Found that Last Will and Testament? Death Certificate? Congratulations!
What? Not so fast? You can’t read all of it?
You think you know what it says, but that town name, cemetery, last name, just isn’t clear.
- First, what’s your best guess at some of the letters? Take a look at the entire document and try to find those letters. Do they seem consistent?
Thomas Beaver? Bearieu? Beavew?
Look at other words or names in the document: Ed. Morgan
Using that as a comparison (and several others), the name appears to be Thomas Beaven, not Beaver, Bearieu, etc.
Finding additional documents may help to confirm this (is the address the same or in the same neighborhood? Same people living in the house?)
- Try Google. If it’s a town name you are looking for, try to Google what you think it is. If you are close, it may give you a suggestion:
Of course these are fairly easy examples.
Some documents can be pretty difficult to decipher. I received a death certificate recently and I am still trying to figure out the hospital name (since I can’t find any hospitals in Chicagoland that start with an ‘L’ other than Loretto or Loyola, I’m not sure it’s a hospital name or even an ‘L’ for that matter).
Midlothian, Breman, Xxxxxxxx….
It can also be difficult if the document is in Latin (or another language).
Please make sure you have a good magnifying glass. Your eyes will thank you!
Practice does make perfect, though – the more you read and research, the easier it becomes.
It’s also a terrific find when your ancestor has actually signed a document:
Still not having success? There are various resources available to you:
- Cyndi’s List has a good variety of websites – here. The General Resources link is a good start.
- Brigham Young University Script Tutorials may be found here
- FamilySearch.org – Reading Older Handwriting – here
- Ancestry Tips for Reading Old Handwriting (has some good examples) – here
- Don’t forget to ask your fellow researchers as well!