09 December 2010

"Col." equals Colonel???

In copying some cemetery records and also some info from obit indices, I came across several people whose names, depending on the arrangement of given names and surnames, were preceded or followed by the abbreviation "Col."

To anyone with any experience in genealogy, and especially with military history, this abbreviation has one specific meaning. "Col." stands for the rank of Colonel.

HOWEVER... "Col." did usually mean Colonel, but it did not always indicate a rank. A military veteran who had achieved prominence later in civilian life was often referred to "Colonel". This was often the case even for men who served in the military at the rank of private.

There is another possibility, though. "Col." might be an abbreviation for "colored". This term was often used for blacks. Negroes were often called "colored". The term "Adrican-American" had not yet surfaced.

So if you see an entry in an index preceded or followed by "Col.", do not assume it refers to military rank. It may be an indication of the person's race!

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