Reading Old Handwriting

Online Document Examples & Tutorials

Signature with a fountain pen.
Towfiqu Photography / Getty Images

Reading tips and suggestions for deciphering old handwriting is great, but the best way to learn is practice, practice, practice! These online document examples and tutorials should help you get started.

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Script Tutorials

How do I read an old document? This free Web site from Brigham Young University helps you answer that question with tutorials on reading old manuscripts in English, German, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Each tutorial includes a sample document, common terms, and transcription tests.

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Paleography: Reading Old Handwriting 1500-1800

Explore tips for reading and transcribing old documents, specifically those written in English between 1500 and 1800 from the National Archives of the UK. Then try your own hand at paleography, with ten actual documents in the free, online interactive tutorial.

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Scottish Handwriting - Paleography of Scottish Documents

From the Scottish Archive Network, this dedicated paleography site concentrates on the period 1500-1750, although some assistance is given with 19th-century writing too. Begin with the 1-hour basic tutorial and then work your way through the tutorials on specific letters and other paleography challenges. If you get stuck reading a Scottish document, they also have a problem solver and a letter finder.

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English Handwriting 1500-1700

This free online course from Cambridge University concentrates on English Handwriting from the period 1500-1700, with high-quality scans of original documents, extensive examples, sample transcriptions, and graded exercises.

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Advanced Latin: An Advanced Practical Online Tutorial

Produced by The National Archives of the UK, this interactive tutorial provides twelve step-by-step lessons in advanced medieval Latin vocabulary and grammar (1086-1733). Includes extracts from original documents held at The National Archives. If you are new to learning Latin try their Beginners’ Latin first.

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Cours de Paléographie - French Paleography Course

An excellent online archive of a course created by Jean Claude Toureille in French Early Modern handwriting. Thirteen online lectures consist of images of original French documents written in various hands from the 15th to the late 18th century, transcriptions and palaeographical notes, along with three assessment exercises of manuscript transcriptions. Web site in French.

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Moravians - German Script Tutorial

Practice your German paleography with this German script alphabet plus examples from the Moravian Archives.

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Denmark - Alphabets & Handwriting Styles

Practically all older documents in Denmark are written in German or "Gothic" style. The Danish State Archives provides a wonderful tutorial to introduce you to the old handwriting style (don't miss the links under "Alphabet" in the left-hand navigation bar).

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Board for Certification of Genealogists - Test Your Skills

Example documents for you to practice reading and transcribing, with detailed examples including a transcription, abstract and research plan.

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Ad Fontes

Ad Fontes is a website dedicated to an eLearning application developed and maintained by the History Department of the University of Zurich, consisting of online tutorials for transcribing and dating Latin and German documents, using digitally reproduced samples of documents from the archives of the Abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland. Ad Fontes is free of charge, after registering and installing the free Shockwave program. Web site in German.

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Reading Old Handwriting." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 28). Reading Old Handwriting. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Reading Old Handwriting." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 31, 2023).