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Definitions of Terms

During the course of historical research you will be encountering words or records that you will need to define to understand what is actually being stated or described, here below are some helpful explanations.


Issue referred in legal terms to somebody's offspring, and to have died without issue simply meant there was no heir


We know the peppercorn as a  small dried tropical berry that is ground to make pepper for use as a seasoning, it was also the term used for something insignificant: something that is very small or has little importance or value. So when you see the term Peppercorn Rent  it is referring to a very small rent.


Today we think only of a rabbit habitat: a group of connected burrows where rabbits live and breed, but it used to also refer to a crowded building or area: an area or building that is crowded or has a complicated layout.
An area for game animals: a piece of ground where game animals are kept and bred

It comes from the 14th century. Anglo-Norman warenne "enclosed area for breeding game"


man·or [ mánnər ] (plural man·ors)
 A noble's house and land: a house and the land surrounding it, owned by a medieval noble


mes·suage [ mésswij ]
 A dwelling and its land: a dwelling with its outbuildings and the surrounding land that is used by the dwelling's occupants


moi·e·ty [ móy ətee ] (plural moi·e·ties)
One of two parts: either of two parts, not necessarily equal, into which something is or can be divided ( formal )

So if someone gained a moiety of a property, they gained a part of a property.


war·rant [ wáwrənt ]
We think of warrent as used in " A warrent for his arrest it is an authorization: something that authorizes somebody to do something
2. written authorization: a written authorization or certifying document
3. document authorizing police to do something: a document that gives police specific rights or powers such as the right to search or arrest somebody

Used also in the feet of fines as a means to prevent a challenge over ownership of a property [ see below ]


A term used in the Christian church and the feet of fines, often when a manor and land contained a church the owner was given the Advowson which was the right of selecting a person to a church living or benefice i.e. the priest or vicar


In English law, dower was one third. However, in the early modern period, it was common for a wife to bar her right to dower in advance under a marriage settlement, under which she agreed to take instead a jointure, that is a particular interest in her husband's property, either a particular share, or a life interest in a particular part of the land, or an annuity. This was often part of an arrangement by which she gave up her property to her husband in exchange for her jointure, which would accordingly be greater than a third. Strictly dower was only available from land that her husband owned, but a life tenant under a settlement was often given power to appoint a jointure for his wife. The wife would retain her right to dower (if not barred by a settlement) even if her husband sold the property; however this right could be barred by a fictituous court proceeding known as levying a fine, by which she and her husband formally remitted their right to the property to the purchaser. The widow of a copyholder was usually provided for by the custom of the manor with freebench, an equivalent right to dower, but often (but not necessarily) a half, rather than a third.

A female is known by suffix Dowager when she no longer occupies the position she held during the marriage. For example, a widowed countess is called "Dowager Countess" (the next Earl's wife is then the Countess); Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon was technically the Dowager Queen after the demise of George VI (though she was given the personal title "Queen Mother"),

[L. querens, p. pr. of queri to complain.]
(O. Eng. Law) A complainant; a plaintiff.

[OF. deforciant, p. pr. of deforcier. See Deforce.]
(Eng. Law) (a) One who keeps out of possession the rightful owner of an estate.

(b) One against whom a fictitious action of fine was brought. [Obs.] Burrill.

Webster 1913 Dictionary edited by Patrick J. Cassidy

The virgate was a unit of land area measure in Medieval England. It was equivalent to 1⁄4 of a hide or 1⁄4 of a carucate.

HIDE (unit) :-
The hide, in some places referred to as a carucate, was a variable unit of land area used in medieval England, defined according to its arable yield and taxable potential rather than its exact dimensions. This gave it a range of approximately 60 to 120 old acres, or 15 to 30 modern acres (6 to 12 hectares), depending on fertility.
A hide could agriculturally support one household and five hides were expected to produce one fully armed soldier in times of war. This definition was articulated by Athelstan: If a ceorl thrived, so that he had fully five hides of land, church and kitchen, bell-house and back gatescal, and special duty in the king's hall, then he was thenceforth of thane-right worthy.
Ten hides were formed into a tithing, ten tithings made a hundred, and a number of hundreds were grouped to form a shire.

[LL. carucata, carrucata. See Carucage.]
A plowland; as much land as one team can plow in a year and a day; -- by some said to be about 100 acres. Burrill.

Webster 1913 Dictionary
The carucate was both a unit of assessment and a peasant landholding unit found in most of the Danelaw counties of England. The word derives from caruca, Latin for a plough. In the Domesday Book the carucate was a nominal 120 acres (490,000 m²), based on the area a plough team could till in a year. It is equivalent to the hide, the measurement of land for tax assessment used outside Danelaw counties. A quarter of a hide was known as a virgate.

bovate was a measure of land which could be ploughed in one year by one eighth of a plough team with eight oxen, or in other words the measure of land representing one eighth of a carucate. The term is used in the Domesday Book for places under the Danelaw. The word is derived from the Latin word bōs, meaning ox.


A legally binding arrangement between parties:


The transfer of a title, right, or claim to another.
To renounce all claim to (a possession or right).


To relinquish a claim to; surrender by deed.

A grant of lands as a fee.
Middle English feffement, from Anglo-Norman feoffement, from feoffer, to put in legal possession, from Old French fief , fief.

LICENTIA CONCORDANDI, estates, conveyancing, practice:-
.When an action is brought for the purpose of levying a fine, the defendant, knowing himself to brought for the purpose of levying a fine, the defendant, knowing himself to be in the wrong, is supposed to make overtures of accommodation to the be in the wrong, is supposed to make overtures of accommodation to the plaintiff, who accepts them; but having given pledges to prosecute his suit, plaintiff, who accepts them; but having given pledges to prosecute his suit, applies to the court, upon the return of the writ of covenant, for leave to applies to the court, upon the return of the writ of covenant, for leave to make the matter up; this, which is readily granted, is called the, licentia make the matter up; this, which is readily granted, is called the, licentia concordandi. 5 Rep. 39; Cruise, Dig. tit. 35, c. 2, 22. concordandi. 5 Rep. 39; Cruise, Dig. tit. 35, c. 2, 22.

(Old. Law) (a) A writing which, requiring a counterpart, was engrossed twice on the same piece of parchment, with a space between, in which was written the word chirographum, through which the parchment was cut, and one part given to each party. It answered to what is now called a charter party. (b) The last part of a fine of land, commonly called the foot of the fine. Bouvier.

n. (Law) One who acknowledged the right of the plaintiff or cognizee in a fine; the defendant. Blackstone.


 plaintiff or cognizee in a fine


A written instrument given as evidence of agreement, transfer, or contract; a deed.

Something that is outside the property itself but is considered a part of the property and adds to its greater enjoyment, such as the right to cross another's land (i.e., easement or right-of-way).

From Old Scandinavian toft 'curtilage or homestead'; 'dweller at the croft or homestead'

MERCIMENT Amercement. The infliction of a penalty left to the 'mercy' of the inflicter; hence the imposition of an arbitrary mulct or fine (originally lighter in amount than fines fixed for specific offences). The mulct or fine so inflicted.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

TOURN The sheriff's turn, or court.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

GARTH \Garth\ (g[aum]rth), n. [Icel. gar[eth]r yard. See Yard.]

1. A close; a yard; a croft; a garden; as, a cloister garth.

A clapper clapping in a garth To scare the fowl from fruit. --Tennyson.

2. A dam or weir for catching fish.

DISTRAIN To seize and hold (property) to compel payment or reparation, as of debts.

To seize the property of (a person) in order to compel payment of debts; distress.
To levy a distress.


The feet of fines first came into existence in the late 1100's as a means of settling disputes and legal actions. At first only the two disputing parties were given copies of the final agreement, but in 1195 it was decided a third copy would be produced and retained by the court. This third copy as it was realised became an assurance to the disputing parties that no one could in later years  produce a false copy of the original agreement and challenge the agreement because the court still held a copy of the original document.  The original agreement would be written three times on one single piece of parchment, two copies side by side and one copy at the foot of the parchment. The three copies would be cut from the single parchment, the two top copies for the disputing parties, and the copy at the foot of the parchment would be retained by the court, hence the name FEET OF FINES!

It did not take that long for the landholders of the time to savvy the legal assurances within the feet of fines, and how beneficial and legally binding those assurances would be in the buying and selling of property.

Up to this time the sale of property was done by charter a system which had loopholes that enabled any ensuing agreement to be challenged.

To have this sale of property put before the feet of fines one had to be in dispute, so this was simply overcome by the two parties of a property sale inventing a dispute, the buyer would become the plaintiff and the seller would become the deforciant in most cases. This method would take up a lot more time than the charter method, it also cost quite a bit more to sell property this way as several fines would be levied in the hearing of one dispute, but it gave both parties security. It also gave the buyer the assurance of obtaining a warrent from the seller preventing any future claims from members of the sellers family, or any other interested party.

Another feature of conveying property through the feet of fines was that the wives of  both parties could be named and participate in the proceedings, which added the extra security of wives being unable  to claim a dower on the property should her husband die. Neither could the fine be challenged on the grounds of  a women being coerced by her husband.

It should be noted that there were genuine disputes settled also.

The sum recorded as a fine did not represent the amount of  money that was actually exchanged between the two parties.

The dates of the fines recorded are from the return days and the actual date of the fine would be within approx 8 days after any particular return day. These return days were the set dates for business  within the court of common pleas which were given a religious title as in the following examples





These fines were abolished  with Statute 3 and 4, Will. IV., c. 74, on the 31st December, 1833


The above is just a brief explanation of what the feet of fines actually were, there are more in depth explanations on the web but I think the above explanation serves the purpose here on these pages.


Though a person or person owned properties within the area they may not have been resident in said properties, often properties were sublet to tenants.



Source http://www.law-dictionary.org

Source:  Answers. com

REF: Wikipedia

Source: Webster 1913 Dictionary edited by Patrick J. Cassidy




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