Monday, September 03, 2007

Deciphering suggestions

Today’s Cincinnati Post spotlights ideas for overcoming challenges when interpreting old handwriting – right on track with our recent discussion about ancestors buried in census records.

Ol' Myrt here has added links to the books in question. If your local library doesn’t have these titles, it might be a great project for your genealogy society to raise money to purchase them to expand the library’s collection.

“The Kenton County Public Library offers several useful publications on deciphering old handwriting. One of the most detailed offerings is "Reading Early American Handwriting" by Kip Sperry. Chapters include basic guidelines and helpful tips for reading old documents, sample alphabets and handwriting styles, and explanations of antiquated terms which were commonly found in early American record-keeping and correspondence.

Sperry also includes a chapter on abbreviations and contractions which scribes, clerks and everyday letter-writers had been employing for centuries to condense verbiage and maximize use of expensive paper and homemade ink.

Other titles on the subject include "If I Can You Can Decipher Germanic Records" by Edna M. Bentz; "The Handwriting of American records for a period of 300 years" by E. Kay Kirkham; "Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany" by Roger P. Minert; and "Understanding Colonial Handwriting" by Harriet Stryker-Rodda.

From their home computers, researchers may consult various online resources for assistance with reading old handwriting and interpreting antiquated script styles. Cyndi's List features thousands of links to articles, tutorials and Web sites on the topic (

Family Tree Magazine's Web site includes a listing of useful links on interpreting handwritten census data, medieval paleography, early English handwriting and other related topics (

Genealogy tips are provided by the Kentucky history staff of the Kenton County Public Library. This tip was provided by Jan Mueller. Contact the library's local history department by calling (859) 962-4085 or via e-mail at The library's genealogy Web site can be found at”


Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

No comments:

Post a Comment