Carpe Diem – Learning a little Latin will go a long way.

Carpe DiemIf you’re doing genealogy you’re going to encounter Latin terms eventually. Latin terms are commonly found in early church records as well as many legal documents. Latin is the mother language for many modern European languages, including English, French, Spanish and Italian and is used in earlier records of most European countries. Many words in English, Spanish, French, and other languages find their roots in Latin words and have the same or similar meanings.

Learning to interpret commonly used Latin words is often a key part of genealogical research. According to information found on FamilySearch, “Latin was used in the records of most European countries and in the Roman Catholic records of the United States and Canada. Because Latin was used in so many countries, local usage varied. Certain terms were commonly used in some countries but not in others. In addition, the Latin used in British records has more abbreviations than the Latin used in European records.”

“The Internet can be of great assistance in trying to translate Latin. There are some dictionaries and word lists as well as some sites that will translate for you. One good website is William Whitaker’s Words for translating words. Latin Dictionary and Latin Dictionary and Grammar Aid are Latin dictionaries. It is important to remember with using any of these websites that you have to be careful about accepting the meaning. Be sure that the meaning makes sense with what you are trying to translate.”

For a comprehensive list of common latin terms found in genealogical records, visit

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