31 March 2014

R U sumtimz challenged 2 dec hist docs due 2 d shrt& & abbrevs used?

Shortening words into abbreviations is not a “new” phenomena!  This was my reaction as I read Researchers Are Totes Studying How Ppl Shorten Words On Twitter.  I will admit that when I learned to do texting to keep in touch with my children, laziness certain increased my use of abbreviated words and shorthand terms such as BTW = by the way.  If we are being honest, I also use a lot of shorthand in my calendar. Will my descendants be able to fully decipher what I have written?

Actually though, creating timelines and matrices for genealogy research started my use of word shortening.  When one is creating a matrix to increase the density and visual impact of information, I started using things like Dd = Deed, Pg = Page, N/S = North side, A = Acres, Adj = Adjacent, CC = Chain Carrier, Daur = Daughter, and so on along with & for and + for plus.  Basically, any shorthand notations I could come up with to preserve the content though make analyses simpler.

As we know from our research, court clerks were often fond themselves for using shorthand.  First, they love to abbreviate people’s forenames, such as Nathaniel = Natl, Joseph = Jos, etc.  Additionally, in court dockets (the brief of the briefest), they used all kinds of abbreviations that we sometimes, even when armed with our copy of Black’s Law Dictionary, end up scratching our head over.  When even the archivists don’t know what the court docket shorthand referred to, my enthusiasm for those records waned ...

Throughout our research we are often confronted by shortened words, initials, abbreviations for Latin words/phrases (e.g., i.e., et al, etc.), and other non-standard terms.  Learning what they mean is so critical to our deciphering, fully understanding and appropriately interpreting what we read.

While thinking about this I, once again, searched for a “universal” resource which might help.  I stumbled across a website, www.abbreviations.com which identifies itself as “The Web's Largest Resource for Acronyms & Abbreviations.”  Better yet, there is a page devoted to genealogy.  Think an acronym or abbreviation is missing? Feel free to add a new entry.  I did notice that it seems to have eliminated apostrophes of which I see many in the records.  For example, it lists DECD where I more typically see Dec’d.  I also found it interesting that it lists NGSQ (National Genealogical Society Quarterly) and not just NGS.   

What terms would you add to Abbreviations.com? 

As representatives of the genealogical community might it behoove us to expand this collection to better help us all as we come across unfamiliar terms?

Do you have “other” favorite resources to help you “understand” shortened words, abbreviations, et al as you come across them as you do genealogical or historical research?

Editor’s Note – Each of these Upfront Mini-Bytes posts has a piece about abbreviations.

Editor's Note -- I used Transl8it to help me convert "Are you sometimes challenged to decipher historical documents due to the shorthand & abbreviations used?" into the title of this piece. I take credit for abbreviating decipher, historical, documents and abbreviations.

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