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Some Common Nicknames and Onomastic Abbreviations in the South

Knowing how to convert nicknames and abbreviated names to their original spellings is a fundamental aspect of genealogical research.


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Type: Article
Resource: GenWeekly
Prepared by: Nathan Murphy
Word Count: 193 (approx.)
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Knowing how to convert nicknames and abbreviated names to their original spellings is a fundamental aspect of genealogical research. Onomastics1 differed from place to place and from century to century. This article will focus specifically on some of the most common examples in the pre-1900 U.S. South.

Clerks often shortened names in order to speed up the quill-pen writing process. As genealogists confront new nicknames and abbreviations, they will need to determine the original names these words represent or records that refer to one person may be interpreted to apply to distinct individuals. The real names of many of the following examples are obvious; however, some are not so apparent.


  • Mary "Polly" "Molly"
  • Sarah "Sally"
  • Martha "Patsy"
  • John "Jack"
  • James "Jimmy"
  • Lydia "Liddy"
  • Samuel "Sam"
  • Rosa "Rosie"
  • Amanda "Mandy"
  • Elizabeth "Betsy"
  • Joseph "Joe"
  • Ann "Annie"
  • Nancy "Ann" "Nannie"
  • Frances "Fannie"
  • Matilda "Tildy"
  • Anna "Ann"
  • Susan "Susie"
  • David "Dave" "Davey"
  • Keziah "Kizzy"
  • Charles "Charlie"
  • Lucinda "Lucy"
  • Isaac "Ike"
  • Robert "Bob"
  • Margaret "Peggy"
  • Edward "Edmond"
  • Jane "Jennie"
  • Winnifred "Winny"
  • Susannah "Susan"
  • Francis "Frank"
  • Jeremiah "Jerry"
  • Harriet "Hattie"
  • Abraham "Abe"
  • Jacob "Jake"
  • Katherine "Katie"
  • Cordelia "Delia"
  • Gabriel "Gabe"
  • Zachariah "Zacheus"
  • Azariah "Asa"
  • Lawrence "Larry"

Abbreviated Names

  • Jno. - John or Jonathan
  • Wm. - William Thos. - Thomas
  • Nich. - Nicholas
  • Jas. - James
  • Geo. - George
  • Zach. - Zachariah
  • Margt. - Margaret
  • Chas. - Charles
  • Danl. - Daniel
  • Jos. - Joseph or Joshua or Josiah
  • Saml. - Samuel
  • Robt. - Robert
  • Edwd. - Edward
  • Gabl. - Gabriel
  • Richd. - Richard
  • Hy. - Henry
  • Nathl. - Nathaniel
  • Michl. - Michael
1Onomastics: the study of the origin and history of proper names.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.

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