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Handwriting and old wills

After a very enjoyable conversation with the Sussex Genealogist, Kerry Baldwin, (see the podcast here) about handwriting and old wills there were so many tips shared that I decided to write a blog post about them.

Paleography is the study of ancient writing systems.

Kerry’s tips for reading and interpreting an old will

  • Read it through from start to finish to get a sense of it
  • Look for the forms of the letters to familiarise yourself with them
  • Read a word letter by letter (cover up other letters if necessary)
  • How do the letters lead into one another?
  • Look at the context of the word
  • Look for familiar names and places (Kerry researches the places on the internet)
  • Learn legal phrases that crop up time and again

Once you’ve done that then write it out by hand, allowing spacing for any areas you are unsure of.

When a will is transcribed it is sometimes done line by line so you type up what you see on an individual line so that referencing it is easier (i.e. line 6 word 4)

If you want to add punctuation so that it flows better please do so. The word ‘item’ may indicate a new sentence.

Online Resources to help you with handwriting

Online Resources to help you with interpreting old wills

Finding wills

Search for wills in different UK countries on the websites below:

Do you need more help?

And if you’d like Kerry to transcribe your will for you please contact her via her website

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