Improve your skills at reading old English handwriting . . .

Palaeography is the study of old handwriting and The National Archives UK offers an excellent online tutorial that may help you with deciphering tricky letters and the spelling of words that appear on family history records. Census records often contain abbreviations that at the time of writing may have been common knowledge, but can leave us quite puzzled by their meaning as well as with an inability to identify the letters. I particularly found the historic county abbreviations useful and often there was more than one in use. For example, Shropshire was referred to as Shrops and Salop – this last variation is not intuitive in any sense!

You can also see examples of handwriting from the National Archives interactive tutorial that is available at

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-3275 

I also recommend Hilary Marshall’s book Palaeography for Family and Local Historians, there is a copy held at the Central Auckland Research Centre, under the call number 4 ENG AID.

You never know what you may decipher!


This entry was posted on Friday, 18 January 2013 and is filed under ,,,,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

Leave a Reply

Kia ora! Please leave your comment below.