Symbols in Old Genealogy Documents and Tombstone Inscriptions

We often encounter symbols in old genealogy research documents and on tombstones.  What do they mean?  Sometimes we are familiar with them but often they have rotated out of use and their meanings are obscure. 

The list below includes many of the common symbols used used in days gone by and their associated meanings:

Initials

  • a.a.s. – died in the year of his/her age (56 years died in 1856)
  • d.s.p. – died without issue
  • d.s.p.l. – died without legitimate issue
  • d.s.p.m.s. – died without surviving male issue
  • d.s.p.s – died without surviving issue
  • d.unm – died unmarried
  • d.v.p. – died in the lifetime of his father
  • d.v.m. – died in the lifetime of his mother
  • Et al – and others
  • F.L.T. – friendship, love and truth
  • Inst – present month
  • Liber – book or volume
  • Nepos – grandson
  • Nunc Nun – an oral will, written by a witness
  • Ob – he/she died
  • Rel. or Relict – widow or widower
  • Res. or Residue – widow or widower
  • Sic – exact copy as written
  • Testes – witnesses
  • Ult – late
  • Ux or vs – wife
  • Viz – namely

Trade Symbols

  • Barber – Bowl (for bleeding) & Razor
  • Butcher – an axe, steel knife and cleaver
  • Farmer – Coulter (type of hoe), flail (threshing implement), swingletree (rod for beating flax), stalk of corn
  • Gardener – rake & spade
  • Mason – wedge & level
  • Mariner – anchor, sextant
  • Merchant – scales, sign
  • Minister – Bible
  • Shoemaker – awl, knife, nippers
  • Smith – crown, hammer & anvil
  • Teacher – open book
  • Weaver – loom, shuttle & stretchers
  • Wood Wright – wooden objects they made

Miscellaneous Symbols

  • 3 Books – Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants
  • 3 Rings – the Oddfellows, friendship, love and truth
  • Angel – guardian, spirituality
  • Bible – Christian
  • Chalice – Sacraments
  • Cherub – innocence
  • Crescent – Goddess, Muslim religion
  • Cross – Christian, resurrection
  • Crown – glory of life after death
  • Flame / Light – to be immortal
  • Garland / Wreath – glory, Saintliness
  • Harp – Praise to the God
  • Heart – Catholic, love, suffering of Christ
  • Hearts (2) – marriage
  • Horns – wisdom, rebirth
  • Menorah – Judaism
  • Ring (broken) – family circle has been severed
  • Rod / Staff – comfort
  • Star – spirit that shines
  • Star of David – Judaism
  • Sun – renewed life
  • Swords Crossed – high Military rank
  • Trumpeters – Harbingers of the Resurrection
  • Urn – immortality, remembrance

Animals

  • Birds – eternal life or resurrection
  • Butterfly – short life
  • Dog – good master
  • Dove – peace & eternal life
  • Lamb – innocence
  • Lion – courage
  • Rooster – awakening, resurrection

Plants

  • Fruits – plenty, fruits of life
  • Ivy – friendship, immortality
  • Laurel – accomplishment, heroism
  • Lily – innocence, purity
  • Morning Glory – beginning of life
  • Oak, Leaves and Acorn – power, victory
  • Palm Branch – victory, rejoicing
  • Poppy – eternal sleep
  • Roses – completion and the brevity of earthly existence
  • Rose (full bloom) – prime of life
  • Rosemary – remembrance
  • Thistles – remembrance, Scottish descent
  • Tree – life
  • Tree Trunk – short life
  • Tree Sapling – life everlasting
  • Tree Stump stone in Cemetery – Woodmen of the World
  • Wheat – divine harvest
  • Weeping Willow – grief
Copyright (c) Lee Drew 2011-12-19 08:01:00
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