This question is sparked by an amendment made to a previous question made by ColeValleyGirl (for which I thank her).

I "believed" (possibly from seeing it on birth records, but I cannot cite an example) that the county name (such as Worcestershire) was sometimes shortened (to Worcester) by dropping the suffix. As in my question about the nail-makers, this risks introducing confusion with the town of the same name.

Are there ever circumstances (such as classes of records, or even some counties) where this type of abbreviation occurs, or have I just developed a very bad habit?

(I am now about to launch a GREP search on my data to see how much correction I need to do.)

  • Curious. What is GREP?
    – GeneJ
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 1:46
  • 3
    grep is a command-line utility for searching plain-text data sets for lines matching a regular expression. Export a GEDCOM and find every occurrence of just about any pattern of letters and numbers you can imagine.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 2:02
  • 1
    When programming and genealogy come together I have to chime in: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grep
    – fbrereto
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 21:38

1 Answer 1


Many of the traditional counties in England are named after their county town (capital). Examples are Oxford/Oxfordshire, Worcester/Worcestershire.

It's similar for some but a lower proportion of the counties in Wales and Scotland.

When referring to Oxfordshire now, it would normally be Oxfordshire. Abbreviations are not always obvious, for Oxfordshire it's officially "Oxon", from the Latin for "County of Oxford". (The Chapman Code is the more logical OXF).

"County of Oxford" is an acceptable but rather archaic or formal usage. "Oxford County" or "County Oxford" is never acceptable in England (note: the latter version is common for Irish counties, such as County Fermanagh). And plain "Oxford" would normally refer to only the city.

Not all counties are based on a city name, for example Hampshire, which would never be county of Hamp (and has the abbreviation Hants).

Devon, Dorset, Somerset no longer end in Shire in modern usage. Some counties have never really had shire at the end, such as Cornwall.

The Wikipedia list of the historic counties of England seems reasonably accurate. The names in their "alternative names" category would mostly be considered archaic now. And many more varied abbreviations exist in historic documents.

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    Bear in mind also Scottish county names can be odd - the historic county of Angus was known as such until ?sometime in the 1700s? when tidy minded bureaucrats supposedly determined the county names should follow the English pattern of XXX-shire. Thus Angus became Forfarshire because its county town was Forfar. Later it reverted to Angus. As with the English counties (roughly), it was Forfarshire or the Shire of Forfar - never just Forfar, nor County Forfar. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counties_of_Scotland
    – AdrianB38
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 16:53
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    This may be an aside but I just found a useful link to some old maps listed by historic county.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 20:55
  • Hampshire actually does derive its name from a city: Southampton. So it's similar to Northamptonshire but it lost the "South" (and the "ton") some time ago. They probably washed out to sea.
    – AndyW
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 12:16

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