Author Topic: Palaeography for genealogists - English parish registers & antique letter forms  (Read 8266 times)

Offline spades

  • Global Moderator
  • RootsChat Marquessate
  • ********
  • Posts: 5,240
    • View Profile
Prior to the advent in 1837 of Civil Registration in England the life records of individuals were held in parish records, the earliest of which were written in Latin, then a combination of Latin and English, before English was used exclusively. The same pertained to legal and court documents. Sentences were more formal and florid and letter forms were also distinctly different from modern use. Different written styles with specialised letter forms might be used for certain documents, such as Secretary Hand and Chancery Hand.

The need to not only interpret the meaning to a document but also identify (and translate) the words contained within it adds an extra challenge for the genealogist. Below are some sites explaining common words and phrases used in parish records and legal documents and some guides to making sense of the letter forms used.


The National Archives (UK). Reading old handwriting 1500-1800. Excellent  practice tutorials and a great place to start.
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/

A Dictionary of Latin terms for the Genealogist. Very helpful.
http://www.jaydax.co.uk/genlinks/latin-dic.html

Early-Modern Palaeography. Includes sample tests, contractions and transcriptions.
http://paleo.anglo-norman.org/empmain.html

English Handwriting 1500-1700. Includes alphabets, index of manuscripts and sample transcriptions. Excellent site.
http://www.english.cam.ac.uk/ceres/ehoc/

Examples of 17th Century letters found in Parish Registers.
http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~genepool/oldalpha.htm

Genealogical Latin word list.
http://www.familysearch.org/eng/search/rg/guide/wllatin.asp

Latin in parish registers.
http://www.genuki.org.uk/big/LatinNotes.html

Latin words to recognise in old parish registers.
http://freereg.rootsweb.com/howto/latinwords.htm

Latin abbreviations in English documents.
http://www.bibliographics.com/PALAEOG-lite/HECTOR.htm

Latin Dictionary.
http://www.math.ubc.ca/~cass/frivs/latin/latin-dict-full.html#D

List of Latin contractions.
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=66071

Medieval Writing.
http://medievalwriting.50megs.com/title.htm

Scottish Handwriting. Tutorials and coaching manual.
http://www.scottishhandwriting.com/


ELLERKER - Beverley ERY ENG
HEALEY - IRL?
MURDOCH - Wigtownshire SCT, Otago and Westland NZ
PALING - Nottinghamshire ENG
RILEY - Flamborough; Cottingham; South Dalton ERY, Manitoba CAN, & London ENG
STURTON - Arnold, Nottinghamshire ENG
SUTTRON - All, NRY & DUR ENG
TAYLOR - London ENG
TYLER - London ENG
TERNAN/TIERNAN - Dublin IRL

RootsChat is the busiest, largest free family history forum site in the country. It is completely free to use. Register now.
Also register instantly with Facebook or Twitter (and other social networks). Start your genealogy search now.