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How do you learn to read the old writing?!

Kempy

Active member
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#1
I've managed to find a will in the National Archives which I've downloaded a digitised copy of - but oh boy am I starting to get eye strain squinting at it to understand it - I've managed to make out a lot of words, but there are some that I have no clue on so my transcription has lots of gaps - are there any webpages or guides out there on how to understand it/common phrases used?

Thanks!
 

Guy

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#2
One learns to read old writing by practice.

The more that is read the easier it becomes. There are various guides to handwriting or script available such as Secretary Hand (early 16th through 17th centuries),
http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/1hour.asp
Court Hand (medieval),
http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscr...ance/medievaldocuments/handwritingstyles.aspx

This site is good as it includes some abbreviations used instead of letters in words

Wills often start with a common preamble before getting down to the nitty gritty bequests.
An example of a 16th century preamble is-
β€œIn the name of God Amen the xxiijth of Januarye in Ao Dni 1590 and in the three and thirteth yeare of the Raigne of our Soueraigne Lady Elizabeth by the grace of god of Englande ffrance and Irelande Queene defendresse of the faith &c. I Willm Guye of Claxton in the Countie of Leicester Husbandman beinge sicke of body but of perfect remmembrance god be prais'd do make & ordaine this my last will and Testament in manner and forme followinge. Imprimis I bequeath my soule vnto Almightie god trustinge to be saved by a livelye faith in Jesu Christ and my body to be buried in the parish Church of Claxton Item I giue to the poore mans boxe of Claxton xijd”
The wording varies slightly but the idea is it dates the will, claims sanity and acknowledges the Sovereign, Jesus Christ and God before making bequests.
Each bequest is preceded by β€œItem”.

I have some lists of abbreviations on my Bottesford website at
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~framland/framland/abbr.htm
One of the lists is for abbreviations found in 17th century documents.


The key is read, practice, read, practice, read more etc.
Cheers
Guy
 

ianto73

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Lancaster
#3
Legal jargon today, let alone of yesteryear is a bind at the best of times. Some of the old hand-written documents of the 19th century I've looked at were so 'scribbled', I printed them off, got a magnifying glass and tried to follow the writing. I have no idea if there is any help around as you've asked, but it may sound funny, there are some handwritten documents from yesteryear that are more legible than some people's handwriting in today's world, and that experience came from being an admin manager for a lot of years! :rolleyes:
 

Kempy

Active member
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2
Location
Windermere
#4
Thank you both! That is all a big help, the will does basically say the same as the extract you put in Guy!

The item being put in before each thing really helps too as I was really confused by that!

Right....off to dig out a magnifying glass and some tracing paper I think! :biggrin:
 

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