Colonial Handwriting Samples
Capital letters were written in many different styles - often varying
depending upon a person's ancestral homeland or community style. The double
's' is often a puzzle: it may appear to a double 'ff' or 'fs'
Not only have our words and their meanings changed throughout the years, the
way we form the letters have too.
In order to get the most information from the records that are available, we
have to decipher these records and put meaning into the symbols we see on the
old documents or papers that we find.
As we read old Bible, census, courthouse, archive and Church records to
obtain the names, places and dates, often we are unclear at the words before
us. Also, the further back we go - the harder it is to read.
An important note to remember is that much of the writing is "phonetic." They
wrote the name the best that they could by how it sounded.
The Leading "s"
One of the most dramatic changes in letters has been the letter "s."
Here is a regular lower case "s" and another "s" that looks like a backward lower
Over 100 years ago the "s" was often written like a backward "f." This strange
symbol for "s" was used very commonly in instances where there was a "double
s." The unusual s first, called the "leading s." Then the regular s.
Old Style Abbreviations
Some of the writing looks like our modern day shorthand. To save paper and time,
abbreviations were used often.
Lines were often used in abbreviations. They can be found over, under and through
any given abbreviation.
Smaller letters (both top and bottom) are common.
Single and double dots are used in a variety of positions.
When we think about someone's mark, we usually think of an "x." But, there
were many different kinds.
Many of our ancestors could not write. Many of the signatures on wills and
other legal documents were signed by a court clerk, while the person made his
or her "mark." Even if they could write, many people still used marks.
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