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Reading Early American Handwriting 1st Edition

25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0806308463
ISBN-10: 080630846X
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Frequently Bought Together

Reading Early American Handwriting + The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. 3rd Edition. Paperback Version + Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians
Price for all three: $129.90

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The further back in time our research takes us, the more `plain English' looks like a foreign language. That's why Sperry's `plain English' guide to not-so-plain English writing is an absolute basic book for every genealogical shelf." --Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG, FNGS.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Genealogical Publishing Company; 1st edition (March 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080630846X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806308463
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.6 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,550 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
A serious genealogist does not depend on published versions of records but goes directly to the originals at the courthouse or the archives, and in doing this, he runs immediately into a sometimes startling realization: People in previous centuries often wrote things in a handwriting style that differs markedly from that used today. Generally, the farther back in time one goes, the more difficult reading original documents is likely to be. Kip Sperry (who is Certified, Accredited, and a Fellow of three national genealogical societies, as well as an experienced teacher) has addressed this problem by bringing together in this book a wide variety of examples of penmanship for the reader to practice on. However, he limits himself to only early American handwriting in English, so one will find only limited assistance here in deciphering colonial Louisiana records in French and Spanish (which is of particular interest to me, unfortunately). An introductory chapter outlines the history of writing implements themselves, followed by an overview of the styles of penmanship that were taught in the early days of this country. Then he establishes guidelines for reading old documents, and on using context to puzzle out problem words, and also notes the limitations of reading them on microfilm. He describes the challenges of spelling variation, antique abbreviation and contraction, and idiosyncratic spelling and punctuation. Other chapters consider in detail the legal terminology one is likely to encounter, the forms that Arabic and Roman numerals are apt to take, and the effects of the 18th century calendar change. Four sample alphabets (with many variations in each) are reproduced from historical sources.Read more ›
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 27, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Kip Sperry has created a text which is beneficial for both amateur and seasoned genealogist alike. In fact, this book could easily be a required source for those attempting to get their certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists, because he gives such good guidelines for transcibing documents. Sperry writes in an easy and informative way as he explains the difficulties of reading and transcribing early Rnglish and American documents. A must for any serious genealogist or historian.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
"If you have ever spent time trying to decipher early American documents, you know the problems... This [book] is highly recommended for those who will be working with handwritten documents from the 16th-19th century." (Ohioana Quarterly, Fall 1998, p. 223)
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Format: Paperback
Reading Early American Handwriting is a self-teaching tool designed to help genealogists and historians read and understand the handwriting found in documents commonly used for genealogical research. Chapters describe techniques for reading early American documents, offer samples of alphabets and letter forms, and define terms and abbreviations often found in early American wills, deeds, church records, and the like. The latter half of Reading Early American Handwriting is devoted to nearly one hundred authentic examples of early American records for the reader to practice analyzing, complete with the author's transcription on the facing page. An excellent and easy-to-use resource sure to quickly familiarize the reader with the nuances of early American handwriting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mary B. Jederberg on October 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Reading Early American Handwriting

I found this book to be extremely helpful in reading census records. It sometimes takes a while to locate the page that is closest to the handwriting but once there it is invaluable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Wiggins on December 6, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I do actual research on my family lines so I often seek original documents. This book is a great help showing samples and then their translations. I have some old family records using some of the older style of writing and I'm grateful that the samples in the book have helped me with reading what looked like chicken scratches in the past. I teach some research topics too so this book helps me with some of my class notes. I have suggested that those researchers who want to be able to read some of their early documents obtain this book and others to help them read and understand what is written. To anyone serious about doing good research, you really need to invest in a number of books and other sources--get your own library to be able to reference questions and get good answers.
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This book has been very useful in teaching me how to decipher genealogical documents. Now, I can figure out the correct spelling of names and places. Handwriting styles varied 100 - 300 years ago. This book gives examples of the correct meaning of the written letters and abbreviations used back then. Included in this book, to help you learn, are documents to decipher. (The correct translation follows each document so that you can check your work.) It's like I'm back in school again. Very, very helpful! Glad I found this book. Thanx :)
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Format: Paperback
This is one of the best reference guides I own on the subject of early handwriting. I highly recommend this for anyone wanting to delve deeper into their own family history, or anyone who is looking to get into the field of genealogy as you will soon find out that you too will be having to decode early writing, and this book will definitely save you time when transcribing all those old records!
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