For Example: What Is Viz?

I am always a little hesitant to write about grammar, because it’s not really my thing. But we will give it a go here because these words are often used in genealogical materials and legal items. Their use is much less frequent today, especially in a non-academic setting.

Old newspapers and obituaries often contain the abbreviation viz. Some genealogists wonder exactly what viz means, so in this tip we will look at three abbreviations that often are confused. Our discussion of them is not in regards to modern usage because we are generally talking about materials written or published before 1900.

  • e.g. from exempli gratia – “for example” (common usage is that what follows e.g. is an example–or more–and not a complete list of items)
  • i.e. from id est – “in other words” (common usage is to clarify or restate something–not to give examples)
  • viz. from videlicet – “that is” (common usage is that what follows is a complete list)

The reality:

James Jones was born in Harford County, Maryland and his wife was born in Smith County, Ohio. They were married in Smith County, Ohio, in 1830. James and Elizabeth (Smith) Jones had children named Riley, James, John, Martha, Thomas, and Elizabeth. In addition to being a farmer, James was a cooper and also helped making ends meet by fixing wagon gears and wagon wheels.

The statement in the county history (using e.g, i.e., and viz.) :

James and Elizabeth (Smith) Jones came to the county from Coshocton County, Ohio, in 1847. James was born in Harford County, Maryland, and Elizabeth was born in Smith County, Ohio. James and Elizabeth were married in her native county (i.e. Smith County) in 1830. James operated a farm after their marriage and also did coopering and other work (e.g. wagon fixing and threshing) for nearby farmers. They were the parents of six children, viz.: Riley, James, John, Martha, Thomas, and Elizabeth.

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