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Paleography - Deciphering Old Handwriting

Learn how to analyze and decipher old handwriting, known as the science of paleography, in genealogical documents including changes in letter and number formation and tips for making out hard-to-read text.

Reading Old Handwriting
Reading tips and suggestions for deciphering old handwriting is great, but the best way to learn is practice, practice, practice! These online document examples and tutorials should help you get started.

Commonly Confused Letters in Old Handwriting & Script
Learning to recognize commonly confused letters in old handwriting transcriptions can help you to come up with alternate name spellings for your ancestors. These particular letters and combinations can trip up even seasoned genealogists.

Old Handwriting & Script
old handwriting

Deciphering Old Handwriting
Learning to accurately read and decipher old handwriting and script can lead to new clues in the records and documents of your ancestors. Learn about letter formation, common handwriting and script styles, and traps to watch for, plus link to free online, interactive tutorials on reading old handwriting.

Reading & Understanding Old Documents
Reading and understanding old documents often presents a challenge for genealogists of all skill levels. Like most things, it requires patience and a lot of practice. But with the right tools and a little practice, you'll soon be reading and understanding old documents like the pros!

English Handwriting 1500-1700
This free online course from Cambridge University concentrates on English Handwriting from the period 1500-1700. High-quality scans of original documents, extensive examples and graded exercises let you try your own hand at transcribing old English documents.

Denmark - Alphabets & Handwriting Styles
Practically all older documents in Denmark are written in German or "Gothic" style. The Danish State Archives provides a wonderful tutorial to introduce you to the old handwriting style (don't miss the links under "Alphabet" in the left-hand navigation bar).

English Handwriting 1500-1700
This free online course from Cambridge University concentrates on English Handwriting from the period 1500-1700, with high quality scans of original documents, extensive examples, and graded exercises.

FamilySearch Handwriting Guide - German Gothic
The Gothic style of handwriting prevailed in Germany until 1941, in the Czech Republic through the 1700s, and in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries through the nineteenth century.

Handwriting Analysis for Genealogists
Hedy Bookin-Weiner, Ph.D., CGA explains how samples of your ancestors’ handwriting can teach you about their personalities.

Moravians - German Script Tutorial
Practice your German paleography with this German script alphabet plus examples from the Moravian archives.

Old German Handwritten Scripts
Download programs, fonts and sample documents for learning to read old German handwriting.

Reading Early American Handwriting
This book by Kip Sperry is designed to teach you how to read and understand the handwriting found in early American documents commonly used in genealogical research.

Scottish Handwriting
From the Scottish Archive Network, this dedicated paleography site concentrates on the period 1500-1750. Begin with the 1 hour basic tutorial and then work your way through the tutorials on specific letters and other paleography challenges. If you get stuck reading a Scottish document, they also have a problem solver and a letter finder.

UK National Archives - Paleography
Explore tips for reading and transcribing old documents, specifically those written in English between 1500 and 1800. Then try your own hand at paleography, with ten actual docuements in the free, online interactive tutorial.

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