Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
Did you know that U. S. state abbreviations have changed several times since 1831? If you’re working on your family’s genealogy or looking through old publications or letters, you might come across some abbreviated state names that don’t seem to make sense with what you already know about the location of a particular person or event. Let’s take a closer look at this issue, which we’ve come across in some of our own collections.
Although state abbreviations have been used by many people and groups, they’re probably most commonly associated with the U. S. Postal Service. According to the official USPS website, “until 1963 the Post Office Department preferred that state and territorial names be written out in full to avoid confusion, but accepted the popular public practice of abbreviation.”
Unfortunately, these abbreviations weren’t always consistent, so in 1831, the Postal Service released their first official list of preferred abbreviations.
While not everyone adhered to the list, it’s still a fairly helpful resource, especially when it comes to explaining abbreviations that don’t seem to make sense.
For example, in our collection, we have a book of issues of The Reformer, which was published in 1845 in Centreville, IA, which would seem to refer to Iowa. However, that abbreviation was actually associated with Indiana at the time—and had been since at least 1831. It wasn’t until 1963 that the Postal Service shortened Iowa to IA.