Understanding handwriting is an important aspect of researching original records. It’s not easy to do as handwriting practices change over the years and centuries.
Sometimes, we stumble upon a hard to read document – hard to read because of handwriting, but other factors may contribute to its being hard to read, such as faded writing, holes in the paper created by acid, or random marks. Early census records are good examples. Often, the text is faded, or the microfilm copy may have darkened areas or scratches as well as seemingly random marks.
My tip for you is to look at the whole document if written by the same person (or the section of the census enumerated by the same person). I like to find “key” words – these are words that I can very easily tell what they are. For example: John, James, Mary, Anne (or variations), Valentine, Zachariah (easy to understand names with uncommon letters are good!). I use those “key” words as reference points. If I get stuck on a name or a word, I look letter by letter and compare to my “key” words.
Recently I saw a name in the census that was hard to read. It looks like Edward…but not exactly. First, I compared the w to others on the same page. I realized it was actually an m. It started to make sense because the “a” did look like a “u” and the “r” in comparison with others was actually an “n,” making the name change from Edward to Edmund.
There are quite a few resources here at the GHL that can help you decipher old handwriting. Feel free to come visit us and look at these resources! If you need assistance with look ups of sources in our library, check out our guidelines for requesting help.
Chatham County: North Carolina County of the Week
Join us this week for a tour of Chatham County! In the center of the state sits the Central Piedmont’s Chatham County, formed in 1771 from Orange County during the pre-Revolutionary War of Regulation. The county was then named for William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham and member of England’s Parliament, who was sympathetic to the colonists’ opposition to the right of Parliament to tax them.
Map of North Carolina, Chatham County shown in green
To learn more about Chatham County’s history, people, and natural heritage, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can join the conversation and save your favorites by using the hash tag #nccotw.
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This serial publication is from UNC’s School of Government. It is an irregular series and there is no set frequency for new bulletins being published. New issues often follow significant family law court cases or changes in North Carolina family legislation. The Family Law Bulletin addresses topics such as child custody and child support, paternity law, visitation rights for parents and third parties, marriage and divorce law, and other family related legal concerns.
Family Law Bulletins can be downloaded, printed, saved and viewed by clicking here.
Due to ice accumulations predicted in the Raleigh area for Wednesday, January 14, the Our State Digital Collection celebration has been moved to Thursday, January 22.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 22
10 AM – 12 PM
Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC
NC Department of Cultural Resources Building
109 East Jones Street, Raleigh, NC
1st floor, Room 110
Come learn more about the Our State Digital Collection, available at http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/home/ourstate! We will have refreshments and one-on-one demonstrations. At 11 AM, we will have a short presentation.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to attend.