5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words… and How to Get Them Right

Our ancestors tended to be…. shall we say…. “creative” spellers. When we’re indexing or transcribing, we need to preserve that. But when it comes to our own words, we’re supposed to get it right.

There are some words in genealogy that trip up everyone. Here are three words that I often see misspelled, along with two pairs of words that are often mixed up — and how I keep them straight in my mind. (Note: I’m not claiming that my methods are particularly witty or poetic, just that they help me remember!)

5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words and How to Get Them RightWant to use this on your blog? Click here to download it. Just make sure the bottom part of the graphic is visible. Having a link back to here would be great, too 😉

1. Genealogy

It’s not geneology. The root of the first part of the word is “genea,” so they drop the “o” off of “ology.” Yes, it looks weird, but that’s how it is. Remember it like you want to do well — you want to get an “A” in genealogy.

2. Cemetery

It’s not cemetary. (It makes me sad to see this misspelled on cemetery signs.) Someone taught me a long time ago that “Alive begins with A and there’s nothing alive in a cemetery.” (Technically, that’s not true, but it does help with the spelling.)

3. Copyright

It’s not copywrite (or copy right or even copyrite). Remember that it deals with the right to copy something.

4. Calvary vs. Cavalry

Both of these words are correctly spelled; they’re just mixed up a lot. Calvary is a place. Cavalry is a military unit with horses or tanks. Your great-grandfather didn’t serve in the 4th Calvary; he served in the 4th Cavalry. If you know the word “cavalcade,” think of an army. Or, think of how “cav” sounds like “calf,” which is an animal. (Again, I never said these were particularly witty!)

5. Grantor vs. Grantee

If you work with land records, you have to keep these straight. Grantors sell; grantees buy. Or, put another way, the grantor is the sell-or and the grantee is the buy-ee. (Yes, it’s silly, but it helps keep them straight!)

What genealogy words trip you up? Maybe we came think of a way to remember it!

18 thoughts on “5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words… and How to Get Them Right

  1. The Intrepid Sleuth

    Thanks Amy. I was guilty of the cemetery one until I pointed out to my hubby that our cemetery sign was misspelled and he said, “Think again.”

  2. Carol Chafin

    Good post subject. Regarding real estate documents, grantor/morgagor/lessor is the seller/borrower/tenant–they are giving the property/interest/lease. Grantee/morgagor/lessee is the buyer/lender/owner–they are receiving the property/interest/lease. -or is the one giving and -ee is the one receiving.

    Cemetery is the one that seems to cause me the most trouble. And what about genealogical? I have a hard time saying it, let alone spelling it!


  3. emptybranches

    I am truly surprised by how many family historians don’t spell “genealogy” correctly. I realize not everyone is a great speller, but if it is one’s hobby, you would think that it would be spelled right. In fact, as a word of advice to others, if I come across a site that has spelled it “geneology,” I immediately suspect errors in the information to be found there and I think others may have the same reaction.

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  5. Jade

    Great top-errata list!

    Another that is not specifically genealogical, but that I see on many message-boards and even blog posts, is “websight” for “website.” It seems a lot of us were taught vocabulary by rote instead of understanding how compound words are made.

  6. Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

    Loved this one, yes sometimes you just have to stop and think! And often associating a word with something to help you spell it correctly will work in helping you remember. I’m sure there are more words we need explanations on. Thanks Amy!

  7. Pingback: 5 Misspelled, Misused Genealogy Words… and How to Get Them Right | No Story Too Small | GeneaBranches

  8. Michael Jacobson

    I thought this is good to point out. I tend to misspell the first three words myself so this is helpful to know. I know how to spell Calvary (like Jesus died on Calvary), but I don’t have down how to spell cavalry and what it’s definition is. I’m aware of grantor, grantee and the difference between them, but it’s still important to point out the difference between the two.


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