So That's Where I Get It From

July 17, 2010

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #29 – Practice Reading Handwriting

Thomas of GeneaBloggers has just invited us to the latest 52 Weeks To Better Genealogy Challenge – the inspiration for these Challenges coming from Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog.  Our Challenge this week is to Practice reading handwriting because as Thomas explains, “Deciphering the penmanship of our ancestors is an exercise in patience, but this is a great skill to have in your genealogy tool box”.

Well, as far as I’m concerned this Challenge couldn’t have come at a better time!  Last week I finally received all the Wills I had ordered from the Buckinghamshire Record Office and one has stumped me completely!

I know from having many other Wills it is not always easy to make out what has been written with the lovely flowy writing they used in the past centuries and with their spelling of the English words etc., but  if I have difficulty reading them, I can usually at least make out names and places.  But, there is this one Will I have now received and all I know is it is the Will of Jone Reade (I think she may be a Widow) of Long Crendon (I think) in Buckinghamshire dated 1545.

I’ve looked and looked at the Will, looked at it with a terrific magnifying sheet my partner Paul bought for me to help with all my Wills.  I’ve scanned it and looked at it on the computer and zoomed in no end of times, but I just can’t make the words out at all.  I can’t really make out names or places.  I think I found the word “bequeath” but I’m not entirely sure as I can’t make out the other words either side of it!!  So, with this one Will I am completely bamboozled. 

This hasn’t happened before so I am delighted to accept Challenge #29 and am hoping that at least by the end of the coming week, I might have been able to look at olde worlde handwriting sites on the internet that just might help me with at least deciphering some of Jone Reade’s Will.

Have a look at the Will and if anyone can make any of it out I would love to know!!!  😉

This copy in my private collection but obtained from Buckinghamshire Record Office - copyright 2010

I think it actually starts with “In the name of God amen”  but I am not completely sure as to me with my eyes it might only be what I think it says!!  I’m trying to focus on some particular letters so that it might help pick them up elsewhere in the Will to help decipher the words.  Now I’ve added it here I can see the words “… beinge fit in bodye …” and I know from other Wills they usually go on to say something like “and of sound mind and memory” or words to that effect, but of course I don’t want to just surmise that has been also included in the Will, so I know I must really try to focus on what has actually been written here.

I am looking forward to this new Challenge so much and if it helps me with this Will, then any others that I’ve had just a little trouble deciphering will be a doddle!!

I’ll let you know Friday how I get on!!  😉



  1. I wanted to decipher old german script that looked similar to your will. I didn’t think I could do it. I was successful and this is what I did. I took my copies to Staples and had them blown up pretty big. That made the flow of the letters easier to compare. I also used one of the LDS guides on German script. Eventually, I could read the entries that I was trying to read. Practice is the key. You will find that it gets easier as some of the words will be repeated. Good luck.

    Comment by Patrice Schadt — July 17, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

    • Thank you for visiting my blog Patrice and for the very helpful comment. I will certainly try your suggestion regarding getting a big copy of the Will at Staples, although I have never seen our one doing this, but I can certainly ask!

      Kind regards,
      Christine (rootsresearcher)

      Comment by rootsresearcher — July 17, 2010 @ 9:04 pm

  2. Here are links to two online tutorials on reading old English handwriting that might be useful:

    (The FamilySearch Research Wiki has a few additional links:

    I haven’t actually worked through these tutorials (yet), but they came highly recommended, so I saved the links.

    Your will looks like quite a challenge. One thing I’d do (after working through the tutorials) would be to look for examples of wills from this period which have already been transcribed. This gives you a sense of how such documents were organized and what wording was typically used. Ideally you’d like both the transcription and a digital image of the original, but even a few will transcriptions w/o images will help you know what to expect to find in your ancestor’s will.

    Also, I always make a color scan of hard-to-read documents using the highest resolution possible (maybe 600 dpi). Then I use Google’s free Picasa software to view the scanned image on my computer. I find Picasa very easy to use, especially when you want to blow up an image and then move around to examine different parts of it. All you do is move the scroll wheel up and it enlarges the image. If the enlarged image becomes too large to all fit on your computer screen at once, then hold the left mouse button down and you can drag the image so the part you’re interested in is visible on the screen. I’ve set my computer so that Picasa is the default program used to view images, so all I have to do is double click on the file name and it opens in Picasa. (Note: Picasa can also be used to keep track of all of the images on your hard drive, and even to do some very basic image editing, but you don’t need to deal with all of that. All you need to do is use it as your default image viewer.)

    Comment by Kathy Nitsch — July 18, 2010 @ 2:18 am

    • Hallo Kathy,

      Thanks so much for the links, your comment and for visiting my blog. I will most certainly look at those tutorial links. I’ve heard of Picasa and know a lot of people use it, but from your description it seems more versatile than I thought. I’m going to have to check that out and play around with it!!

      I think you and Patrice have come up with some very helpful ideas for which I thank you both and hopefully at the end of the week when I post about the Challenge, I might even be able to show a transcription for this particular Will!!

      Kind regards,

      Christine (rootsresearcher)

      Comment by rootsresearcher — July 18, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

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