I ran across a word today that I have never seen before, primogeniture. It is the “state of being the first-born of children of the same parents.” The exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the first-born. It comes from the Latin primus which means “first” and genitura which means “birth” or “generation.” A primogenitor (notice the difference in spelling) is an “ancestor;” a “forefather.”
During America’s Revolutionary War Era, Loyalists (those loyal to England) sometimes had their estates confiscated by the state, breaking the tradition of land passing from generation to generation. If the state hadn’t seized the land, it likely would have gone to that family’s first-born son. This was a bit of a blow to the economic power of the aristocratic class. The old laws of entail, require that land be automatically surrendered or transferred to a person and his descendants. A “fixed” inheritance. But it changed hands after the state got ahold of it.
America was, and still is, a big land grab. Even as late as the “Great Recession” land ownership shifted. Before the Europeans came, the Natives cared and tended for their lands. But they lost most of it. Speculators were so hungry for it, they cared nothing for the hardships imposed on those driven away. My father said his family had a beautiful piece of land at Bay St Louis, a resort town in southern Mississippi. They lost it because they couldn’t pay the high taxes. Every family has stories to tell. The small piece of land where I live now, was originally part of a big cattle ranch. The story is; about fifty-years-ago, the owner got caught rustling cattle. As punishment, the judge broke up his land. It transformed into a rural sub-division. These things happen and they change the face of America. Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78