Administrative Regions of the British Isles

Courtesy of:
Phil Lloyd   - January 1993

There are different systems of administration in these various countries, and the administrative units bear different names: county, region, and district. In addition, there were large-scale reorganisations of local authorities in the early and mid 1970's, resulting in new counties, the "disappearance" of old counties, adjustments to county boundaries, and so on. For many family history purposes, it is the "old" administrative regions, which are relevant. However, knowledge of the present arrangements is also needed so that the records you need, can be found.

Also, these are administrative regions, whereas for many purposes the old counties continue to have an existence, at least in the minds of people who disagreed with the changes!

Information is listed for each country in the form of tables and I have included: -

Full name of region
In some case, it is uncertain what the official name is, and variants are found. For instance, the suffix "shire” may be absent or present, as in Devon/Devonshire, Fife/Fifeshire. I have used what I believe to be the most acceptable and least confusing names. It is not recommended to omit the "shire" in cases where the resulting name could be either a county or a city, e.g. Lincoln (shire)

A recognised abbreviation of the full name
There is no standard, and many (easily recognisable) truncations are in use and I have included the more commonly met abbreviations, some of which are not easily recognisable.

The "Chapman County Code" - Courtesy of Colin Chapman
This is a unique three-letter code identifying the region, used extensively by family historians for recording and exchanging place information.
(There is also a British Standard (BS 6879 : 1987) for UK counties and other areas un-ascertained yet as to whether the two are related.)

The administrative centre of the modern region
Notes shown as (1) etc. Further information will then be found at the end of the tables for that country.

The information below does not set out to explain why things are the way they are, but should be helpful in understanding records, family letters,
etc. I have been careful, but cannot guarantee accuracy. Please email any corrections or suggestions to me at the address given above.

Click on the country to view basic information about the major administrative regions

England - Wales - Scotland - Crown Dependencies - Northern Ireland - Republic of Ireland

Following the Local Government Act 1972, and the report of the Local Government Boundaries Commission, new county names and boundaries came into effect from 1st April 1974.

Counties (before April 1974)
--------- ---------- -----------
Bedfordshire Beds BDF
Berkshire Berks BRK
Buckinghamshire Bucks BKM
Cambridgeshire (1) Cambs CAM
Cheshire CHS
Cornwall (2) Corn CON
Cumberland CUL
Derbyshire Derby DBY
Devonshire DEV
Dorset DOR
Durham (3) DUR
Essex ESS
Gloucestershire Glos GLS
Greater London (4)
Hampshire Hants (5) HAM
Herefordshire HEF
Hertfordshire Herts HRT
Huntingdonshire (6) Hunts HUN
Kent KEN
Lancashire Lancs LAN
Leicestershire Leics LEI
Lincolnshire Lincs LIN
Norfolk NFK
Northamptonshire Northants NTH
Northumberland Northumb NBL
Nottinghamshire Notts NTT
Oxfordshire Oxon (7) OXF
Rutland RUT
Shropshire Salop (8) SAL
Somerset SOM
Staffordshire Staffs STS
Suffolk SFK
Surrey SRY
Sussex SSX
Warwickshire Warks WAR
Westmoreland WES
Wiltshire Wilts WIL
Worcestershire Worcs WOR
Yorkshire (9) Yorks YKS

Counties (April 1974 onwards)
--------- ---------- ------ ------
Avon AVN Bristol
Bedfordshire Beds BDF Bedford
Berkshire Berks BRK Reading
Buckinghamshire Bucks BKM Aylesbury
Cambridgeshire Cambs CAM Cambridge
Cheshire CHS Chester
Cleveland CLV Middlesbrough
Cornwall (2) Corn CON Truro
Cumbria CMA Carlisle
Derbyshire Derbys DBY Matlock
Devon DEV Exeter
Dorset DOR Dorchester
Durham (3) DUR Durham
East Sussex SXE Lewes
Essex ESS Chelmsford
Gloucestershire Glos GLS Gloucester
Greater London (4) London
Greater Manchester GTM Manchester
Hampshire Hants (5) HAM Winchester
Hereford and Worcester HWR Worcester
Hertfordshire Herts HRT Hertford
Humberside HUM Beverley
Isle of Wight (10) I.O.W. IOW Newport
Kent KEN Maidstone
Lancashire Lancashire LAN Preston
Leicestershire Leics LEI Leicester
Lincolnshire Lincs LIN Lincoln
Merseyside MSY Liverpool
Norfolk NFK Norwich
Northamptonshire Northants NTH Northampton
Northumberland Northumb NBL Morpeth
North Yorkshire N. Yorks NYK Northallerton
Nottinghamshire Notts NTT Nottingham
Oxfordshire Oxon (7) OXF Oxford
Shropshire Salop (8) SAL Shrewsbury
Somerset SOM Taunton
South Yorkshire S. Yorks SYK Barnsley
Staffordshire Staffs STS Stafford
Suffolk SFK Ipswich
Surrey SRY Kingston (11)
Tyne and Wear TWR Newcastle
Warwickshire Warks WAR Warwick
West Midlands WMD Birmingham
West Sussex SXW Chichester
West Yorkshire W. Yorks WYK Wakefield
Wiltshire Wilts WIL Trowbridge

(1) Also know as "Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely".
(2) Includes the Isles of Scilly.
(3) Durham is often referred to as "County Durham". No other English county is normally prefixed in this way.
(4) Following the London Government Act 1963, Greater London was formed from:
London (CCC = LND), Middlesex (Middx, CCC = MDX), and parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey.
(5) The abbreviation "Hants" derives from "Hantshaving", the original name for this county.
(6) Also known as "Huntingdon and Peterborough".
(7) "Oxon" is an abbreviation of "Oxonia", the Latin name for Oxford.
It is often used in addresses as an abbreviation for the county name "Oxfordshire".
(8) "Salop" derives from "Sloppesberie", the original Anglo-French name for this county. This is sometimes used as a short form in
addresses. It appears that the official modern naming is actually "Salop", though most people would refer to "Shropshire".
(9) Yorkshire, the largest of the English counties, used to be administered in three divisions, or "ridings":
East Riding (CCC = ERY)
North Riding (CCC = NRY)
West Riding (CCC = WRY)
(10) Before October 1974, the Isle of Wight was administered with the county of Hampshire.
(11) Kingston itself is no longer in Surrey, but is in Greater London!
Following the Local Government Act 1972, and the report of the Local Government Boundaries Commission, new county names and boundaries came into effect from 1st April 1974.

Counties (before April 1974)
--------- --------- ------------
Anglesey (1) AGY
Breconshire (2) BRE
Caernarvonshire CAE
Cardiganshire Cards CGN
Carmarthenshire CMN
Denbighshire DEN
Flintshire FLN
Glamorgan Glam GLA
Merionethshire MER
Monmouthshire Mon MON
Montgomeryshire Mont MGY
Pembrokeshire PEM
Radnorshire RAD

Counties (April 1974 onwards)
--------- --------- ------ -------
Clwyd CWD Mold
Dyfed DFD Carmarthen
Gwent GNT Cwmbran
Gwynedd (1) GWN Caernarfon
Mid Glamorgan MGM Swansea
Powys POW Llandrindod Wells
South Glamorgan SGM Swansea
West Glamorgan WGM Swansea

(1) In April 1974, the island of Anglesey became part of Gwynedd.
(2) Also known as "Brecknockshire".
Following the Local Government (Scotland) Bill 1972 new names and boundaries came into effect from May 1975.

Regions (before May 1975)
---------- ---------- ---------
Aberdeenshire ABD
Angus (1) ANS
Argyllshire (2) ARL
Ayrshire AYR
Banffshire BAN
Berwickshire BEW
Bute (3) BUT
Caithness CAI
Clackmannanshire CLK
Dunbartonshire DNB
Dumfries-shire DFS
East Lothian ELN
Fife FIF
Inverness-shire (4) INV
Kincardineshire KCD
Kinross-shire KRS
Kirkcudbrightshire KKD
Lanarkshire LKS
Midlothian MLN
Morayshire MOR
Nairn NAI
Orkney (5) OKI
Peebles-shire PEE
Perth PER
Renfrewshire RFW
Ross and Cromarty (6) ROC
Roxburghshire ROX
Selkirkshire SEL
Shetland (7) SHI
Stirlingshire STI
Sutherland SUT
West Lothian WLN
Wigtownshire WIG

Regions (May 1975 onwards)
---------- ---------- -----------
Borders BOR Newton St. Boswells
Central CEN Stirling
Dumfries and Galloway DGY Dumfries
Fife FIF Glenrothes
Grampian GMP Aberdeen
Highland (8) HLD Inverness
Lothian LTN Edinburgh
Orkney OKI Kirkwall
Shetland (7) SHI Lerwick
Strathclyde (9) STD Glasgow
Tayside TAY Dundee
Western Isles (10) WIS Stornoway

(1) An old name for Angus is "Forfarshire".
(2) Includes islands: Islay, Jura and Mull.
(3) Consists of islands Arran and Bute.
(4) Includes islands: Lewis (part), North Uist, South Uist, and Skye.
(5) Also "Orkney Isles", or "Orkney Islands", but NOT "The Orkneys"!
(6) Includes part of the island of Lewis.
(7) Also "Shetland Isles", or "Shetland Islands", but NOT "The Shetlands"! Originally known as "Zetland".
(8) Includes the island of Skye.
(9) Includes islands: Arran, Bute, Islay, Jura and Mull.
(10) Includes islands: Lewis, North Uist and South Uist.
These islands form part of the British Isles, but are self-governing and not part of the United Kingdom:

The Channel Islands
Alderney (1) ALD St. Anne's
Guernsey (1) GSY St. Peter Port
Jersey (1) JSY St. Helier
Sark (1) SRK

Isle of Man I.O.M. IOM Douglas
Following the Government of Ireland Act 1920, Ireland was partitioned in 1921. At that time, 26 of the 32 counties became the Republic of Ireland (or Eire).

 The other 6 counties became Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom.

Irish county names are normally prefixed by the word "County" for example: "County Down", "County Clare".
In October 1973 26 districts replaced the 6 counties of Northern Ireland for the purposes of local government.

Counties (before October 1973)
--------- ------------ ------------
Antrim ANT
Armagh ARM
Down DOW
Fermanagh FER
Londonderry (1) LDY
Tyrone TYR

Districts (October 1973 onwards)
---------- ------------ -------------
Derry (2)
Newry and Mourne
North Down

(1) Often referred to simply as "Derry"
       (2) Known as "Londonderry" before 1984
--------- ---------- ----

.IRELAND (Republic)
Carlow CAR Carlow
Cavan CAV Cavan
Clare CLA Ennis
Cork COR Cork
Donegal DON Lifford
Dublin DUB Dublin
Galway GAL Galway
Kerry KER Tralee
Kildare KID Naas
Kilkenny KIK Kilkenny
Laois (1) LEX Port Laoise
Leitrim LET Carrick-on-Shannon
Limerick LIM Limerick
Longford LOG Longford
Louth LOU Dundalk
Mayo MAY Castlebar
Meath MEA An Uaimh (3)
Monaghan MOG Monaghan
Offaly (2) OFF Tullamore
Roscommon ROS Roscommon
Sligo SLI Sligo
Tipperary TIP Clonmel
Waterford WAT Waterford
Westmeath WEM Mullingar
Wexford WEX Wexford
Wicklow WIC Wicklow

(1) Sometimes spelt "Laoighis"; also known as "Leix". Before 1921 it was called "Queen's County", or simply "Queen's".
(2) Before 1921 it was called "King's County", or simply "King's".
(3) Also known as "Navan".

- Bartholomew Gazetteer of Britain 1977
- BSI Standards Catalogue 1991
- Chambers English Dictionary 1988
- The Ordnance Survey Atlas of Great Britain 1982
- Pears Cyclopaedia 1973-74
- Pears Cyclopaedia 1988
- The Statesman's Year-Book 1984-85


Page Last Updated: - 06/04/2016