There he sits, the determined genealogist at the microfilm reader pondering marks in a page with a microfilm that states photocopies, even for personal use, cannot be made. The Genealogist obviously needs some skills to handle this situation.
Where can he turn?
The art of reading unreadable writing is one way to envision paleography.
Look at the online course from the National Archives in the UK for a great model to follow. It covers 1500 to 1800 with instruction and practice. Click here. Another English example is found here. This second course is for literary students. Medeival English is taught on-line at Leicester University.
A list of resources to study American paleography is found here. Perhaps readers can suggest favorite guides to reading early American handwriting.
My colleague, Elizabeth Briggs has written a fine course on paleography available on-line. Here's the description:
"A number of topics linked to palaeography are covered to ensure participants have sufficient background to tackle unfamiliar documents that span the past five hundred years. The primary goal involves transcribing the unfamiliar writing in old documents to the modern day hand. A secondary objective is to provide the student with a feeling of success and achievement when new skills are learned. As Britain had a major influence on the cosmopolitan development of North America, examples will be taken from British and Canadian resources. Canadian resources will focus on The Hudson's Bay Company Archives, which are British in origin, and are now held at the Hudson's Bay Company Archives in Winnipeg. These materials reflect the profound influence of British language, culture and economics on the development of North America. There are many issues related to transcribing old documents that necessitate an introduction to the following topics:
Writing Materials, Palaeography, Roman Numerals, Currency, The Calendar, The Religious Calendar, Weights and Measures, Origin of Family Names, Social Structure in Britain, Occupations, Introduction to Latin Terminology, Bibliography.
Examples will be given in the text of the information booklet, but in order to achieve success and practise the new skills it is necessary to follow the prepared activities in the workbook. Answers will be found at the back of the workbook under each section heading.
To gain experience with reading and interpreting documents, the workbook has been designed to reinforce topics discussed in the main text. As the student progresses through a new section continual practise is available using Review Exercises in the Workbook. Mastery develops with review and reinforcement.
Weekly activities may appear lighter at the beginning of the course. As the student gains experience more tasks will be added, as review is not anticipated to be quite as time consuming as developing new skills."
If this course in English and Colonial handwriting interests you, and you are ready for advanced level courses, then call Louise at the National Institute for Genealogical Studies at (800) 580-0165 to sign up. The course will make you work hards, and you'll come out with a model for classroom tasks for your own students. tell Louise Ken sent you.
Your comments and suggestions are welcome.
In part two we will look at transcribing skills.