The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

On Old Handwriting, Shorthand, and Vellum

Patent located at the National Archives in D.C. made from vellum. (c) 2016 Shannon Combs-Bennett Used with permission.

Patent located at the National Archives in D.C. made from vellum. (c) 2016 Shannon Combs-Bennett. Used with permission.

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Ah, the stuff I LOVE. Calligraphy and old handwriting. Many people might find reading and deciphering (let alone attempting to write) old handwriting a daunting task. I was very excited that our instructor in  Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents jumped right in with the  basics straight away.

She even goes through the various types of writing materials, instruments, and even covers watermarks in the first few pages. These are all important things to consider and observe when you are researching.  Recently I have pulled military land bounty warrants from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Most of the time I see a variety of types of paper in the files. Then, on occasion, I get to see a document that was created on vellum.

For those of you who don’t know about vellum, it is animal skin that is prepared in a specific way for writing on. It can be fragile if not cared for correctly, but it is superior in many ways to paper made from wood pulp in its longevity. Holding original documents made from vellum is an amazing thing.

Of course, more important than identifying paper and styles of handwriting, our instructor also covered common shorthand used over the years. Hopefully, you didn’t think modern writers were the only ones with a set of shorthand abbreviations to make writing quicker. If you did, well, then you need to pay attention to this section, and take  Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents !

There are so many abbreviations, contractions,  and simple symbols used in various “hands” (aka types of handwriting) that there was an extensive list given. I was particularly appreciative of the example images that were shown so you could see what she was describing. Sometimes seeing it makes it easier to identify in the future. I know it does for me.

So the first two modules are done and I am rearing and ready to go for the next ones. If they are anything like these I will learn a lot.

See you online!

Category: Courses

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