Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Practice Reading Old Handwriting

Susi passed along the United Kingdom National Archives web site that discusses Paleography. What is Paleography? The site describes it as:

"Palaeography is the study of old handwriting."

In this context, "old" means between 1530 and 1800 in the United Kingdom. But of course, the English-speaking colonists in North America came from England and their documents used the handwriting shown on this web site. The web site says, "... many documents written at this time look illegible to the modern reader."

The real gem on the web site are the examples of handwriting with transcriptions, and the online tutorial available for practice at the reader's speed. The web site has sections:

* Introduction

* Where to start - reading, transcribing, spelling, etc.

* Quick Reference - all about calendars and monarchs

* Interactive tutorial - 10 documents in order of difficulty, with transcriptions supplied

* Further practise - now you can try transcribing yourself

* Ducking-stool game - a game where the transcriber competes to prevent a woman from being dunked.

* Further reading - a bibliography for paleography.

This is a great resource for those puzzled by the strange-looking and often confusing handwriting of our colonial and UK ancestors.

In my own research, I've faced most of these examples in researching my New England colonial ancestors - mainly in land records and probate records.

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