Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialism...

What Do All Those Letters Mean? Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialism, Post Nominals, and Credentials Used in Genealogy

An abbreviation is a shortened or contracted form of a word or a phrase used to represent the whole, such as Dr. for Doctor, U.S. for United States, and lb. for pound.  

An acronym is the attempt to shorten words or a phrase by combining the first letters of the individual words. If those letters result in a word that can be pronounced, it is called an acronym (NATO for North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or ASAP, pronounced A-Sap, for as soon as possible).

Initialism is also the attempt to shorten words or a phrase by combining initial letters, but the resulting word can only be pronounced as the individual letters (National Genealogical Society, pronounced NGS, or International Business Machines, pronounced IBM).

What are Post Nominals?

Post Nominals after people’s names indicate their position, qualifications, memberships, honorary degrees, or other status.

What are Genealogical Credentials?

The words Certified Genealogist® and its acronym, CG®, are trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and the designations Certified Genealogical LecturerSM and its acronym, CGLSM, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®. Accredited Genealogist® and AG® are certification marks of the International Commission for Accreditation of Professional Genealogists, ICAPGenSM. Individuals are licensed to use the credential designations after meeting the competency standards of those organizations.

Genealogy Related Abbreviations, Acronyms, Initialism, and Post Nominals

AAGS African-American Genealogical Society
AAHGS Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society
ADA Americans with Disabilities Act
AG® Accredited Genealogist® (ICapGenSM credential)
APG Association of Professional Genealogists
atDNA Autosomal DNA
BBC British Broadcasting Company
BCG Board for Certification of Genealogists®
BIA Bureau of Indian Affairs
BLM Bureau of Land Management
BLW Bounty Land Warrant
BMD Births, Marriages, and Deaths
BYU Brigham Young University
BU Boston University
CEO Chief Executive Officer
CG® Certified Genealogist® (BCG credential)
CGLSM Certified Genealogical LecturerSM (BCG credential)
CGS California Genealogical Society
CGS Colorado Genealogical Society
CSA Confederate States of America
CW Civil War (American)
DAB Dictionary of American Biography
DAR National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
DD Doctor of Divinity
DMin Doctor of Ministry
DSc Doctor of Science
DVM Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
ED Enumeration District
EE Evidence Explained (Book by Elizabeth Shown Mills)
FASG Fellow, American Society of Genealogists
FEEFHS Foundation for East European Family History Studies
FGBS Fellow, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
FGS Federation of Genealogical Societies
FHC Family History Center (research branch of Family History Library)
FHL Family History Library (maintained by LDS Church, Salt Lake City)
FIGRS Fellow, Irish Genealogical Research Society
FOIA Freedom of Information Act
FMP Findmypast
FNGS Fellow, National Genealogical Society
FTdna Family Tree DNA
FUGA Fellow, Utah Genealogical Association
FVGS Fellow, Virginia Genealogical Society
G&L Genealogy and the Law (NGS book by Kay Haviland Freilich and William B. Freilich)
GAR Grand Army of the Republic (Union Army in the Civil War)
Gedcom Genealogical Data Communication (method of transferring genealogy files from one software program to another)
GGG German Genealogy Group – NY
Gen-Fed Genealogical Institute on Federal Records (formerly NIGR, National Institute for Genealogical Records)
GGIP Genetic Genealogy in Practice (NGS book by Blaine Bettinger and Debbie Parker Wayne)
GRIP Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh
GPS Genealogical Proof Standard
GSHA-SC Genealogical Society of Hispanic America (Southern California)
GSG Genealogical Speakers Guild
GSNJ Genealogical Society of New Jersey
HSP Historical Society of Pennsylvania
IAJGS International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
ICAPGenSM International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists
IGHR Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (now at University of Georgia, formerly at Samford University)
IGI International Genealogical Index (LDS index)
IHS Indiana Historical Society
ISFHWE International Society of Family History Writers and Editors
ISOGG International Society of Genetic Genealogy
JD Juris Doctor
JGS Jewish Genealogical Society
LDS Latter Day Saints
LLM Master of Laws
LNU Last name unknown
LOC Library of Congress
MdHS Maryland Historic Society
MGC Michigan Genealogical Council
MGD Mastering Genealogical Documentation (NGS Book by Dr. Thomas W. Jones)
MGP Mastering Genealogical Proof (NGS Book by Dr. Thomas Jones)
MILS Masters in Information and Library Science
MLIS Master of Library and Information Science
MLS Master of Library Science
MS Master of Science
mtDNA Mitochondrial DNA
NARA National Archives and Records Administration
NDNP National Digital Newspaper Program
NEHGS New England Historic Genealogical Society
NERGC New England Regional Genealogical Consortium
NGS National Genealogical Society®
NGSQ National Genealogical Society Quarterly
NUCMC National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections
NYG&B New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
OGS Ohio Genealogical Society
PalAm Palatines to America
PBS Public Broadcasting Service
PGS Pennsylvania Genealogical Society
PhD Doctor of Philosophy
PRAMC IAJGS Public Record Access Monitoring Committee
ProGen Professional Genealogy Study Group
RPAC Records Preservation and Access Committee (at FGS website)
RW Revolutionary War
SAR National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
SCGS Southern California Genealogical Society
SIG Special Interest Group
SLIG Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy
SSN Social Security Number
StL St. Louis Genealogical Society
TAG The American Genealogist
TxSGS Texas State Genealogical Society
USCT United States Colored Troops
VGS Virginia Genealogical Society
WMGS Western Michigan Genealogical Society
WPA Works Progress Administration
Y-DNA Y Chromosome DNA

Some Genealogical Societies that Award Fellow Recognition:

  • FAGS   Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists
  • FNGS   Fellow of the National Genealogical Society
  • FUGA   Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Society
  • FGBS   Fellow of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society
  • FVGS   Fellow of the Virginia Genealogical Society

The words Certified Genealogist® and its acronym, CG®, are trademarks registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the designations Certified Genealogical LecturerSM and its acronym, CGLSM, are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®. Individuals are licensed to use the credential designations after meeting the competency standards of the organization.

The Accredited Genealogist® and AG® registered marks and the ICAPGenSM service mark are the sole property of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists. Individuals licensed to use the mark have met the ICAPGen competency standards.