9 Tips for Reading Old Handwriting
Palaeography: reading old handwriting - A practical online tutorial. Palaeography is the study of old handwriting. This web tutorial will help you learn to read the handwriting found in documents written in English between and Old English handwriting is beautiful and fascinating. When you learn to read it, you will have great admiration for the scribes who painstakingly produced parish registers, probate records, manor records, and other manuscript sources. Education was often haphazard and short before the .
Reading old handwriting can be quite a challenge, but with a bit of practice you can learn to decipher handwritten documents. Here are 9 tips to help you get started. Start transcribing the letters you can recognize in each word. As you go how to read old english handwriting letter by letter transcribing the document, you may find that you become better able to recognize letters as you settle into the handwriting.
When you reach the end of the document, go how to do a damp course yourself and revisit the words in the first few lines of the document. You may find that you can more easily read the letters you did not recognize at first. After you have transcribed what you can by going letter by letter, go back through the document to see if you recognize entire words based upon the letters you have transcribed.
You may be surprised at how many words you recognize. You can use letters and words you have recognized and transcribed as comparison examples to transcribe more words in the document.
Learn more about the type of document you are trying to read. If you learn to recognize common terms and abbreviations found in that type of document, you can transcribe those first, then use those handwritten words as comparison examples for other words in the document you are transcribing. For more in-depth learning about legal documents, follow Judy G.
If you are reading a handwritten document online from an entire digitized microfilm such as on FamilySearchAncestry. If the same person recorded those pages as well, you may spot more words you can recognize on those pages, and take that learning back to the page you are transcribing by using those words you recognized from another page as comparison examples. Tips for Reading Old Handwriting from Ancestry. Ask a fellow researcher to have a look at a document you are having difficulty transcribing, or post an excerpt on social media and ask Genfriends to take a run at it.
Sometimes another pair of eyes can be helpful for deciphering old handwriting, and your fellow researchers will enjoy the challenge of helping you. Finally, take your time. If you become frustrated, put the document aside for a bit and try again later. You will find that over time, you will become more at ease with reading old handwriting. What tips would you recommend for reading old handwriting?
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Superscripts were used more often in old English. You see them used most often today as ordinal indicators, such as 1 st, 2 nd, 3 rd etc. Some examples in old English include wch, wth for "which" and "with," and maty for majesty.
Family history is all about finding and reading documents, whether you look at scanned images at our site or hunt for the originals in record offices.
As you work your way back from recent certificates to older wills and parish registers, the writing on these documents can be tricky, as the words and their meaningsЧand even the shapes of the letters themselvesЧhave changed over time. Generally, older records are harder to read. Spelling can be particularly difficult, as spellings weren't standardized until compulsory education began around Surnames and place names in particular can have a wide variety of spellings, even on the same page.
Documents from around this time will also start to introduce you to different styles of handwriting. Although these are all in English, they can look quite different from modern script. This free-flowing, expressive way of writing is especially common in personal papers and letters from the 18th century.
These variations are a hangover from the precursor to round hand, secretary hand. A 17th-century alternative was italic hand. This style developed in Italy though the Renaissance. Several royal and government departments developed their own scripts. The most successful of these was Chancery hand, used at the Royal Chancery in Westminster.
You may come across it in legal documents, especially wills. If you're working with an original document, scan it; that way, you can handle it without damaging it and zoom in on parts of the document. Tricky letters, spellings, and abbreviations. There were no standard spelling rules before in England and before in the United States. Abbreviations and contractions were often used to save space on paper, which was an expensive commodity. Don't see what you're looking for?
You might just need to refresh it. Skip to Main Content. Expand search. Search Search. Sign In Account Management. Information Article Body. Common problems Generally, older records are harder to read. Tips Printing or enlarging the image If you're working with an original document, scan it; that way, you can handle it without damaging it and zoom in on parts of the document.
Tricky letters, spellings, and abbreviations There were no standard spelling rules before in England and before in the United States. In the past, a long form of the letter s looked like our contemporary letter f. Words currently spelled with the letter i were often formerly spelled with the letter y; for example, "mine" was spelled "myne. The title Mrs. Good brother or good sister in a document means brother- or sister-in-law. The term in-law was also used to describe step-parents.
The word infant was used to describe both a baby and a person under legal age. Here are some common shorthand references: The letter y often replaced the letters th; for example, "the" was often written "ye. Superscripts were used more often in old English. You see them used most often today as ordinal indicators, such as 1 st , 2 nd , 3 rd etc. Some examples in old English include w ch , w th for "which" and "with," and ma ty for majesty. Strategies Look up unfamiliar or archaic words and abbreviations online.
Research the kind of document you're working with; certain documents may have specific phrases, jargon, and abbreviations. Understanding the document's historical context can help you read the handwriting and understand its meaning.
Read the document aloud; hearing it may help you to recognize unfamiliar words. Write the words yourself by placing tracing paper over a photocopy of your document and tracing each word. Creating the characters of the text may help you understand the words and the context. Make an alphabet chart as you go. Write out the alphabet on a separate piece of paper, then copy examples from the document for each letter, both lower- and uppercase.
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