24 July 2010

Reading Handwriting (52 Weeks to Better Genealogy, no.29)

Challenge no.29 was Practice reading handwriting. Deciphering the penmanship of our ancestors is an exercise in patience, but this is a great skill to have.

Family historians love indexes, but most indexing errors arise from difficulty in interpreting handwriting. If the first letter of the name is indexed incorrectly, you will not find that entry unless you 'think outside the box'. To help you do this, my Web page on using and compiling indexes has examples of letters that are commonly misinterpreted and names that have been incorrectly indexed. It also warns of other indexing mistakes, such as incorrect sorting of names, listing a person's middle name instead of their surname, listing 'Senior' or 'Junior' as a surname, etc. (I was honoured when Shauna Hicks recommended this page in her book Family History on the Cheap.)

Ancestry's index got it wrong!
There is always something new to learn, but indexing tens of thousands of names from old documents at Queensland State Archives has given me lots of practice. About 51,000 of those names are on my Web site.

('52 Weeks to Better Genealogy' is a series of tasks devised by Amy Coffin for Geneabloggers.)

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