Monday, July 17, 2006

Are you trying to read old handwriting?

One of the challenges that genealogists face as they obtain and try to understand original source documents (or images of them) is to read the handwriting. This is especially true before 1800. The study of handwriting is called Paleography.

A summary of the challenges is provided at this page, which deals mainly with British Isles documents, but the challenges often apply to colonial English-speaking America also.

The real gem here is the link at the bottom of the page, which leads to the UK Archives Introduction to their tutorial on paleography. From there, use the links on the left hand side of the page to get into the tutorial and improve your handwriting deciphering capability.

The "Where to Start" link and the "Quick Reference" link provide wonderful information about reading and transcribing, handwriting styles, date styles, numbers, money and measurements that is useful for British Isles and colonial America research.

I struggle mightily with the legal and secretary forms of the handwriting found in documents in the 1500 to 1700 time frame. Practicing here has helped me somewhat when faced with an old New England will.

Try it out!

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