Virginia Land and Tax Terms

Glossary of some Key Land and Tax Terms you will find in Virginia Property Documents:

· Advowson–real estate dedicated to the church. Owner has the right to present the clergyman to the benefice–choose the minister!

· Common Rightsuse held in common with others, can include products, water, grazing, forest

· Cotenancy–joint ownership of land. Joint tenancy–ownership by two or more persons, who do not have to be related, with rights of survivorship. Tenancy in common–undivided portions of the same real estate, with no rights of survivorship. Ended by sale or partition. Tenancy by entirety–joint ownership by husband and wife, with rights of survivorship. Part of the old common law, no longer effective in most states

· Delinquent–fees or taxes due and unpaid by specific date

· Desmesne–a selected portion of land holdings reserved for the exclusive right and use of the owner

· Entail–once established, the whole landed estate is preserved intact and cannot be divided or sold, usually legislative act is required. In many jurisdictions, the father/owner of the property sets up the entail.

· Exemptions–from taxes or fees set by law or local custom: teacher, tax assessor or collector, militia captain, civil servant, disability, or by petition

· Freemanunmarried man, under 21, taxable, usually living in own establishment and head of household

· Gore–a strip of land between two survey lines, frequently pie-shaped. May have own set of records, separate from county or township

· Inmateunmarried adult, taxable, living in someone else’s home, not a head of household

· Messuage–principal dwelling place, includes house and adjacent buildings with some land for a home garden and grazing of livestock

· Moeity–1/2 interest in real property; joint tenants usually hold by moeity

· Natural Birth–means legitimate heir of the body as opposed to step or adopted children. It does not mean illegitimate.

· Natural Rights–determined by geographical and physical conditions other than law. Subject to specific limits, can be based on equity

· Occupant–person in possession of the land

· Primogeniture–eldest son inherits landed estate directly. Father determines at what age the land descends to this son. When coupled with entail, the property passes to the next heir in remainder

· Proprietor–owner who has exclusive title and use of the land

· Tenement–house or homestead, includes rentals, common rights, other fixed property holdings

· Tenant–rents the land

· Unseated–unoccupied, not a place of residence, usually unimproved and subject to lower tax, may be occupied by a non-owner

· Unwarranted–lands still owned and in possession of the government

· Warrantee–person who holds the warrant or right to own the land, person who guarantees the sale with a clear title

Virginia adopted the English Common Law as the basis of its colonial law code. After the American Revolution, the common law continued although some of these legal processes were abandoned–entail, primogeniture, etc. A study of the law code at the time your ancestors lived in Virginia can be very useful. Check Google Books for those that are conveniently available online and indexed by every word. Your favorite Virginia genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS The next blogs will be posted from the Family History Library highlighting new Virginia resources available there and through your local Family History Center.

PPS I uploaded this glossary from a handout I am working on–and the spacing in Word Press is correct when viewed behind scenes. I don’t know why it is messed up when posted. I’m still learning how to edit what I write. So I apologize for the uneven column. AE

PPSS  When I apologized, the columns aligned themselves.  WOW!

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