What’s in a name #1: abbreviations & nicknames

Abbreviated first names one of the things to get to grips with when searching online census, birth, death and marriage records.

Here’s a list of the most common abbreviations for male first names:

Chas or Chaz = Charles

Jas = James

Jno = John

Jos = Joseph

Saml = Samuel

Thos = Thomas

For a longer list of common abbreviations for male and female first names, please visit: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Abbreviations_for_English_given_names
Derivations, in the form of common nicknames,  of full first names also regularly appear in historical records.

For instance:

  • Betty, Bettie, Liz, Lizzie, Lilibet and Bessie are often used in lieu of Elizabeth.
  • Marg, Meg, Mag, Peggy and Peg are often used in lieu of Margaret
  • Mary often appears as Mariah – and vice versa. Mary can also appear as Polly or Pollie.
  • Nate, Nathan and Nat are often used in lieu of Nathaniel
  • Ed, Ned and Eddie are often used in lieu of Edward
  • Kat, Kate, Cath, Cathy, Kitty or Kittie instead of Katherine or Catherine
  • While Lemuel is a name in itself, it also seems to be interchangeable with the name Leonard

You can find a fuller list of derivations and common nicknames here: http://genealogy.about.com/library/bl_nicknames.htm

It’s worth bearing this in mind when searching historical records for your ancestors. If you can’t find the ancestor you are searching for by their proper full name, try searching through using common nicknames or abbreviations – and vice versa.


One thought on “What’s in a name #1: abbreviations & nicknames

  1. Thank you for the link and listing of common nicknames and spelling abreviations. When trying to find your ancestor you need to be aware of these. You may also need to be aware of common misspelling and how to find them in an index when this occurs. Check out the blog about
    names and genealogy. It offers a number of suggestions on how to perform some searches when this happens.

    Regards, Jim

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