A – Z of Genealogy – All about the B’s

This week it’s all about words and phrases found in genealogy, family and house history research beginning with the letter B.

BAG – measure , particularly of hops, usually 2 & 1/2 cwt

BAGNIO KEEPER – a lesser known term for a brother keeper

BAILLIVUS/BALLICUS – Bailiff, official

BAL MAIDEN – a female mine worker

BANCUS REGIS/REGIUS – (Court of ) King’s Bench

BARKMAN – a worker who tanned leather using tree bark

BARQUE – a type of ship with three or more masts

BASTLE – a type of fortified farmhouse (esp. associate with Anglo-Scottish border regions in the C17th)

BATT MAKER – Maker of wool wadding used in mattresses

BAWDY COURTS – Ecclesiastical courts which heard cases relating to church administration, moral issues such as failure to attend church, probate, defamation, drunkeness, divorce for example

BAWKS – a hay loft

BEADLE – a minor town or lay church official with the power of punishing petty offenders

BENE – well, rightly, truly

BENFICIUM – Ecclesiastical benefice, living; feudal estate

BENEFICE – A church appointment or ecclesiastical living usually from property and income for carrying out church duties

BESTIA – farm animal; beast of the chase

BIDENS – sheep, ewe (strictly a two year old)

BIGA – a cart

BISHOPS TRANSCRIPTS – contemporoary copies of parish registers of baptism, marriage and burials sent annually the the archbishop from 1598 to the 1870’s although became less common after 1837

BLADUM – corn, cornfield

BOATSWAIN/BO’SUN – Ship’s officer in charge of rigging and sails

BOCCUS/BOSCUM/BOSCUS – wood; woodland

BONA – goods; revenue; income

BONA NOTABILIA – Notable goods (particulalry found in probate records)

BOOTCATCHER – a person at an inn who pulls off the boots of passengers

BORDA – a board; a cottage

BORDAR – villager holding less land than a villein


BOREAS – the north

BOS/BOVIS – ox, bull

BOTCHET – liquor made from honey and mead

BOTE – common right of taking timber from waste land of the manor for repair or maintenance

BOWHAWLER – a man who manually draws barges or small vessels along rivers or canals

BOWKER – a bleacher of yarn

BOWYER – a maker of bows


BRASARIUS – Maltster

BREVE – a writ

BRODE CHAMBER -broad chamber, probably the main living and dining room of a house

BROILING IRON – support for a cooking pot, like a gridiron

BURGAGIUM – land held by burgage-tenure ; burgage tenure ot payment

BURGUS – borough, town

BURLEYMAN – an office appointed to the manor for various local duties

BURRIARIUS – dairyman

BUSHEL – measure of capacity of about eight gallons (subject to regional variations)

BUSSELLUS – bushel (measure)

BUT AND BEN – a small two-roomed dwelling; the BUT was the kitchen or outer room, the BEN was the parlour or inner room

BUTT – a measure of liquid (usually wine or ale) equivalent to approximately 126 imperial gallons

BUTTERIS – a room where ale was brewed and kept; a cool storeroom for provisions and tableware

I would love to hear what obscure words and phrases you have found in your research – sarah@spfhhistory.co.uk

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