[scroll down for help with contractions, superpositions, suspensions, acronyms and conventialisms]
Everyone agrees that one of the most complicating factors of reading old handwritten records is the common use of abbreviations. Because of the repeated use of the same words in records of the same type, most scribes would speed up the recording process and save paper, ink and time by abbreviating common given names, last names, and other words using certain abbreviating conventions.
Click here for a list of some of the abbreviations you may come across.
Because there are several types of abbreviations, there are also several symbols used to mark abbreviations. In the case of abbreviations by superposition, some scribes would write a line under the superscripted letters, others would include a double line, and others a colon. Some would add a dot or period in the place of the letters that have been omitted in an abbreviation by contraction, others would use a colon instead, or a straight or a curved line above the abbreviated word. Some abbreviations may have no symbol indicating that they have been abbreviated. View examples included below.
Below are brief explanations of the most common processes used to abbreviate words.
An abbreviation by contraction is formed by writing the first and last
letters of the word and eliminating the middle letters. For example, the word solteiro could be abbreviated soltr.ro with or without a period to
indicate the abbreviation. The name Francisco
could be abbreviated Fran.co, with a straight
line above the abbreviation or with a tilde symbol. Below are some examples of this type of abbreviations
taken from the records. For more examples, refer to the List of Abbreviations
included in this site.
This may be considered a variation of the process of contraction. The first letters are written on the base line and the last one or two letters are written above the base line in a smaller size. For example, the name Francisco would be abbreviated Franco with the superscripted letters having a line, a double line, a colon or no symbol underneath. Below are some examples of this type of abbreviations taken from the records. For more examples, refer to to the List of Abbreviations included in this site.
An abbreviation by contraction is formed by writing the first part of the word and eliminating the last part. For example, de would be abbreviated to d, and frei would be fr. Below are some examples of this type of abbreviations taken from actual records. For more examples, refer to to the List of Abbreviations included in this site.
These could be considered a type of suspension where the first letter of
a word has come to stand for the entire word. Common
examples: S.M.E. stands for the
Latin phrase Sancta Mater Ecclesia, and A.D. for Anno Domini. Frequently, such abbreviations are doubled in the case
of plurals or superlatives. For example, SS
means santísimo. Below is an example of this type of abbreviation taken from the records. For more
examples, refer to to the List of Abbreviations included in this site.
Usually found in older documents, these are symbols that represent entire words or syllables. The most common is the use of X or Xpo or Xpto to represent Cristo (Christ). This particular conventionalism is used in the abbreviation of the name Cristobal as Xptobal.
There are many syllables that may appear abbreviated using conventionalisms, such as: per, par, por, pro, mer, ser, ver, vir, etc. Usually these symbols consist of the initial letter of the syllable with a curl or a line crossing the letter.
A particular kind of abbreviations using conventions is exemplified by the use of numbers to abbreviate the first part of some of the months of the year, such as: 7bro for setembro, 8bro for outubro, 9bro for novembro, and 10bro for dezembro.