Guest Post by Kenneth R. Marks of The Ancestor Hunt
In the “olden days,” newspaper publishers were quite frugal. They generally kept each issue to the same number of pages, whether they be 4, or 8, or other. Space was at a premium. In order to maximize the text on a page, they often used abbreviations to save space and thus save ink and paper.
Below is a list of common abbreviations frequently used in old newspapers. Current newspapers do not employ these abbreviations as much as in older newspapers.
|Eliz for Elizabeth||Capt for Captain|
|Wm for William||Pl for Place|
|Sgt for Sergeant||Co for Company|
|Ave for Avenue||Pres for President|
|Corp for Corporation||Ln for Lane|
|Jno for John||Col for Colonel|
|St for Street||Chas for Charles|
|NYC for New York City||Benj for Benjamin|
|Jos for Joseph||Cpl for Corporal|
|Jas for James||Geo for George|
|Margt for Margaret||Robt for Robert|
|Saml for Samuel||Thos for Thomas|
|Inc for Incorporated||Genl for General|
To demonstrate the power of searching with abbreviations, I searched for a common name, “William Smith,” and received 16,998 results. I then searched for “Wm Smith,” and the search returned 7,779 results. That is an increase of 46%, just by using the abbreviated name!
I highly encourage using the abbreviations above as part of your search repertoire. And there are many more abbreviations that were often used.
Here’s a longer list of name abbreviations that might be useful that is found in Genealogy In Time magazine’s First Name Abbreviations.
Another useful technique is the use of nicknames as part of your search. Just for fun, let’s use “Abraham Lincoln” as our base search, and then let’s try “Abe Lincoln” as well. “Abraham Lincoln” returns 52,769 results, and “Abe Lincoln” returns 4,532 results. Not as much of a surprise as using abbreviations, but still, there is a 9% increase in results.
There is something more important in understanding the use of nicknames in your search criteria. Whereas abbreviations were likely placed in the newspaper as a space saver by the publisher or typesetter, nicknames may have been the only way to find specific individuals in the newspaper. That is because many people were only known by their nickname rather than their complete given name.
Here is a list of frequently used nicknames for common names of old:
|Abigail, Tabitha||Abbie, Abby||Jackson||John, Jack|
|Alexander||Alec, Alex, Sandy||Janet, Virginia||Jenny|
|Archibald||Arch, Archie||Josiah, Cyrus||Si, Cy|
|August, Augustus||Augie, Gus||Katherine, Kathleen||Kate, Kay|
|Charlotte||Lollie, Lottie||Margaret, Margery||Madge, Meg, Maggie|
|Clarissa, Clarinda||Clara||Margaret||Mattie, Molly|
|Cornelius||Con||Margaret||Patsy, Patty, Peggy|
|Dorothy||Dolly, Dot||Mindwell, Wilhelmina||Mina|
|Edwin, Edward||Ned, Ed||Nathaniel||Nat, Nate|
|Eleanor, Ellen, Helen||Nellie||Newton||Newt|
|Harold||Henry, Hal||Sarah||Sadie, Sally|
|Henry||Hank, Harry||Wiley, William||Willie|
For a much longer list of old nicknames, check out FamilySearch’s Traditional Nicknames.
So, there you have it – a really easy way to find more people in old newspapers. I absolutely guarantee that you will obtain drastically more pertinent results using abbreviations and nicknames in your search criteria.
Interested in trying your hand at searching using nicknames? Visit NewspaperArchive.com for a 7-Day Free Trial and start today.