Handwriting for Family History Search, how confusing it can be to read. Does the name
begin with and "S" or is it "L".
Each person who has learned to write, did so by self taught (by watching someone write), from teachers, parents, tutors or a friend.
As you continue your ancestry search, you will find that from the beginning of time thru century 2000 the handwriting
has constantly changed.
When you are starting genealogy research, the U. S. Census is the best source for reading and studying writing. Carefully study the names of the people on the left side of the page. Go from left to right and look how each name, occupation, place of birth is written.
Look close at the column for gender see how "F" and "M" are written. Many times male is mistaken for white and vice versa. Check out race, white, black, and mulatto. When looking at this writing it is not the formal writing and spelling that has been taught.
The census from 1790 thru 1840 listed only the head of the household. The other members of the house were just one mark, unless there were 2 males or 2 females listed in the age group, then you see 2, 3, 4 etc.
The 1850 U.S. Census was the first to ask and list the entire household and any boarders or laborers living in the house. Here is where writing becomes interesting and often times difficult to read.
In the 1800s' and early 1900s' many people were illiterate. This most definitely includes the census takers. The census taker wrote down the name like it sounded or otherwise known as phonetics. By using sound to write down names, occupations
etc., the ethnicity of the census taker comes into play. Was this man of German descent how would "Smith" or "Rector" sound to him. We know the German spelling for "Schmidt" and "Reichter" or "Richter".
If your ancestor arrived in the United States about 1848, he/she might even have spelled the name for the census taker, using the German spelling rather than the English spelling of the name.
Time period must be considered, when going further back in time. The handwriting varies from century to century. What looks like a small "y" in the 17th century (1600-1700) is more likely to be a small "g". You are reading a document dated
1750 the name reads: Tonings, actually the name is Jennings. How about Turat, yes it is Jurat. Don't be misled look at all the letters or lines in a name or word.
Don't forget there are abbreviations and contractions to consider.
When you are researching you will be in a library, research center or the National Archives and you will be reading microfilm. Ink is a major factor, some pages the writing will be in bold black, other pages will be very faint. A number of different
inks were used in any one year or century.
Have fun with your family history search, and ancestry searching.
Check our page: