Understanding Maryland Records
Latin & Legal Terms
Ad quod damnum - The name of a writ commanding the sheriff to make inquiry into what damages will result from a specified act. For example, before permission is given for a fair, market, or similar activity, inquiry should be made as to whether it will be prejudicial to other people and to what extent. The process is also used if a common highway is closed and another route laid out as being more beneficial.
A Mensa et Thoro - Lat. 'from bed and board'. A divorce a mensa et thoro, is rather a separation of the parties by act of law, than a dissolution of the marriage. It may be granted for the causes of extreme cruelty or desertion of the wife by the husband. This kind of divorce does not affect the legitimacy of children, nor authorize a second marriage.
Confess judgement - The act of a debtor, usually with his sureties, in permitting judgment to be entered against him or them by his creditor for a stipulated sum, without any court proceedings.
Decree pro confesso - Decree entered in a court of equity in favor of the complainant where the defendant has made no answer to the bill of complaint. Its allegations are consequently accepted by the court "as confessed."
Deposition - The testimony of a witness given outside the court setting and taken in answer to questions based upon a commission to take testimony issued by a judge. The testimony is taken under oath, is written down, and can be used later at a trial. Depositions concerning land boundaries were often taken where the property was located.
Estray or stray - Notice of a stray animal. Laws required that anyone finding a stray horse, cow, or other domestic animal for which the owner was unknown had to report it to the court. The owner could claim the animal upon paying the finder for any costs incurred, such as board or advertising.
Et al. - An abbreviation for et alius which means "and another" or et alii which means "and others."
Extent - A writ of execution upon a debt which gives the creditor possession of the debtor's land for a limited time until the debt is paid. "Extent" appears in depositions concerning boundaries of a tract as "there was an extent sued out on the land" or "he was sued on extent on the land."
Et ux.- An abbreviation for et uxor which means "and wife."
Fieri facias - A writ of execution commanding the sheriff to levy and recover the amount of a judgment from the goods and chattels of the debtor.
Guardian ad litem - Guardian for the duration of a suit, who is appointed to prosecute or defend a court case on behalf of a minor or person otherwise incapacitated.
Infant - A person not of full age, a minor. At common law, this refers to any person under the age of 21 years, male or female.
Non est - A return from a sheriff when he was required to arrest a defendant and did not find the defendant within his jurisdiction.
Supersedas - A writ directing an officer to desist from enforcing the execution of another writ. For example, a supersedeas might state that three men (debtor and two sureties) confessed judgment for a specified amount and gives them six months to pay. This effectively delays the taking of the debtor's land and gives him time to find a buyer or negotiate further with his creditor. In modern times, supersedeas means a stay of proceedings at law, keeping the lower court from taking action when a case has been appealed.