The language of the law. Part Latin, part Greek, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

It’s IGHR week this week — the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research enters its third day this morning in Athens, Georgia, with nearly 300 avid genealogists studying everything from DNA to advanced methodology and evidence analysis.

letter KIt’s that last part that has The Legal Genealogist tied up.

I’m the coordinator of Course 3, Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis, and — although I have a fabulous instructor team with David McDonald, Melissa Johnson, David Rencher, Angela McGhie, Thomas W. Jones and Michael Strauss all contributing mightily — time is in very short supply this week.

So… to avoid having the blog simply go dark for a few days… let’s go back to the 2018 alphabet soup.

We’re up to letter K… as in … um … well …

Okay, so here’s the problem.

There are a whole bunch of words in the law dictionary that start with K that are making me giggle, and I can’t choose just one.

I mean, really, do we need the term kain, which, in Scotch law, was “poultry renderable bya vassal to his superior, reserved in the lease as the whole or a part of the rent”?1

And you know what keeping term meant? It was a “duty performed by students of law, consisting in eating a sufficient number of dinners in hall to make the term count for the purpose of being called to the bar.”2

And kernes — you of course know what they were. Idlers and vagabonds, according to the law dictionary.3 Ditto pretty much for kymortha, at least in Wales, but that was broader and included a “waster, rhymer, minstrel, or other vagabond.”4

I’m not sure we really need to know about the killyth-stallion–a “custom by which lords of manors were bound to provide a stallion for the use of their tenants’ mares.”5

Chickens as rent payments. Law students eating their way to the bar. Idlers and vagabonds and rhymers and minstrels. Even … um … well, equine sex service.

And you thought the law was boring…


  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 676, “kain.”
  2. Ibid., 677, “keeping term.”
  3. Ibid., “kernes.”
  4. Ibid., 681, “kymortha.”
  5. Ibid., 678, “killyth-stallion.”
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