International Institute of Genealogical Studies


International Institute of Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Transcription Tuesday: Handwriting

One of the very first basic skills to develop as a Transcriber is learning to read various handwriting scripts. Start with modern day cursive handwriting. If you cannot master every day current handwriting styles, you will really struggle with older scripts. Practice reading whenever you can. Read handwriting from different people. Everyone develops their own style. Learn to write in cursive yourself. It is a skill that will help you as you are trying to decipher handwritten documents. Soon you will be tackling more difficult handwriting on older documents.

These are a few quick examples. The top one is an address from 1891. The first word “Davenport” is not too difficult. Knowing it was an address, helps us to figure out that the second word is “Road.” For this word, the “a” is clear and the “d” will become familiar with its upward curl. The “Ro” is more difficult. The word directly below it is “Richard” and has the same “R” at the beginning. The other two names beside it are both “Wm” – the abbreviation for William. They can look different, depending on who is writing it. These names are from Ontario Birth Registrations in 1880. 

The third example is a record from the Drouin Collection in 1791. The handwriting can be quite challenging, especially if the record is in French or Latin! Deciphering the text is compounded when having to translate from an unfamiliar language. If you are researching records in a language you do not understand, the Family Search Genealogical Word Lists will be very helpful to you.

Another useful website is the Brigham Young University (BYU) Tutorial – Making Sense of Old Handwriting. You should bookmark it and explore the resources as you begin to develop your Transcription Skills. We will explore more aspects of reading old handwriting in next week’s Transcription Tuesday.

Remember: Transcribing takes practice and patience. 
Check back next week for more skill-building tips.
Previous Transcription Tuesday blog posts:
Census Names
Transcription Definition
Transcription Tuesday Index
These three core courses demonstrate Transcription principles. They are offered monthly, beginning on the first Monday of every month: Register today!
Methodology-Part 2: Organizing and Skill-Building (Basic Level)
Skills: Transcribing, Abstracting & Extracting (Basic Level)
Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents (Advanced)
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