Abbreviations and Shortened Titles
for Genealogical Sources
Those who are new to genealogical research may be puzzled by the multitude of abbreviations and shorthand designations for genealogical sources. Here is an explanation of some of the abbreviations encountered in New England reaearch. Some entries include links to more detailed discussions of those sources or to sources that are available on CD-ROM.
Abbreviations explained here are:
AGBI BGMI GM GMB Great Migration Great Migration Begins MD MF or MF5G MFIP MJ MQ Mitchell NEHGR NEHGS NGS NGSQ NYGBR NYGBS OCD OCW Old Colony Deeds Old Colony Wills PCR PERSI PILI PN&Q Record Register Savage Torrey TAG VR
The American Genealogical-Biographical Index
The AGBI is actually the second edition of an index begun by Fremont Rider in 1936. It is an every-name index to about 850 sources for eastern United States research, including more than six million entries in about 200 volumes. Most of the sources are index-linked (multi-generation) family histories, and about half of the sources do not appear in any other indices. It can be found in many genealogical libraries.
Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Ancestry.com as Ancestry CD-ROM #1949 (2 discs)
The Biography and Genealogy Master Index
The BGMI was begun in the 1970s to index Americans who have been profiled in collective biography volumes. It concentrates heavily on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Sources vary from Who's Who in America to Who's Who of American Women and National Cyclopedia to American Biography to Directory of American Scholars and American Black Writers. It can be found in many genealogical libraries.
Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Ancestry.com as Ancestry CD-ROM #2025 (2 discs)
The Great Migration Begins
Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants To New England 1620-1633, 3 Volumes
(Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995; CD-ROM, Orem, UT: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2000)
The Great Migration
Robert Charles Anderson, George F. Sanborn, Jr. and Melinde Lutz Sanborn,
The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634-1635, 7 Volumes
(Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999-2011)
These two series of volumes are the definitive starting points for all settlers known to have arrived in New England by 1635. When additional series have been published they will cover all New England settlers through 1640. Genealogical researchers have long used Savage as a starting point for new genealogical research projects. The Great Migration series is intended to replace Savage with thoroughly researched and fully documented volumes covering New England immigrants from 1620 to 1640 (often called the "Great Migration" period). These works are a "must see" resource for research into the earliest New England families. They are found in many genealogical libraries and are available online to members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
This journal from the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants was published quarterly from 1899 to 1937, and publication resumed in 1985 on a semi-annual schedule. It has always specialized in publishing source material for Mayflower research. The articles are primarily transcriptions of primary sources including town vital records, church and cemetery records, and abstracts of probate files and deeds. Other articles of interest to Mayflower researchers are also included. It is a resource of immense value for anyone engaged in research in early Plymouth, Barnstable and Bristol Counties. The available CD versions vary in their contents, and all include other sources associated with MD. For a PDF file listing the contents of MD from 1899 to the present see my Consolidated Contents of Mayflower Descendant. Back issues are available online to members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and back issues in the public domain are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive.
Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Genealogy.com as Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #203 (2 discs)
and by Search & ReSearch Publishing as Mayflower Descendant Legacy
MF, MF5G and MFIP
The Five Generations Project
For many years the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has published a series of books and booklets documenting the early generations of Mayflower families as part of their Five Generations Project. The goal of that project is to thoroughly document the families of all Mayflower passengers with living descendants through at least the fifth generation. There are two types of publications in the project. The first are the Mayflower Families In Progress booklets (often called "pink booklets" because of their covers). These are preliminary publications for families for whom major research is still underway. These are often cited with the surname of the family concerned, such as "MFIP Soule" for the descendants of George Soule. When the major research for a family has been completed a hardcover volume is issued. The titles of the hardcovers generally begin "Mayflower Families Through Five Generations ..." and are usually abbreviated MF or MF5G, followed by the volume number, such as "MF6" for the family of Stephen Hopkins, or by the family name. These volumes are revised from time to time as new research uncovers significant new information about these families. Beacause of the silver color of their bindings they are often called "silver books." A current list of all of the Five Generations publications is available on the GSMD web site.
This semiannual journal of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants contains articles about Pilgrim history, genealogy, literature, and arts in Colonial New England. It has replaced the role of Mayflower Quarterly in publishing articles of those types.
The Mayflower Quarterly
This quarterly journal of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants formerly contained articles on Pilgrim genealogy and other aspects of Pilgrim society, as well as news of the General Society. It has now been reduced to only General Society news, published as Mayflower Quarterly Magazine, with the genealogical and historical articles now published in Mayflower Journal.
Nahum Mitchell, History Of The Early Settlement Of Bridgewater, In Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Including an Extensive Family Register
Boston: Kidder and Wright, 1840; Reprinted Bridgewater, MA: Henry T. Pratt, 1897
Even though this work has a relatively narrow focus on the history and families of Old Bridgewater (including the current towns of Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, and the city of Brockton) I have included it here for two reasons. First, it is one of the earliest of the nineteenth-century New England town histories including extensive genealogical information, and is an exemplar (for better and for worse) of the genre. Second, despite its flaws, it has been widely used as a source in print and online (perpetrating many of its errors), and new researchers may benefit from the following discussion which applies to most nineteenth-century New England town histories.
Mitchell's goal was noble. In the introduction he described its purpose as "to afford the inhabitants of Bridgewater, and those who were born or early resided there, wherever they may now live, some knowledge of those from whom they are descended, and if possible to enable them to see every link of the chain connecting them with their first American ancestor." The publication of this work was in part a response to frequent solicitations of genealogical information sent to the author, who also wrote "Great as has been the labor of research and the care in compiling this publication, there will still appear in it great deficiencies." In hindsight we can see those deficiencies, and many of them are now found online, put there largely by family researchers who copy things from old books and from other web sites without verifying them, and who do not understand how genealogical research is properly conducted in the early twenty-first century. [NOTE: A superb and succinct single-page guideline for genealogical research is available online from the National Genealogical Society.]
This work suffers from flaws typical of many genealogical works of the nineteenth century. It is undocumented, whereas authoritative genealogical works of the last several decades are thoroughly documented with citations of the sources of information used. Mitchell's accounts of the town's history are generally sound, with most of the problems lying in the genealogical registers which are the largest part of the volume. Those registers are relatively accurate concerning persons of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but their accounts of earlier generations are often badly flawed. Those flaws are so often extensive and egregious that no responsible lineage society of the current day will accept the unsupported word of those registers for use in a lineage application. Readers are advised to corroborate all of Mitchell's genealogical assertions by conduction research into contemporary records (or at least reliable transcriptions of, or abstracts from, contemporary records), aided my modern genealogical writings that are thoroughly documented. Mitchell can still be a useful resource in providing hints, as long as one thoroughly investigates those hints with an aim towards revealing error and omissions. Scans of Mitchell are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive. A transcription, the work of several volunteers, begun under the direction of the late C. J. McNew and completed under the direction of the current author, is available online.
The New England Historic Genealogical Society
The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (aka Register)
NEHGS is nation's oldest genealogical society, founded in 1845. It offers unsurpassed resources for New England research including the Boston research library of over 200,000 volumes. Members not in the Boston area appreciate their online resources including all issues of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (aka Register), the nation's oldest genealogical journal, published quarterly since 1847. For a PDF file listing the contents of NEHGR from 1847 to the present see my Consolidated Contents of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Back issues are available online to members of the Society and back issues in the public domain are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive.
The National Genealogical Society
The National Genealogical Society Quarterly
NGS was founded in 1903, and is the the foremost genealogical society with nationwide scope. Their quarterly journal, the NGSQ, has been published since 1912 and features material concerning all regions of the nation and all ethnic groups. It emphasizes scholarship, readability and practical help in genealogical problem solving.
NGSQ volumes 1-85 published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Genealogy.com as Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #210 (2 discs)
The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (aka Record)
NYGBS is nation's second oldest genealogical society, founded in 1868. It offers extensive resources for New York State research including the New York City research library. Members have access to their online resources and receive The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (aka Record), the nation's second oldest genealogical journal, published quarterly since 1870. Back issues are available online to members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society and back issues in the public domain are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive.
Old Colony Deeds
The land records of New Plymouth Colony are contained in eleven rebound manuscript volumes, numbered as six volumes with the first five each containing two parts. Those manuscript volumes are collectively known as "Old Colony Deeds." The first volume was published as Volume 12 of PCR, and portions of other volumes have been published in MD and elsewhere. All of the volumes are online at FamilySearch.org as digital images taken from Family History Library microfilms of the volumes. For additional information including hyperlinks for the image sets of the volumes see my Guides to Plymouth Colony Records.
Old Colony Wills
The probate records of New Plymouth Colony are contained in seven rebound manuscript volumes, numbered as four volumes with the last three each containing two parts. Those manuscript volumes are collectively known as "Old Colony Wills." The first two volumes were published by Charles H. Simmons, Jr. as Plymouth Colony Records (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1996), not to be confused with PCR. Portions of OCW have been published in MD and elsewhere. All of the volumes are online at FamilySearch.org as digital images taken from Family History Library microfilms of the volumes. For additional information including hyperlinks for the image sets of the volumes see my Guides to Plymouth Colony Records. See also my Guide to Old Colony Wills and to Other Plymouth Colony Probate Records 1621-1692.
Plymouth Colony Records
About half of the records of Plymouth Colony were published in the late 1800s by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (Vols. 1-8) and David Pulsifer (Vols. 9-12), Editors, as Records of the Colony of New Plymouth In New England, 12 Volumes (issued bound as 9 or 10) (Boston: The Press of William White, Printer to the Commonwealth, 1855-1861; Reprinted in 6 Volumes, New York: AMS Press, 1968). You can download them from The Internet Archive Text Archive. Enter "records of the colony of new plymouth" (without the quotes) in the Title field and click the Search button. For a PDF file indexing PCR (including the first two volumes of probate records, published much later) see my Consolidated Index to Plymouth Colony Records.
The Periodical Source Index
PERSI is the largest and most widely-used index of genealogical and historical periodical articles in the world. It was created by and is maintained by the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It can be found in many genealogical libraries.
Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Ancestry.com as Ancestry CD-ROM #2550
The Passenger and Immigration Lists Index
PILI is updated and published annually by Gale Research. It contains listings of some 4 million individuals who arrived in United States and Canadian ports from the 1500s through the 1900s. Thousands of different records have been used to compile this index, making it the most comprehensive resource of its type. It can be found in many genealogical libraries.
Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Genealogy.com as Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #354 (2 discs)
Pilgrim Notes and Queries
These five volumes were published by the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants from 1913 to 1917 as a supplement to Mayflower Descendant. It is included on both CD-ROM editions of Mayflower Descendant. For a PDF file listing the complete contents of PN&Q from 1913 to 1917 see my Consolidated Contents of Pilgrim Notes and Queries. PN&Q is available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive.
Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Genealogy.com as part of Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #203 (2 discs)
James Savage, A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, Showing Three Generations of Those Who
Came Before May, 1692, on the Basis of Farmer's Register, 4 Volumes (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1860-1862)
Since its publication in the nineteenth century Savage was long the starting point for genealogical researches into New England families. The goal of this work was to provide basic genealogical information (including, for the third generation, only births) for the first three generations of every New England immigrant family through 1692. Its principal failings are that it is undocumented and and that it often relies upon earlier works, some of which were badly flawed (see Mitchell as an example). Scans of Savage are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive. Savage's accounts of the earliest families have been superseded by the publications of the Great Migration Project.
The American Genealogist
TAG was founded 1922 by Donald Lines Jacobus as The New Haven Genealogical Magazine, and the title was changed in 1932 to reflect a widening of focus. It is the nation's foremost independent genealogical journal, and is published quarterly. It exemplifies the highest standards of genealogical scholarship and contains thoroughly documented analyses of genealogical problems and short compiled genealogies. For a PDF file listing the contents of TAG from 1932 onward see my Consolidated Contents of The American Genealogist. Back issues are available online to members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700
Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985; CD-ROM, Boston: New England Historic
Genealogical Society, 2001; Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011, 3 Volumes
As David Curtis Dearborn, long the primary reference librarian at the Boston library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, wrote in the introduction to the CD-ROM edition of Torrey, "Among the most frequently asked questions at the sixth-floor main reference desk at NEHGS are 'Where’s Torrey?' and 'Can you help me interpret these Torrey references?' Those visitors wanted to utilize the magnum opus of Clarence Almon Torrey, compiled between 1927 and Torrey's death in 1962. It was originally a twelve-volume manuscript containing approximately 37,000 known or presumed marriages of New Englanders that occurred prior to 1700, arranged alphabetically by groom, with each entry annotated with reference citations. Torrey compiled this work from the resources held in the NEHGS library, and it has been estimated that 99% of all seventeenth century marriages of New Englanders are included. For some years Torrey was available outside of the NEHGS library only on microfilm. In 1985 it was published without references, a notable shortcoming, but still resulting in a valuable and useful work of about 1,000 pages. In 2001 NEHGS published a CD-ROM edition containing the references, and in 2011 a three volume set containing the references. An online version based upon the CD-ROM is available to NEHGS members. Melinde Lutz Sanborn published three editions of her Supplement to Torrey correcting errors and adding omissions based upon genealogical journal articles and other genealogical works published since about 1960. None of her supplements are included as part of the various editions of Torrey, but I highly recommend the third edition [Melinde Lutz Sanborn, Third Supplement To Torrey's New England Marriages Prior To 1700 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2003)] to anyone working with Torrey.
Town and city clerks in New England have kept records of births, marriages and deaths since the seventeenth century. Those records are collectively known as vital records, abbreviated "VR." Major collections of vital records have been published for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and smaller collections have been published for the other four New England states.
Massachusetts Vital Records
In the early decades of the twentieth century a concerted effort in Massachusetts resulted in the publication of vital records volumes, containing births, marriages, and deaths through about 1850, for most, but not all, of the state's 351 cities and towns. Many volumes for other cities and towns were later published. Because the original effort was underwritten in part by the state government complete sets of these volumes can be found in libraries across the state, and in major genealogical libraries elsewhere in the nation. The original volumes were published in uniform tan-colored bindings, and are known as the "tan books" or the "official series." Scans of volumes in the public domain are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive. For an overview of which Massachusetts localities have had vital records published see my list of Massachusetts Vital Records published in books and journals.
A major shortcoming of most of the original volumes is that the information was abstracted from city and town records and alphabetized to avoid the need for an index. Massachusetts town clerks often recorded the births of a couple's children on successive lines. The entry for a family may contain the records of the births of the children along with the deaths of those who perished young, and sometimes the deaths or remarriages of the parents. The completeness of some of these records often makes it easy to determine the members of a family, a task which is sometimes difficult when working with the alphabetized volumes. For examples of how the entries in the original town records may appear see the transcriptions made by George Ernest Bowman, and published in Mayflower Descendant between 1900 and 1914, for the town of Bridgewater.
As with any group of transcriptions and abstracts, errors can occur. Some have been noted and corrected in genealogical journals, and some have been found by other researchers including myself. For a list of corrections and additions with which I am familier see my Errors and Omissions in Published Massachusetts Vital Records.
Volumes in the public domain (and a few published later) on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Search & ReSearch Publishing as Early Vital Records of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts to About 1850
(9 discs plus a Consolidated Index disc, containing volumes in the public domain and a few later volumes)
Rhode Island Vital Records
From 1891 to 1912 James N. Arnold published 21 volumes of vital records for Rhose Island cities and towns. In addition to municipal records he included church, military and newspaper records. Alfred G. Beaman edited the Rhode Island Genealogical Register from 1978 to 1999, which published large numbers of vital records. From 1975 to 1987 Beaman published a new vital records series of 13 volumes and one supplement, adding to Arnold's work. Together the work of Arnold and Beaman provides a breadth and depth of vital records coverage greater than that for any other state. Scans of Arnold are available online from sites such as the Internet Archive Text Archive.
Arnold's work published on CD-ROM (out of print) by CDventure, Inc. on Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850: Arnold Collection
Beaman's work published on CD-ROM (out of print) by Genealogy.com on Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #215
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