Start Slowly and Practice

Reading handwriting that is centuries old can be difficult whether it is in your native language and script or not. Handwriting has changed over time, old records can contain archaic terms (legal and otherwise), and foreign-language records and script can result in even more challenges.

Don’t start your foray into transcription with a 17th century document if you have not transcribed ones from the 18th and 19th centuries first. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t need those documents for your research. Building your skills is important first and older documents will be easier to transcribe if you are familiar with more recent ones.

You may really “need” that land patent from Virginia in 1670 for your research, but if it appears to be in a foreign language, try your hand at handwritten record copies of deeds from the 1850s first, then work yourself back earlier and earlier in the records. Start slowly.

The same is true for records in a foreign language or a foreign script. Build up your skills on more recent records–even if you don’t need them for your research.

Practice makes perfect.