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Bring on the ladies…

There it is.

Right there in the document open on The Legal Genealogist‘s desk.

Evelyn, handling the estate.

Or Shirley, leaving a will.

2022 snippet graphic 5

So… is Evelyn the deceased’s daughter, perhaps? Maybe a sister?

Is Shirley a single woman or a widow?

Do we even know if Evelyn or Shirley is male or female?


It depends.1

We might have a clue if the specific position being filled or role being played in the record by Evelyn or Shirley is spelled out in full.

Because there’s a big difference between an administrator and an administratrix, or between an executor and and an executrix.

Or between a testator and a testatrix.

Or between a whole lot of words we see in legal documents where sometimes it ends in -or and other times it ends in -ix.2

Because that difference may very well tell us whether Evelyn and Shirley are male or female.

Because the -ix ending is always going to be referencing a female.

If Evelyn was appointed by the court to handle the affairs of a deceased person who didn’t leave a will, any reference to Evelyn as an administratrix of that estate is telling us that’s a her, not a him.3 If Evelyn was named in the will to handle the estate, any reference to the executrix, ditto.4

And if we see our will-writing Shirley described as a testatrix, ditto again.5

There are a bunch of terms like this we may come across in historical records:

• Actor, actrix.6
• Creditor, creditrix.7
• Curator, curatrix.8
• Debtor, debitrix.9
• Disseisor, disseisitrix.10
• Emtor, emtrix.11
• Orator, oratrix.12
• Procurator, procuratrix.13
• Prosecutor, prosecutrix.14
• Relator, relatrix.15
• Tutor, tutrix.16
• Vendor, venditrix.17

Now… particularly as time goes on, when the word doesn’t have the -ix ending, we can’t be 100% sure whether Evelyn or Shirley is male or female. The gender distinction in words begins to fade in the 19th century, and we’ll see females called debtor and not debitrix or vendor and not venitrix.

But whenever that -ix ending is there?

Oh, yeah.

Bring on the ladies.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Snippet: those -ix endings!,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 26 Apr 2022).


  1. You saw that coming, didn’t you?
  2. Okay, to be perfectly pedantic about it, it’s -trix. See Wiktionary (, “-trix,” rev. 3 Apr 2022. But hey… just the last two letters are enough here. Really.
  3. See Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 40, “administratrix.”
  4. Ibid., 457, “executrix.”
  5. Ibid., 1166, “testatrix.”
  6. Ibid., 29.
  7. Ibid., 300.
  8. Ibid., 309.
  9. Ibid., 336.
  10. Ibid., 377.
  11. Ibid., 418.
  12. Ibid., 864.
  13. Ibid., 949.
  14. Ibid., 956.
  15. Ibid., 1016.
  16. Ibid., 1195.
  17. Ibid., 1213.
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