decodedpast participle, past tense of de·code (Verb)
decipheredpast participle, past tense of de·ci·pher (Verb)
In many forms of Genealogy their comes a time when we must take text provided and decode or decipher it into plain
written text that's easily understood.
Deciphering Old Handwriting - From a
genealogy course taught by Sabina J. Murray
Old handwriting in genealogy research
|Not only have our words and their meanings changed throughout the years, the way we form the letters have too.|
In order to get the most information from the records that are available, we have to decipher these records and put meaning into the symbols we see on the old documents or papers that we find.
As we read old Bible, census, courthouse, archive and Church records to obtain the names, places and dates, often we are unclear at the words before us. Also, the further back we go - the harder it is to read.
An important note to remember is that much of the writing is "phonetic." They wrote the name the best that they could by how it sounded.
This on-line tutorial will help you understand these old records better.
The Leading "s"
Sabina came across this name, early in her research experience, in the U.S. Census. She interpreted this name to be "Jefse" (after all, there are some very unusual names on these records) Later on she found out about the correct translation and felt a little foolish. The true translation is "Jesse."
Here's how the "leading s" looks in old genealogy documents
Old Style AbbreviationsSome of the writing looks like our modern day shorthand. To save paper and time, abbreviations were used often. Here are some of the things you will encounter:
Here are some great examples of abbreviations in old style lettering that you will find on the US Census and many other types of records:
Many of our ancestors could not write. Many of the signatures on wills and other legal documents were signed by a court clerk, while the person made his or her "mark." Even if they could write, many people still used marks.
Look at some of these examples of marks:
Numbers were also different.
Are ready to try for yourself? Try to decipher these:
Now you are ready to try to solve the old handwriting mystery that had Sabina stumped for many years?
He also left Sands Standle's wife a silver watch and...
a horse named Clumse.
Here is the big mystery...
What is the name of Sands Standle's wife???
This was the only record that Sabina had found that mentioned this person's name. She wondered why the letter "t" was in the name. And it seemed that there should be a CAPITAL "T" instead of the apparent lower case letter.
How the Answer Was Found...
She immediately made the connection to her