Palaeography | The National Archives Tutorial
For many Australians, it is more than likely that you have English ancestors and a great source of information can be retrieved from English census and church records. But the older the records we find, the more challenging they can be to read and decipher.
While this can be frustrating to most of us, it also can be down right off putting. Your research will undoubtedly uncover some of these documents at some point, and some understanding of paleography is required.
What is Palaeography?
Palaeography, is the study of ancient writings and inscriptions. If you are studying old English documents, you will encounter not only the Old English script but, going further back in time, ecclesiastical records written in Latin.
Interested in palaeograpgy? The UK National Archives palaeography web tutorial will help you learn to read the handwriting found in documents written in English between 1500 and 1800. This is a brilliant interactive tutorial about paleography.
By reading the practical tips and working through the documents in the tutorial, you will find that it becomes much easier to read older documents. The National Archives palaeography tutorial contains 10 documents supplied in order of difficulty. Each document is offered alongside an historical background, a glossary, notes on the palaeography, a sample alphabet taken from each document and a full transcript.
For a bit of fun, The National Archives has a palaeography game. A 17th century woman has been accused of a crime and as her punishment she faces the ducking stool. To free her from the ducking stool, you must correctly transcribe certain text. Will you be the one to free the maiden from this horrible punishment?