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Guest Blog Series: Find Better Genealogy Results With Abbreviations

Kenneth R. Marks is the founder of The Ancestor Hunt, a comprehensive resource dedicated to assisting individuals in the exploration and discovery of their ancestry and family history. With a passion for genealogy that shines through his meticulous work, Marks has transformed The Ancestor Hunt into a cornerstone for amateur and experienced genealogists. We are thrilled to announce a guest blog series penned by Kenneth R. Marks himself. Through this series, readers will gain unprecedented access to Marks’ wealth of knowledge and insider tips, especially for newspaper research.

In old newspapers, you are likely to find abbreviations of people’s given or first names. So, when searching online, it behooves us to search with the abbreviation of that first name as well as the full first name. I did a search for “Thomas Johnson” in a newspaper site and found about 22,700 results. I then did a search for “Thos Johnson” and found 9,700 results. That is an additional 43% of newspaper pages! (“Thos” is an abbreviation for Thomas).

In old newspapers, abbreviations were used to save space. Abbreviations were used to shorten many words – the most notable being given names and addresses.

Your search index database is not smart enough to automatically search for the abbreviation of “Thos” for “Thomas”. The same issue applies when trying to interpret “ave” for the word “avenue” So if you are entering “335 14th Avenue” – if the search index includes “Ave” the search will not be successful. Therefore, you must search both “335 14th Avenue” and “335 14th Ave” to get all possible results.

Given names can provide a great number of increased results by using abbreviations. I have seen as much as 50% more newspaper search results with given name abbreviations, such as “Wm” for William, “Jos” for Joseph, “Eliz” for Elizabeth, and “Robt” for Robert, to name a few. Here is a terrific list of given name abbreviations from Genealogy In Time.

So, when developing your search criteria for newspaper searches, you need to include abbreviations in your repertoire.

Here is a list of common abbreviations that you should use in your searches.

Eliz for ElizabethCapt for Captain
Wm for WilliamPl for Place
Sgt for SergeantCo for Company
Ave for AvenuePres for President
Corp for CorporationLn for Lane
Jno for JohnCol for Colonel
St for StreetChas for Charles
NYC for New York CityBenj for Benjamin
Jos for JosephCpl for Corporal
Jas for JamesGeo for George
Margt for MargaretRobt for Robert
Saml for SamuelThos for Thomas
Inc for IncorporatedGenl for General
Deb for DeborahDanl for Daniel
Hy for HenryPvt for Private
CPO for Chief Petty OfficerEns for Ensign
My for MaryTheo for Theodore
Agt for AgentProp for Proprietor
Ag for AgnesAlex for Alexander
Chr for ChristianDy for Dorothy


Make sure that you include abbreviated words in your search criteria.  You may find articles that you wouldn’t have without searching using the abbreviation.

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