Acronyms on Headstones

As a follow-up to an earlier post, Understanding Cemetery Symbols Part I – BillionGraves, there are numerous websites that include various and sundry acronyms on headstones. I am going to include sites that include sayings, especially non-English words or phrases, and abbreviations as well as acronyms. There will be some repetition between the various sites, but there will also be some that only show up on one site. I have a couple that I need to track down as I haven’t found them on any site yet. There may be disagreement between sites on what an acronym or abbreviation means, but it could be that each site is correct as some acronyms and abbreviations can stand for more than one (1) thing. Some sites include symbols; for example Order of the Eastern Star, various Masonic symbols, etc. I included Cyndi’s List at the bottom as her list has a wealth of places to find more information.

For starters, was the first one that came up in a general search.

Here’s the V. A. one for military headstones – Depending on

Headstone and Marker Inscription Abbreviations

The following lists provide the most commonly inscribed abbreviations placed on Government-furnished headstones and markers (all the links below are PDF files):

Branch of Service
War Service


Air Force
Army Air Corps
Army Air Forces
Coast Guard
Marine Corps
Merchant Marines
All Others

In addition, you may get unusual acronyms on a military headstone that may not show up in the above PDFs. For example, under War Service above, SAW isn’t listed, but SP-AM is. SAW, SPAM, and SP-AM are abbreviations on military headstones I have run across for Spanish-American War. For USA on military headstones, it’s usually stands for U. S. Army.

Another one, this from RootsWeb:

As I mentioned above, some of the sites includes symbols, like this one: It has one of the more complete set of symbols I have found.

Here’s one that seems to have an Ohio bias; it’s a PDF: It’s from the Ohio Genealogical Society:

Another military-based one:

Wikipedia link for military tombstone abbreviations needs some major work: It does link to the V. A. site above as well as the Wikipedia site for V. A. religious symbols –, again it needs some work as some denominations have changed their symbols over the years and this only includes most of the ones listed on the V. A. website (PDF). I ran across one symbol in a Wichita, Kansas cemetery that’s not on the list and it took a while to find it as it appears to have been replaced by one of the ones in the approved list. If you transcribe headstones for BillionGraves, it uses the V. A. list above for religious symbols. If I add a memorial to Find-A-Grave –, I include a note in the Bio section if there is a V. A. religious symbol. One major difference between older and newer military headstones where the religious symbol choice is Christian: older headstones have a circled cross – (Dad’s memorial) and newer ones don’t have the circled cross – (Mom’s memorial).

Here’s another one; this one from Olive Tree Genealogy:

This is a Jewish site: Many Jews are buried in Jewish or Hebrew cemeteries, but many are buried elsewhere. I photographed a headstone in a Wichita Roman Catholic cemetery and as I researched the parents, they are buried in a Jewish cemetery, I think in Colorado. Also, Jewish headstones may use Jewish year; the site explains how to convert it to the Gregorian calendar. I am borrowing the explanation from Sinai Chapel link below:

Dates can use the Western calendar or Jewish calendar. To convert the Jewish calendar year to the Western calendar year, add 1240 to the often-used shortened version of the Jewish calendar—which leaves off the 5 in years after 5000. For example, if the Jewish calendar year is 5683, add 1240 to 683 to determine that the year in question is 1923 in the Western calendar.

Several more Jewish sites:

This one is for Jewish cemeteries in Poland:

Another Jewish site:

Another Jewish site:

Another general site:

A very limited British headstone list:

Cyndi’s List:



About ICT Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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2 Responses to Acronyms on Headstones

  1. Pingback: Headstone Inscriptions, Part II | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

  2. Pingback: The 8 Best Free Genealogy Websites of 2019 | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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