Abbreviations 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:



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.

Available on CD-ROM (but now out of print)


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.

Available on CD-ROM (but now out of print)


Mayflower Descendant

     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 - 269 kb (Revised 06-Jan-2011).

Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by: as Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #203 (2 disks)
Search & ReSearch Publishing as Mayflower Descendant Legacy


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.  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 these publications is available on the Books Page of the GSMD web site.


The Mayflower Quarterly

     This quarterly journal of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants contains articles on Pilgrim genealogy and other aspects of Pilgrim society, as well as news of the General Society.


The New England Historic Genealogical Society
The New England Historical and Genealogical 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, 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 - 1.15 mb (Revised 26-Jan-2011).


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: as Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #210 (2 disks)


The New York Genealogical & Biographical Society
The New York Genealogical and Biographical 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, the nation's second oldest genealogical journal, published quarterly since 1870.


Plymouth Colony Records

     About half of the records of Plymouth Colony were published in the late 1800s: Nathaniel B. Shurtleff (Vols. 1-8) and David Pulsifer (Vols. 9-12), Editors, 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 - 1.45 mb (Revised 22-Jun-2010).

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.  This database contains over 1 .7 million references to genealogical and historical articles.

Available on CD-ROM (but now out of print)


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.

Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by: as Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #354 (2 disks)


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 - 39.5 kb (Revised 21-Jun-2009).


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 to 1977 see my Consolidated Contents of The American Genealogist - 698 kb (Revised 18-Feb-2011).


Vital Records

     Town and city clerks in New England have kept records of births, marriages and deaths since the seventeenth century.  The record are collectively known as vital records, abbreviated "VR."  Major collections of vital records have been published in books for two New England states.

Massachusetts Vital Records

     In the first few decades of the twentieth century a concerted effort in Massachusetts resulted in the publication of vital records volumes for most, but not all, of the state's cities and towns.  Because the 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.  They were published in uniform tan-colored bindings, and are known as the "tan books" or the "official series."  Volumes for some locations not included in the initial effort were published beginning later in the century.  Researchers without easy access to the printed volumes can purchase CR-ROMs containing the tan books grouped by county.  The set of nine CDs includes vital records for over 275 Massachusetts cities and towns - over 300 volumes.  Included are all of the early twentieth century "tan books," a few volumes of later date, and supplementary information from other sources.  The nine CDs are available together in a multipack or individually, and a tenth CD is available containing a statewide surname index.  Viewer software is included on each CD.

Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Search & ReSearch Publishing as Early Vital Records of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts to About 1850

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.

Published on CD-ROM (out of print) by:
Arnold - CDventure, Inc.
Beaman - on Family Tree Maker CD-ROM #215


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