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Helps for reading older handwriting
Symptoms (Problems)
  • What help is available for identifying difficult handwriting?

  • What does the double "S" look like in early handwriting?

Answer (Resolution)

Many resources are available to help with reading old handwriting styles.

Handwriting since the 1800s

A Handwriting Help feature for English lettering in more modern times is available within the indexing program. The window can be opened using the Feather and Quill icon (located on the lower tool bar) or from the Handwriting Help item on the Help menu.

Clicking the Feather and Quill icon

opens the Handwriting Help window

The Double "S"

The double "S" or leading "S" can look different in writing names such as Ross, Sussana, Clarissa, Douglass, Chesster, Massachusetts and others.  See examples below:

Subtle differences between double "S", long "S", and "F"

Bossett, John

Thomas Whissall; Wilson

Sighinolfi Pasqua

Serafini Serafino

Double "S" - OR - Long "S" and Short "S"

Long "S"

"F" showing cross stroke above the letter

Another example of "F"

Do not get long "S" and "F" mixed up. The "F" has a cross stroke, even if the stroke is hardly noticeable; the context can make clear whether the letter is a long "S" or an "F".  Writers would often use both long and short "S", sometimes even in the same word.  Europeans frequently used the long and the short "S" in words where double "S" occurred.  The practice even carried over to early American records.

Quick Guide to the letters "S" and "F" in various languages

The distinction between a lower case "S" and a lower case "F" is often difficult to see in handwritten documents.  Below are examples of each in several alphabet samples.



Scandinavian Gothic:



Older and non-English handwriting resources

See the indexing Resource Guide for links to English handwriting helps from earlier centuries as well as to non-English resources.

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