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Commonly Confused Letters in Old Handwriting & Script


Some letters in old handwriting are often difficult to recognize or are commonly confused because of curls and flourishes, plus the differences in old style writing and modern day writing style. This may cause errors in transcriptions taken from old handwriting, making it important that you understand these commonly confused letters in order to account for possible surname variations when searching for your ancestors. For example, the letters I and J were often used interchangeably and often appear identical. The old style S often appeared as f or p, especially when followed by a second s. This is apparent in commonly mis-transcribed words such as Jefse and Jepe for Jesse. Therefore, when searching for surnames, please keep in possible transcription errors in mind. To aid you in your search, here are a few of the most commonly confused letters in old handwriting transcriptions.

Commonly Confused Upper Case Letters

F - H
J - I
K - R
S - L
O - Q
P - R
U - V
W - M, UU

Commonly Confused Lower Case Letters

b - f
d - el
j - i
k - t
s - l
t - c
ss - fs, ps
w - vv
y - g

For Further Research:
Handwriting and Genealogy - How to Decipher Old Documents
Photo Glossary of Old Handwriting & Script

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