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

It’s winter camp for genealogists this week as the virtual Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy is underway.

Which means I’m up to my eyeballs in Powerpoints and Zoom sessions.

So… the first of 2023’s snippets…

2023 snippet no. 1

What in the world is a “moiety”?

We come across it as genealogists in land records, as when two brothers sold off a “two-thirds moiety” in 200 acres in North Carolina in 1848.1

And if we head off to the law dictionary, we find that a “moiety” in law generally refers to a one-half interest in real estate.2 An entirety in real estate, by contrast, means the whole parcel.3 But the term “moiety” is broader than just a half-interest. The definition of “moiety” notes by way of example that joint tenants — two or more persons who own land by a joint title4 — are “said to hold by moieties.” Used this way, the term refers to any set of roughly equal parts.

So a “two-thirds moiety” would represent two of three equal shares.

And no, that’s not the only term we might come across as genealogists that would mean roughly the same thing as moiety. In old records, a demidietas is a “half or moiety.”5 It’s sometimes spelled dimidietas.6 A half-endeal is a moiety.7

To own all rights to the entire 200 acres, the buyers would have had to separately acquire the remaining rights to the land from the owners of the third share — the children of a third brother, who had also inherited a one-third interest but had already died by the time the brothers were ready to sell.8

Sigh… woulda been nice if they’d just said “share,” wouldn’t it?

Darned deed-drafting lawyers…

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Snippet: About those shares…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 24 Jan 2023).


  1. Caldwell County, North Carolina, Deed Book 2: 147; microfilm C.017.40001; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  2. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 784, “moiety.”
  3. Ibid., 423, “entirety.”
  4. Ibid., 651, “joint tenants.”
  5. Ibid., 351, “demidietas.”
  6. Ibid., 368, “dimidietas.”
  7. Ibid., 559, “half-endeal.”
  8. Caldwell Co., N.C., Original Wills, folder John Baker, 1848; call no. C.R.017.801.2; N.C. State Archives.
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