Using US postal code abbreviations in Google search queries

USA Postal CodesBy Barry J. Ewell

Throughout the history of the United States postal service, different abbreviations have been used to represent states.  Remember when you are doing a Google search you will be looking for information that has been recorded during different time periods.  You will want to account for possible variations in your search query when you are looking in a specific location. For example, the postal code abbreviations over time for Colorado are as follows:  1874 Colo., 1963 CO.   If I were doing developing a search query and was looking for information about person in a specific location such as a state, I would do the following:

Search query: “Ora Jones” OR “Ora * Jones” OR “Jones, Ora”  genealogy OR ancestry Colorado OR “CO” OR Colo.

Detail about search query

Name variations. In the search query, I have created three versions of Ora Jones.  These variations are designed to help in find the name of Ora Jones in whatever format it may exist.   See below…

First NameLast NameGoogle Search Query
OraJones“Ora Jones”
First NameMiddle NameLast NameGoogle Search Query
OraWilliamJones“Ora * Jones”
Last NameFirst NameGoogle Search Query
Jones,Ora“Jones, Ora”

Use of quotes (“ “). The use of quotes around two or more words (e.g., “Ora Jones”) tells Google that you search for these words/phase exactly as they are written and in the same order  I also used quotation marks around the “CO” . Entering “CO” for USA state Colorado returns CO with no variations.

Use of asterisk (*). The asterisk symbol is a wildcard. This is useful if you’re trying to find name variations, middle names, etc.  When I use the asterisk in this format “Ora * Jones” Google will returns pages containing Ora Jones separated by one or more words (e.g., Ora W. Jones, Ora William Jones).

Use of OR. I have used OR Boolean operator between state variations (e.g.,  Colorado OR “CO” OR “Colo.”).  Google will search for both options and will return either “colorado” or “CO” or  “Colo.” or any combination of the three.

Genealogy key words.  I will genealogical terms to a Google search string and search repeatedly with different emphasis. I used the words genealogy and ancestry to primarily focus the Google on genealogy websites.  When I use the terms Google will also search for related words/synonym.  For example:

  • genealogy (family tree, genealogy, genealogists, surname, vital records
  • ancestry (ancestry, ancestors, genealogy, history, surname, family tree)

Preferred postal code abbreviations for states/territories

ArkansasAr. T.Ark.Ark.ARKAR
District of ColumbiaD. C.D. C.D. C.DCDC
FloridaFl. T.Fla.Fla.FLAFL
MichiganMic. T.Mich.Mich.MICHMI
NebraskaNebr.Nebr.NEBNE *
New HampshireN. H.N. H.N. H.NHNH
New JerseyN. J.N. J.N. J.NJNJ
New MexicoN. Mex.N. Mex.NMNM
New YorkN. Y.N. Y.N. Y.NYNY
North CarolinaN. C.N. C.N. C.NCNC
North DakotaN. Dak.NDND
Puerto RicoP. R.PRPR
Rhode IslandR. I.R. I.R. I.RIRI
South CarolinaS. C.S. C.S. C.SCSC
South DakotaS. Dak.SDSD
West VirginiaW. Va.W. Va.W VAWV
Sources: 1831, Table of Post Offices in the United States; 1874 and 1943, United
States Official Postal Guide; 6/1963, Postal Bulletin 20368; 10/196.
*To date, only one change has been made to the abbreviations issued in October 1963. In November 1969, at the request of the Canadian postal administration, the abbreviation for Nebraska, originally NB, was changed to NE, to avoid confusion with New Brunswick in Canada

History about United States Postal Codes
Until 1963 the Post Office Department preferred that state and territorial names be written out in full to avoid confusion, but accepted the popular public practice of abbreviation.   The Department published lists of preferred state abbreviations in the 1831 Table of Post Offices in the United States and in the
United States Official Postal Guide, first published in 1874.  Most of the preferred abbreviations in 1874 remained the same for nearly the next 90 years.

On July 1, 1963, the Post Office Department implemented the five-digit ZIP Code, which was placed after the state name in the last line of an address. To provide room for the new code in the address line, the Department published an initial list of state abbreviations in the June 27, 1963, issue of the Postal Bulletin.  Many of these initial abbreviations consisted of four letters.

Four months later, in October 1963, the Department published the now-familiar list of two-letter state abbreviations in Publication 59, Abbreviations for Use with ZIP Code.  Two-letter abbreviations were:

. . .  provided by the Post Office Department as an aid to mailers in accommodating ZIP Codes within the usual City-State line of addresses.

The abbreviations are based on a maximum 23-position line, because this has been found to be the most universally acceptable line capacity basis for major addressing systems.

The implementation of two-letter state abbreviations was gradual; initially they were intended for optional use only by large business mailers in conjunction with ZIP Codes.

To date, only one change has been made to the abbreviations issued in October 1963.  In November 1969, at the request of the Canadian postal administration, the abbreviation for Nebraska, originally NB, was changed to NE, to avoid confusion with New Brunswick in Canada

Source:  United States Postal Service