Tips for reading old handwriting

A lot of our older membership books can be a bit tricky tor read – they’re handwritten and the older forms of handwriting can be challenging for to interpret.

There are some free resources to help you practice palaeography – the study of ancient and historical handwriting.

These tend to relate to documents that are older than our late 19th century membership books but the techniques for tackling something that’s difficult to read are the same.

There is some guidance on the Ancestry wiki though it is focused on American records.

There’s a video that goes with it too, with tips for tackling problems.

It also recommends a resource from the National Archives, a set of tutorials focused on handwriting 1500-1800.

The same presenter also looks in detail at some specific examples in tracing names and family trees in this YouTube video. The specific examples show  has some useful tips in dealing with these kind of documents and what might work when you hit a problem.

This is another Ancestry video on the same topic:

The Scottish Handwriting website has guidance on tackling problems with documents from Scotland in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

The Library at the University of Newcastle has also created some videos. They’re geared at reading documents such as letters but have some useful tips

The New South Wales Archives has produced a useful guide to reading handwritten documents.

Some of our membership records also have post-nominal letters some of which may be unfamiliar. There’s a list on Wikipedia of UK post-nominals and The University of Glasgow Story also has a list of common abbreviations for degrees, military connections and professional associations.

Hope these are useful.



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