PEDIGREE. A pedigree is a tabular view of the members of any particular family, with the relations in which they stand to each other; together, usually, with some slight notice of the principal events of the life of each, as the time and place of birth, marriage, death, and burial, the residence. the profession, or rank of the principal person named in it, and public offices held by him. Sometimes these are accompanied by reference to evidence of the fact stated, as lo inquisitions, parish register!, monumental inscriptions, marriage-settlements, and deeds of all kinds. But when there is much of this kind of information and evidence introduced, the writing is rather called a genealogy, or a genealogical history, than a pedigree: and many pedigrees, especially those of early date, are wholly deficient of reference to evidence for proof of the things stated in them, and contain rarely dates or anything more than the mere names of the parties who occur in them. They appear to be the summaries, or things established by certain evidences which may or may not now accompany them, in respect of descents and relationships. Some fanciful explanations have been.given of lb* wand. But perhaps the true etymology ma) be that winch ittrr* i to the Latin pedes gruduum, the word p~; or je les, Wi-g much used in the law Latin of the middle age* U> iaufm summaries, or the ultimate result in any transaction, a* a pedesJiiiium and pedes enmpnti. So that • pediziee t*. a* it wcto, a total of information or evidcuce respecting descents and kindredships. Tliu Scripture genealogies, as they are called, ore M many pedigrees, but with this difference from the |>rt>|«x idea of a pedigree, that they are not tabular, but Dirr»n»e Tabular genealogies, or pedigrees piopcrly »o culled, are not of very frequent occurrence in the writing* \J u« middle ages. But they are sometimes found tn public rtcords, and in the evidences of private families,or entered im the chaitularies of the monastic foundations. Tlxj are generally short, containing tor the most part only stub matter as was wanted for the exhibition of some Buii.cui r claim of right. But at about the beginning of it* tiv.eeulb, century, when the College of Heralds begun to ;*; nwtt attention to the genealogy of the English families 111 reference to their claims to dignities and to the di»tic »o which the right to armorial insignia gives, many te«l'jrnri were compiled, and in the course of that century the herald* obtained copies of all such accounts of the English Irnulrs of any distinction as could be supplied to them, and nude such accounts matter of public record by entering l.ra It the books which contain the record of their official prxxraiings. To obtain information of this kind.it was the p: »:'*»> of the heralds of that century, and it continued to t< lUtr practice till about the year IC80, to visit the various count** of England from time to time in turn, and to cx>ll*ct f-aa the mouths of the principal persons of each county wUatthry knew of the changes which had taken place in the foalr since the time of the preceding visitation, or what arovnt could be given of themselves by families who had recw lly stepped into the rank of genii y, or who had become recentU settled in the county. The pedigrees ihus collected ar* in the visitation bonks at the College of Arms, an>l fotta a >»•: body if this species of information highly important to taut* who arc studying critically the biography uf the distinguished persons of the English nation. Besides this grand collection of pedigrees, there are many similar collections made by private persons, or by the heralds themselves in Iheir private capacity. Uaoy sues collecions are in the library of the Heralds' College: otuers are in the British Museum; others in the hands of pmaii persons. Copies of the visitation hooks arc also often Is be found. The largest collection of copies is in the Br>:»% Museum, though copies of some of the best w-ilalion bosks are not in any of iho collections in that depository. Ttc-t are many copies in the libraries of Queen's College, Oxford, and Cams College, Cambridge. Since the visitations were discontinued, there baa beefl ae official and regular collection of pedigrees. But there bu been a continual addition made to the pedigrees which art aa record in the visitation books by the entry in the book* rf tae Heralds' College of iheir pedigree by particular fjiiilac*. Ii some cases, as of peers, this is compulsory. Whew arou arc granted or dignities conferred, it has been usual far families to record in the college what they know of ibeirdescent and alliances. But the books are open to any pni'i family, who may, at a moderate expense, enter a pedttue showing the existing state of the family, and whatever u witbiu the recollection of the older member* of it. or as be proved by sutlicient evidence. The entries thus utSeuiiy made are matter of record, and contain information whirs is often very interesting to the posterity of the person* ai.. occur in them, and may be of importance in protect^ rights which belong to them. The authors of the books of topography hav* done ♦earthing to supply the loss of information of this kind *t,-i has been sustained by the disuse nf the visitations,such ao«D usually containing notices of the families wbj Lave fvnsessed the more important interests in the district to wl«.a the work relates.
Note - this article incorporates content from The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (1840)