Chapman Codes and Why They Matter for English Genealogy Research

By Diane Haddad

England and Wales, 1864, David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

Researching English ancestors? When you’re trying to figure out where your ancestor came from (which our upcoming Family Tree University class will help with), keep in mind that England reorganized its counties in 1974, so you’ll need to know the historical English county. (But be familiar with modern jurisdictions, too, so you can contact local records offices.)

Genealogists often refer to these counties with three-letter shorthand called Chapman codes, named after the man who invented the coding system. Here’s a list of pre-1974 British counties and their Chapman codes (including the three major subdivisions of Yorkshire):

  • Bedfordshire: BDF
  • Berkshire: BRK
  • Buckinghamshire: BKM
  • Cambridgeshire: CAM
  • Cheshire: CHS
  • Cornwall: CON
  • Cumberland: CUL
  • Derbyshire: DBY
  • Devon: DEV
  • Dorset: DOR
  • Durham: DUR
  • Essex: ESS
  • Gloucestershire: GLS
  • Hampshire: HAM
  • Herefordshire: HEF
  • Hertfordshire: HRT
  • Huntingdonshire: HUN
  • Kent: KEN
  • Lancashire: LAN
  • Leicestershire: LEI
  • Lincolnshire: LIN
  • London (city): LND
  • Middlesex: MDX

  • Norfolk: NFK

  • Northamptonshire: NTH

  • Northumberland: NBL

  • Nottinghamshire: NTT

  • Oxfordshire: OXF

  • Rutland: RUT

  • Shropshire (Salop): SAL

  • Somerset: SOM

  • Staffordshire: STS

  • Suffolk: SFK

  • Surrey: SRY

  • Sussex: SSX

  • Warwickshire: WAR

  • Westmorland: WES

  • Wiltshire: WIL

  • Worcestershire: WOR

  • Yorkshire: YKS

  • Yorkshire-East Riding: ERY

  • Yorkshire-North Riding: NRY

  • Yorkshire-West Riding: WRY

You can find more on the historical counties of England here.

Look here for Chapman codes for Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland.

And once you know your ancestors’ county, be sure to join the county’s family history society. The Federation of Family History Societies and GENUKI (the UK & Ireland Genealogy website) link to local societies.

The aforementioned Family Tree University class is English Genealogy Research: Step-by-Step Strategies to Use English Records and Find Your British Roots. This four-week course is designed to help you pinpoint where in England your family came from and trace them in English records. Read more about it at Family Tree University.