Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Early American Handwriting

You do not have to research too far into your family history before you are bound to run into handwritten documents. Reading the handwriting can be a real research headache. It's amazing how much the letters have changed through the years. Once you've figured out the letters and words then you have to know what they meant in the context of the time. One of the books we have in our collection to help you with this task is a book by Kip Sperry entitled Reading Early American Handwriting (copyright 1998. Published by Genealogical Publishing Co, Inc.). In this book Sperry notes "many of the colonial American handwriting styles passed through several phases, deriving principally from secretary hand and court hand used in Great Britain during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Other influences were from the Italic hand and Latin script. Although some consistency may be seen on colonial American documents, handwriting styles varied in different parts of the country and for different time periods." Chapter titles include "guidelines for reading old documents, abbreviations and contractions, terms, numbers and Roman numerals, dates and calendar change", and a whole chapter on alphabets and handwriting styles. When you find a document you can't decipher, come check out this book and see if it will help you. It can be found at Gen 427.973 SPE

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