Distinguishing one capital letter from another

Diana
Diana Tibert
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My brothers handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. Whenever he writes a letter for me to later type, it can be a challenge. But I dont worry because when I am stumped by a letter or a word, I pick up the phone and call him. I wish I could call the authors of old documents when Im trying to decipher their handwriting.

Old handwritin

My brothers handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. Whenever he writes a letter for me to later type, it can be a challenge. But I dont worry because when I am stumped by a letter or a word, I pick up the phone and call him. I wish I could call the authors of old documents when Im trying to decipher their handwriting.

Old handwriting can be a challenge for even the experienced genealogist. Dont feel bad when you are left scratching your head and not knowing if you are looking at an L or an S in a census or church record. Capital letters such as these can be hard to tell apart.

To ease the pain of deciphering old handwriting, I refer to a list I have created of capital letters that are easily mistaken for one another.

This list includes I and J, M and N, T and F and U and V. T can also be mistaken for L and vice versa. L can also be mistaken for the capital letter S in its many forms mainly because the bottom half is left open. Depending on the size of the open space, it might even look like a T. I have also seen capital N written to look like lowercase h.

Distinguishing one letter from another is made more difficult by stokes and curls from letters on the lines above and below. The letter T for example, may look like the letter F if the tail of a j crosses it. Dashes and squiggles for abbreviated words can cause problems, too.

Another problem encountered with distinguishing capital letters is that they were not consistently used. Most times, sentences and proper nouns began with a capital letter, but not always. To make things even more difficult, punctuation marks, the road signs in sentences, werent always used as they are today.

Sometimes, the first letter of a word was capitalized only to put emphasis on it. This could be at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence.

Elaborate or fancy handwriting was appreciated more in the past. It was an art. In fact, scribes, clergymen and others who created such documents were at times more concerned with the beauty of the document then someone being able to read it years later.

The older the document, the harder it will be to read. With ever-changing styles, one of the best ways to help identify a letter is to look to find it elsewhere in the document in a word you know. One suggestion I found on the Internet is to trace each known letter in the document to recreate the alphabet the writer had used. When a letter is encountered that is difficult to identify, compare it with the alphabet.



Researchers File

Seeking information on Thomas Short Harries Harris who arrived in Nova Scotia around 1881 with his wife, Merina Harvey (nee Francis), and daughters, Emily Francis and Alice M. Thomas. Children, Charles E. and Ethel Susan, were born in Nova Scotia. Thomas worked at Truro.

Contact: Brenda Webster, 435 Chartersville Road, Dieppe, N.B. E1A 5H1; Phone: 506-852-4849; or email: brendawebster@rogers.com



Diana Lynn Tibert is a freelance writer living at Milford, NS. Submit queries to: RR#1 Milford, Hants County, NS B0N 1Y0; email: tibert@ns.sympatico.ca

Organizations: Truro

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Chartersville Road, Dieppe Hants County

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