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Transcription Tuesday – Town Clerk

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies encourages researchers to explore various types of historical documents as they pursue their family’s stories. Our research must reach beyond birth, marriage and death records. There are many more to discover! 

As the scope of our research project widens, we must continue to develop our Transcription Skills, becoming more and more familiar with the handwriting used in the time frame of our research. We may eventually begin to recognize whose handwriting is used in an entry. To discover your ancestor’s signature on a document is exciting, but even more so when you discover more of their handwriting than just their name.

Determining their occupation could lead to finding samples of their handwriting in other documents. A good example of this is to discover your ancestor was the Town Clerk. This could lead to revealing many records that he personally entered, including – his signature. There is a thrill to knowing that his hand wrote those words on that page.

Township Records

In Colonial New England, many towns kept Township Records. These are rich with genealogical information, with families often grouped together in the records. When the New England Planters came and settled in Nova Scotia in the 1760s, they established the same system of record keeping. The entries were recorded by the Town Clerk.

The following death record was found as one of the “Selected Items” in the Township Records for New England Planters at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia.  

Nova Scotia Archives – Truro Township Book – Register of Deaths
Reference: Nova Scotia Archives MG 4 vol. 150a

Transcription of the first entry of the page: 
March The 8th 1769
   Lieut. Andrew Gemmel was Unfortunately killed
Falling a Tree in the woods —–  Truro. WFisher.T.C.K.

Often, signatures can be a challenge to decipher, just as they are today. Fortunately, we know that William Fisher was the town clerk for Truro in 1769. His signature has a unique feature. The F of Fisher is joined with the initial W of his first name William. Written out fully, it would read: W[illiam] Fisher T[own] C[ler]k.

Knowing this, we can easily recognize his signature elsewhere. If there were two individuals with the same name (ie father and son) in the same area, signing documents, we would have an advantage to sorting them out by comparing their handwriting. 

To find out more about the New England Planters and Colonial Township Records, please refer to these The National Institute for Genealogical Studies courses:
Research: Nova Scotia Ancestors
Research: US Colonial New England Ancestors
As researchers, we have found that there are many skills we need to employ in order to achieve success in our future research projects. Transcription Tuesday will share guidelines and practical suggestions to help our readers to develop the skills for making effective transcriptions, abstracts, and extractions.
Transcription Tuesday previous blog post
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 
Skills: Transcribing, Abstracting & Extracting 
Palaeography: Reading & Understanding Historical Documents 
Visit our website for a complete list of online courses offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. Check our Course Calendar here
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