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On the road: yesterday was Day 1 of the 2014 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy — and great fun in sharing what was behind one of The Legal Genealogist‘s brick walls — on the German side for a change.

But we just can’t have folks suffering from withdrawal, so… once again…

dareThe term of the day:


“I dare you.”

“I wanted to, but didn’t dare.”

“I double dog dare you.”1

“How dare you?!?”

It’s a word we use all the time.

And, as you might expect, it doesn’t mean anything like what we expect it to mean when we use it in the law.

Because it isn’t even drawn from the English, or common law, tradition, when it’s used in the law.

Instead, it’s a term from the civil law, which has its origins in the old Roman codes and made its way to America through Dutch, Spanish and French colonial codes.

So dare, in the law, means “to transfer property.”2

And of course it’s not exactly that easy. It comes in flavors, and they’ve all got Latin names. Black’s Law Dictionnary breaks it down into at least four types:

datio solvendi animo, a transfer made in order to discharge a debt;
datio contrahendi animo, a transfer made in order to receive an equivalent, to create an obligation;
dono datio, a transfer made donandi animo, from mere liberality;3 and
ad remanentiam, a transfer given away in fee, forever.4

And the word datio in those is a giving, or act of giving.5

So where are we going to see this? Notarial records, primarily, in places like Louisiana or French Canada or Puerto Rico or any of the many many other jurisdictions where civil law, rather than common law, provides the basis of legal decision.

Understanding the term, and seeing if it’s coupled with any of the other phrases that add flavor, may help distinguish a gift from a loan from a sale in a record.

So yes, Virginia, there is a dare,6 but not in Virginia, which followed the common law.


  1. “After a dare has been made and the daree has refused, the darer can then raise the stakes by double dog daring the daree, meaning that if the dare is carried out by the daree then the darer will also perform the task.” Urban Dictionary ( : accessed 13 Jan 2014), “double dog dare.”
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 318, “dare.”
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid., “dare ad remanentiam.”
  5. Ibid., “datio.”
  6. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
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