On the 1855 NY Census, one of my relatives (Mary Whitney) has a birthplace noted as "Map". According to the instructions on the census form, that field contains one of the following:

  • the NY county where the person was born (if born in NY)
  • the state where they were born (if they weren't born in NY)
  • the country where they were born (if they weren't born in the US)

There are three NY counties that begin with "M" - Madison, Monroe and Montgomery. I can't think of a state that might be abbreviated as "Map", nor a country. I thought it might be a census abbreviation, but I haven't been able to find anything. I found another entry with "Unknown" entered, so it doesn't mean that. And it wasn't just Mary. I found an entire family in that census who had "Map" listed for their birthplaces.

Any ideas about what "Map" means?

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It appears the "p" is really a long s, which would be commonly used for a double s, making "Map" really "Mass". However, how does that explain this entry with both "Map" and "Mass"?

enter image description here

  • The M in "Map" (Maß?) is quite different than the M in "Mass" - the first is more rounded than the second. I wonder if a different person wrote it
    – Floris
    Commented Jun 2, 2016 at 23:23
  • 1
    No problem, we can convert it. Welcome to G&FH.SE!
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 0:17

1 Answer 1


Historically, the letter "s" was often written more like a tall, looped "f", and a double "s" could look like "fs", or "p" if close together. So I'd guess this is "Mass", i.e. Massachusetts.

It's referred to as the "long s" (Wikipedia).

  • I just found the same thing. Thank you, and I tend to agree. There's still some confusion however. There's another entry in the same record with both "Mass" and "Map" noted. The "Mass" appears as we'd write it today.
    – John Ritz
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 15:29
  • I've edited my original posting to include an image of the other entry.
    – John Ritz
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 15:35
  • @JohnRitz - thanks for the update. I suspect this was just inconsistency in the way the census taker wrote, occasionally writing "ss" instead of "fs". This was at a time when the long s was fading from use, so it may be a conflict between "modernity" and an old habit. A little odd on nearby lines, but not unthinkable. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar in UK documents from the 1800s. Oh, and welcome to Genealogy and Family History!
    – AndyW
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 15:44
  • That answers my question. Many thanks. Now, I need to find more info about Mary and George. A marriage certificate would give me her maiden name and both of their parents, but I haven't found one yet.
    – John Ritz
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 16:06
  • @Floris I converted your answer to a comment before I saw you had commented again. Feel free to delete one or the other if you can -- if not, we can clean things up if you let us know which to keep.
    – Jan Murphy
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 0:20

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