“Circular insanity.  Another name for maniacal-depressive insanity”

If nymphomania applies to females, what it is the male version—erotomania.  Now you know.

“Graffarius.  In old English law, a graffer, notary or scrivener.”  When is the last time you needed to see a Graffarius?

“Fee-Tail. A freehold estate in which there is a fixed line of inheritable succession limited to the issue of the body of the grantee or devisee…”

Issue of the Body.  Although this is not specifically defined, the term “issue” as it relates to wills is outlined as being the descendants of the grantee or devisee.  “This word is commonly held to include only legitimate issue and is not as strong of a phrase as “heirs of the body.” ” Better check your wills, folks.

“Inhibition against a wife.  In Scotch Law.  A writ in the sovereign’s name, passing the signet, which prohibits all and sundry from having transactions with a wife or giving her creed.”

“Cynebote.  A mulct anciently paid by one who killed another, to the kindred of the deceased.”  I am not sure I know more than I did before!

Anyway, you get the drift.  It really is quite fascinating reading in a weird way.

Any way, it’s a good thing to have on hand.  I have found definitions I really can use in the book (latest one is “fee simple”)

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  (I will conveniently “forget” the SLIG posting for now.) ProGen assignment on transcription/Abstract was a bit challenging in that there didn’t seem to be that much written about how to do them.  It seemed like one had to “make it up” a bit.  I am sure others would disagree.   I transcribed the  1889 deed of a former owner of the property that my house sits on.  Kind of interesting, but actually very straight forward.  Went on vacation at Cape Cod…and had a wonderful time with hubby and daughter.  Pitched an article to the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly (APGQ) on Customer Satisfaction Surveys.  Their September issue will be on Communication.  They were very encouraging.  I completed it (1600 words) and submitted it this morning.  Received my two copies of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly (ISGSQ), where my article is the lead and the cover!  Very exciting to see another publication pick up my work.  Signed up for Mastering Genealogical Proof virtual class starting in August.  (Don’t know what I have gotten myself into with that one!)

Black, Henry Campbell. Black’s Law Dictionary. St. Paul Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1968.


2 comments on “What can you learn from Black’s Law Dictionary?

  1. Allen says:

    On a boat in Portsmouth, NH so can’t check my Black’s, but I find it an invaluable research tool.

    • jkmorelli says:

      sounds like fun. Stay tuned for a posting on the architectural style of the Cape Cod house. Just got back from a week on the Cape.

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