What Does It Mean?

Latin Abbreviations for Genealogy Lovers

by Mike Fitton

Mike Fitton is a resident of Bracebridge and an honorary member of the MPSGG. He is very knowledgeable on English research and has spoken at many of the club meetings.

A distant cousin sends you a pedigree chart. Just after your 3 x great grandfather’s name, it says d.s.p.1. What does this mean? Did he have a university degree? Was he an alcoholic? Sorry, it is much more commonplace than that. This is a Latin abbreviation, which will tell you things about him.

Latin was in use for vital statistics records for many centuries, and busy or lazy clerks used many abbreviations. Nat. (natus) means born. Fs. (filius) refers to a boy, and fa. (filia) to a girl. Pa. (pater) is father and ma. (mater) is mother-and we are no strangers to Ma and Pa. Av. (avus) is grandfather and the same abbreviation is used for avia, grandmother. Nep. is a confusing abbreviation. It is used for grandson (nepos) and granddaughter (neptis), but also for nephew (nepos-again),

Nup. (nuptiae) means marriage. A husband is mar. (maritus) and a wife is ux. (uxor). They are usually recorded together using the Latin for with, cu. (cum), as John Smith cu.ux., or John Smith with wife. Be careful of abbreviations such as husb. This does not mean husband, it is an abbreviation of husbandman, or farmer as we now describe that occupation.

Sometimes children were born outside marriage. The term used was spur. (spurious), so that an illegitimate son would be fs. spur.

Frequently, in those days, death came at an early age. A person who died was d. (decessit) or ob. (obiit). It was so rare for a person to live for 90 years or more that age was often recorded. Aet. (aetate) means aged, and sep. (sepultus) means buried. Of course the day (die), month (mensis) and year (anno) would be recorded, the year often as Ano.Dini (Anno Domini) or year of our Lord. A burial might therefore be recorded:

John Smith aet.92 sep. 4 die Jul Ano Dini 1725

Or as we might say:
John Smith aged 92, buried 4 July A.D. 1725.

Perhaps John’s wife survived him. She was now a widow, vid. (vidua), and if she had inherited his estate, also rel. (relict). His tombstone was probably marked Hic jac. (Hic jacet)-Here lies John Smith.

John may have left a will-test (testamentum). He would have signed-sub. (subscri bum) and possibly sealed-sig. (sigillis) the document with wax impressed with his ring. The will would list his various bequests, starting each section with It. (Item) meaning Also. His executor would be sworn, jur. (jurat), to administer the will properly.

Later, his descendants would prepare a family tree using accepted abbreviations. His will named his son George, who fl. (fluorit)-literally flourished, or was still alive when John wrote his will. Other family members might have the following after their names:

d.s,p. (decessit sine prole)-died without children.
d.s.p.m. (decessit sine prole mascula)-died without male children.
d.s.p.m.s. (decessit sine prole mascula superstita)-died without surviving male children.
d.s.pl. (decessit sine prole legitima)-died without legitimate children.
d.v.m. (decessit vita matris)- died in mother’s lifetime.
d.v.p. (decessit vita patris)-died in father’s lifetime.

Now we know more about 3 x great grandfather. He certainly had children (that’s why he’s your ancestor), but not by a woman to whom he was legally married. It looks like your research is going to get more complicated. But then, that’s one of the joys of genealogy

This article first appeared in the April 1993 newsletter, Volume 9 - Number 1