Historical documents, such as letters and diaries, may be handwritten. When using primary sources, researchers may need to be able to read old handwriting as well as be able to place a document in historical context.
Handwritten documents offer a challenge to researchers. In addition to the variations in the quality of handwriting, researchers sometimes encounter the following conventions in pre-nineteenth century documents:
The following web sites offer some useful hints for getting past some of these obstacles:
How To Read Old Documents
From the Memorial Hall Museum. Offers helpful tips on evaluating documents and provides examples of spellings and archaic language.
Palaeography: Reading Old Handwriting 1500-1800
From the National Archives of the United Kingdom. Nicely done tutorial on reading handwritten manuscripts.
First Name Abbreviations
Offers a helpful chart of common abbreviations for first names found in early handwritten documents.
Old Style Abbreviations - Proper Names
Samples of abbreviated personal names with examples from handwritten documents.