Practice to Read that Handwriting

A tip about court records yesterday included part of the handwritten image that illustrated the point I was making. On the surface the 1820-era record may have appeared difficult to read.

It’s a relatively easy read for a record from the time period (with the occasional one-word exception). But it takes practice and experience to read material like this.

I don’t mean to sound like your piano teacher or basketball coach, but it’s true. You need to practice to be able to read things of this type. I usually suggest to people that they go and read more recent handwritten documents to slowly build their skills. Start with things that are easy and go from there. Late 19th or early 20th century handwritten record copies of deeds are a great place to start–or wills and other courthouse documents from the same era. If it’s too difficult, start with something easier and build your skills.

A piano teacher or coach starts with basic fundamentals first. That’s what you should do in reading old records as well. Save those key signatures with 5 flats or sharps for later, start with a C major scale. I didn’t play basketball, so I don’t have the appropriate analogy here, but y’all hopefully get the point. I often hear people saying how something from 1730 is difficult to read (and it can be), but you have to start with later stuff first. Build your skills and practice.